Exhibition: Fast Fashion. The Dark Side of Fashion

Exhibition dates: 12 October 2018 – 24 February 2019

According to the website of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Köln this “exhibition sheds light on the background of a globalised textile industry. It deals with the production mechanisms, economic and social aspects, but also with environmental issues. In the second part, “Slow Fashion”, the exhibition focuses on examples of more sustainable manufacturing techniques from different cultures around the world, often based on traditional knowledge and sometimes becoming popular again as deliberate countermovements.”

The Fast Fashion section of the exhibition was designed by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg in 2015 against the backdrop of the major fires in textile factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

OATG members David and Sue Richardson recently visited the exhibition at the invitation of Sonja Mohr, curator for Insular Southeast Asia, and give their impressions of it below.

This exhibition opens with mannequins dressed in couture clothing, positioned alongside film of catwalk shows – all very glamorous, until we see the conditions in which High Street versions of these clothes are made.

We learn of the impact of poor working conditions through images of the Rama Plaza tragedy in which a building collapsed in Bangladesh killing 900 people. Many of the clothes being made there were intended for the bottom end of the fashion market.

The worldwide impact of the demand for such products is brought home by a map showing how a pair of jeans might be made across many different countries, one process being completed in each, until they reach their final destination and are sold in Europe. However that isn’t the end of the story. When their owner has discarded those jeans, they often end up in Africa as part of the trade in used clothing.

In a similar way we learn through some strong images how slogan T-shirts, made in Africa for the US market, also end up as discarded fashion in the used clothing markets in Haiti and Africa.

 

The section on the impact of pesticides was also very strong, with the sad image of the shrinking Aral Sea in Central Asia.

The Slow Fashion section is compiled from the collections held by the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Köln:

To counteract all of this, the other part of the exhibition focuses on Slow Fashion, in which knowledge is passed down through the generations, artisans are valued, and the processes used to produce the textiles are often very time-consuming. This section has two strands – cloth that is produced mainly for the local market, and cloth which is being adapted for an international market.

There were several pieces from Thailand, including one from the early twentieth century, and a more recent piece woven in Sawai village, Isan Province, in this century.

As we are passionate about Indonesian textiles our eyes were immediately drawn to several pieces from Sumba. The first of these was from Kodi in West Sumba. It was a man’s hip wrapper or shoulder cloth known locally as a hanggi (hinggi in some parts of East Sumba). This was collected in 1900 and features the mamuli motif – metal mamuli are displayed right next to it. Hanggi are generally made as a matching pair and the other part was still on the loom when it was collected at the same date. This loom required many hours of conservation work by specialist Petra Czerwinske-Eger before it was ready to be exhibited.

Hanggi from Kodi, West Sumba, collected in 1900

The loom before restoration – image courtesy of Petra Czerwinske-Eger

The same loom after restoration

Next to this was a hinggi from East Sumba, featuring andung (skull trees) and horses, also collected in 1900. The final piece from Sumba was one we immediately recognised. It was from the collection of Wilhelmina de Jong and had been made by our good friend Freddy Hambuwali of Indigo Art in the last decade – but still using natural dyes. We had last seen it in the Striking Patterns exhibition at the Museum der Kulturen in Basle.

Hinggi from East Sumba made by Freddy Hambuwali (when previously displayed in Basle).

Cloths from the village of Nggela (the site of a recent devastating fire) in Flores were also on display, accompanied by a short film showing how they were made.

We had been asked by one of the curators, Sonja Mohr, to provide some quotations from weavers we know to illustrate the concept of Slow Fashion. We were delighted to see this one by our friend Theresia, the head of the Kapo Kale weaving group which has both Christian and Muslim members, displayed so prominently. She will be so proud when we take a photo of this to her when we lead a group there in May during our Tribal Weavings of the Lesser Sunda Islands Textile Tour.

 

Theresia (centre) with some of the members of her weaving group

In another part of the world the wearing of locally produced cloth has a political dimension. Faso dan Fani means “woven cloth from the homeland” in Burkino Faso. The former president, Thomas Sankara, promoted the wearing of clothing made from this handwoven cotton cloth and also prohibited textile imports in the 1980s. After his assassination in 1987 this nascent industry collapsed. Since a change of government in 2015 politicians have once more started to wear this cloth and it has become fashionable again. The BBC have produced a short report on this trend, which can be viewed here.  We are reminded of the words of Sankara: “Wearing Faso dan Fani is an economic act, a cultural and political challenge to imperialism”.

Men wearing Faso dan Fani

We were also drawn to the textiles produced by the Japanese company KUON, which means “eternity”, “permanence”. The company website describes how Boro means worn out or patched clothes. These have often been dyed with indigo. When clothing became worn and tatty, people mended it using the sashiko stitching technique. As they became more and more worn they were turned into floor mats and eventually into dusters. Nothing was wasted – a real contrast to the concept of Fast Fashion! “Instead of simply repairing the Boro, KUON creates new pattern from scratch, disassembles the textile into pieces, and reconstructs in order to turn it into modern fashion.” The company are working with women affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Textiles are being revitalised using sashiko and patching and the fabric is then used to make new garments – each imbued with a sense of history.

A sample of Boro fabric from the KUON website

A sample of sashiko stitching from the KUON website

This exhibition, which ends on 24 February,  is well worth a visit, particularly if you combine it with a visit to the museum’s permanent exhibition Man in his World.

 

******************************

 

Advertisements

Exhibition: Intrepid Women – Fieldwork in Action, 1910-1957

Audrey Butt Colson making tape recordings with the Wayana people in 1963. Copyright Audrey Butt Colson

Exhibition dates: 15 October 2018 – 11 March 2019

“This exhibition focuses on six of the Pitt Rivers Museum’s most important female collectors and their fieldwork carried out between 1910 and the late 1950s. It is a unique opportunity to see objects and photographs resulting from their travels, as well as original archival material and film on display for the first time.” It has been curated by OATG member Julia Nicholson, with her colleagues Joanna Cole and Zena McGreevy.

These women were each extraordinary in their own way, and conducted research in many different areas. Barbara Freire-Marreco was the first woman to enrol on the Oxford Anthropology Diploma course in 1906. She did her fieldwork in New Mexico and Arizona at the start of the twentieth century. Makereti’s fieldwork was conducted in a different area of the globe – among a Maori community in New Zealand.

Beatrice Blackwood worked in New Guinea in 1936. During the Second World War she used her research to stress to her students that there was no such thing as an Aryan Race. Another researcher caught up in the war was Ursula Graham Bower who conducted her fieldwork in a Naga village. She formed a group of Naga scouts, who were very effective against the Japanese.

Elsie McDougall worked in Mexico and Guatemala in the 1930s and researched ikat techniques, collecting invaluable examples of weaving. Audrey Butt Colson worked in Guyana in the 1950s. She is still using her documentation from that period to help the indigenous communities fight their claim for their ancestral lands.

The objects on display include personal writing and collections of photographs as well as film – all giving us an insight into the achievements of these intrepid women, as well as the hardships they endured. On a personal level I loved the photo of the fierce -looking Papuan warriors playing with Beatrice Blackwood’s cat, Sally.

For more information visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

 

*********************************

Online exhibition: Indonesian Chinese in The Netherlands – A Connection of Cultures

 

This online exhibition is based on the actual exhibition “Connecting cultures: Chinese from Indonesia in the Netherlands” that was on display in the Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands in 2015-2016. The original texts are by Francine Brinkgreve and Johanna Leijfeldt. Johanna also created this online presentation.

According to the Tracing Patterns Foundation  “it explores the cultural narratives of Chinese merchants who settled in Indonesia and married with local women. The union of these two groups gave rise to a unique mixed culture; their descendants were called the peranakan.  Through historical photographs and objects from the collection of the Museum of World Cultures, the exhibit shows how the peranakan straddled the two worlds. On one hand, for example, they adopted the Indonesian way of life by wearing an Indonesian sarong kebaya and chewing betel nuts, but they decorated these clothing and utensils with motifs of Chinese origin. As the peranakan pursued status within the Dutch colonial society in Indonesia, or immigrated to the Netherlands, they also adopted the European custom of dressing”.

The exhibition looks at Chinese migration and how Chinese craftsmen introduced new techniques into Indonesian arts and crafts. A lot of the exhibition is focussed on marriage, and details of the wedding costume worn by Han Tek Nio in 1901 are featured. When you click on each of the excellent images, further information is shown on that object – see for example the details given below on the batik hip cloth shown above.

Whereas batik cloths were originally made by Javanese women at home, for their own family’s use only, along the north coast of Java, Peranakan Chinese entrepreneurs developed batik industries where they produced batik for various categories of customers, who all preferred their own style of motifs and colours. This hip cloth has two designs in contrasting colours in synthetic dyes, divided by a diagonal line. This design is called pagi sore (morning-afternoon/early evening) and could be worn in two ways. To allow the motifs and the person to stand out, the dark or sore section of the hip cloth was worn during daytime. Vice versa the light – pagi – section served as an evening dress. The main motifs on the lighter half consist of dancing peacocks and double wings on a background of small white flowers and foliage in pastel shades of pink, blue, and ochre.

These pastel colours were very much favoured by Peranakan Chinese ladies. With its tail feathers the peacock represents beauty and dignity, both in Chinese and European symbolism. The double wings motif is one of the larangan, the ‘forbidden’ batik patterns that originally were for the exclusive use of the rulers of the Central Javanese courts and their close relatives. The dark green section depicts large bouquets (buketan) in European style. For a lively effect a fluttering butterfly and a bird were added. The cloth is signed by (the workshop) of Oey Soe Tjoen and his wife Kwee Tjoen Giok, a renowned batik craftsman from Kedungwuni, near Pekalongan. It was produced there in 1930-1950 using synthetic dyes.

**************************************************

 

 

 

 

Exhibition: The Jeweled Isle – Art from Sri Lanka

Kandyan Chief circa 1880-1890

Exhibition dates: 9 December 2018 – 23 June 2019

The first comprehensive survey of Sri Lankan art organised by an American museum, The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka presents some 240 works addressing nearly two millennia of Sri Lankan history.

The image of a bejewelled isle, first invoked in Greco-Roman accounts of Sri Lanka’s precious gems, inspired numerous literary descriptions of the island’s wealth and tropical beauty. The Jeweled Isle includes precious decorative objects fashioned from gold, silver, and ivory, and 19th-century photographs documenting Sri Lanka’s extraordinary monuments, scenery, and flora. Several artworks convey the importance of sacred sites and relics in Sri Lankan Buddhist practice, while rare images of Hindu gods attest to the long and constant interaction between Sri Lanka and South India.

Exquisite ivories, textiles, and furnishings further reflect nearly four centuries of European colonial presence in Sri Lanka and the dynamic interaction between local and foreign visual traditions. Featuring LACMA’s rarely displayed collection of Sri Lankan art—one of the finest and most extensive in the U.S.—the exhibition presents a timely exploration and celebration of a geographically complex, ethnically diverse, and multicultural South Asian hub.

An oil lamp lighting ceremony, followed by traditional Sri Lankan dances and drumming to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, will take place at 10:00 on Sunday December 16 in the Smidt Welcome Plaza. The event will feature performances by the Sri Lanka Foundation Performing Arts and Thath Jith Dance Company.

A comprehensive overview of this exhibition, with a lot of interesting background information can be found on the Asian Art website.

Exhibition location: Resnick Pavilion, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

 

*******************************************

Exhibition: Jomon, The Birth of Art in Prehistoric Japan

Tanabatake Venus, terracotta, Middle Jomon period

Exhibition dates: 17 October – 8 December 2018, 12:00 – 20:00

Closing soon – this is your last chance to see this rare exhibition exploring the art and culture of the Jomon era (11,000-400 BC) in Japan. It is 20 years since the last exhibition was held in Paris in 1998. The show comprises 64 pieces, including six National Treasures and 33 Important Cultural Properties.

The Jomon period began to develop about 13,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Around this time, early man had chosen to settle in one place rather than being continuously nomadic, which encouraged the development of hunting and gathering, the creation of utensils for daily use – in terracotta to cook food, and in stone and bone for hunting and fishing. In pottery of the Jomon period, there is an innovative and powerful aesthetic in dogu figurines that is both mysterious and yet full of humour. These pieces are remarkable evidence of the sophistication of the people who created them.

The ice age had ended shortly after the beginning of the Jomon era and the Japanese archipelago enjoyed a mild climate where hunting, fishing and gathering and other settler activities were able to develop. It is the appearance of pottery that marks the beginning of age and the period takes its name from the motifs that were made by pressing ropes into the clay.

The first section of the exhibition explores these 10,000 years of plastic arts through their evolution of shape and the distinctive pottery patterns: nail, finger, rope and shell markings, along with the application of clay and engraved drawings on pots.

The second section is devoted to objects that explore the beliefs and spirituality of the Jomon people. Anthropomorphic dogu (baked clay figurines) are a remarkable example of the aesthetics of the spiritual realm. The majority of the figures are in feminine form, the oldest representing simple busts with generous breasts and are probably related to fertility, harvesting, or food resources.

While infant mortality was high, dogu of pregnant, breastfeeding or childbirth-giving women, as well as children’s handprints on clay plates, seem to express the intense desire of parents to see their offspring to thrive and remain healthy. Other figurines were used in funerary rites or used as ossuary offerings, which shows the relationships of the Jomon people with the afterlife.

Hunting scenes adorning jars and zoomorphic dogu are also thought to be related to certain belief systems. The wild boar occupies a large place in their prehistoric bestiary due to its importance in daily life and survival. Even everyday objects such as pottery for cooking and food storage, axes, wicker baskets or hooks have a striking beauty beyond their functional use.

Equally surprising are the lacquered vessels presented in the last section: it is hard to believe that the use of lacquer dates back to such a remote a time.

Location: Maison de la culture du Japan a Paris, 101 bis, quai Branly, 75015 Paris

********************************

Exhibition: The Palestinian History Tapestry

Exhibition dates: Friday 30 November 2018 14:00 – 16:30 and Saturday 1 December 2018 09:00 – 17:00

The Palestinian History Tapestry illustrates the history of the Land of Palestine, from the Neolithic era to the present. It has been made by Palestinian women within and outside Palestine, many of them in refugee camps across the Middle East . The Palestinian History Tapestry is an expression of ‘sumud’ (steadfastness) and solidarity. It draws attention to the history and heritage of the Palestinian people and their land, and to their internationally confirmed right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948. The Tapestry is probably the largest embroidered collection of illustrative work ever produced by Palestinian embroiderers. In addition to over 30 cross-stitched panels, embroidered historical dresses and Handala cartoons by Naji al-Ali (probably the best-known cartoonist in the Arab world) will also be on display.

Please note – A seminar will also take place on Friday evening at 17:00, with a distinguished panel. Unfortunately registration for this has already closed but apparently there may be some spaces on the day. See here for further details.
Venue:
Investcorp Auditorium, Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford

The exhibition is free of charge and open to the general public.

*************************************************************************************

Exhibition: Inca Dress Code – Textiles and Adornments of the Andes

Exhibition dates: 23 November 2018 – 24 March 2019

The Americas collections of the Royal Museum of Art and History, Brussels are among the finest and most extensive in Europe.  Although the various Andean cultures (Peru, Bolivia and Chile) are well-known mainly for their ceramics, their precious metalwork, and their mummies, the public does not have a clear picture of how these people lived and dressed.  Textiles were particularly valued because they were considered an extremely precious commodity: they were not only items for wearing, but also symbols of power and identity and could be used as offerings or as a currency of exchange.

This exhibition offers the opportunity to admire the magnificence of the textiles, the quality of the precious metalwork and the beauty of pre-Colombian feather work.  Visitors will also discover the mastery of the art of weaving, the sophistication of the motifs, and the varied and still vibrant colours of the fibres and feathers.  Through the discovery of their wardrobe (shoes, clothes, head dresses and jewellery) visitors will share in the daily life of these people from the past and admire exceptionally high quality, vividly coloured items as well as impressive precious metalwork.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Museum of Art & History

Location: Art & History Museum, Parc of the Cinquantenaire 10, 1000 Brussels

 

 

Exhibition: Costume and Custom – Middle Eastern Threads at Olana

Exhibition dates: 17 June – 25 November 2018

This exhibition in the former home of the American artist Frederic Church (1826-190) will highlight for the first time the historic costumes Church collected during his 1867-68 journey to Beirut, Damascus, Jerusalem, Petra and other Middle Eastern cities. They will be displayed within the historic rooms of Olana’s main house, whose design was inspired by Churches’ Middle Eastern travels, and Olana’s Sharp Family Gallery will present new research on the collection and its relationship to Church’s work and that of his contemporaries, including Church’s friend and guest at Olana, Mark Twain.

The exhibition will reunite Church’s historic costume collection with both Church’s artwork that it helped to inspire and inform, and the rich interiors of his home that he filled with objects and decorative details inspired by his Middle Eastern travels. In one extraordinary case these are one and the same. Within Isabel Church’s Sitting Room hangs Church’s master work “El Khasné, Petra” (1874), whose foreground features figures clothed in the costume pieces Church brought back to his studio, and which inspired the decoration of the room, especially the decorative painted pseudo-Arabic inscriptions that run throughout the space.

The wide array of historic costumes, often intricately embroidered, reflects the extraordinary craft and creativity of the Middle Eastern people who created it and speaks as well to the evolution of ideas of gender and cultural identity in the Middle East and beyond. A publication developed in conjunction with this exhibition will include essays by costume historian Lynne Bassett and Palestinian costume expert Hanan Karaman Munayyer on the people who originally wore the clothing collected by Church and on the artist’s use of the historic costume in his home and art.

For more information visit the Olana website.

Location: Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534

Exhibition: Ornamental Traditions – Jewelry from Bukhara

Exhibition dates: 13 July 2018 – 30 June 2019

Located in present-day Uzbekistan, the Emirate of Bukhara (1785–1920) was an important centre of Islamic religion and scholarship and a major oasis on the famous Silk Road that traversed Central Asia from ancient times. As such, it was highly diverse—home to the majority Uzbek and Tajik populations in addition to communities of Arabs, Jews, and Turkmen who played a role in the emirate’s vibrant trade. Over time, Bukhara developed its own iconic style of jewellery characterised by intricate blue enamelwork that mirrored the region’s blue-glazed, tiled architecture. Russia’s colonisation of Bukhara in 1866 brought with it more advanced enamelling techniques, allowing for increasingly complex designs.

In almost every context, the jewellery of Bukhara embodied great meaning and was rarely considered mere decoration. Large, ornate suits of jewellery were thought to protect the wearer from evil spirits, particularly during important events like weddings, and were the strongest assertion of a person’s power and wealth. Throughout Uzbekistan, such objects were designed to be worn as sets rather than exist as singular pieces.

More than fifty pieces of jewellery from the collection of Barbara and David Kipper are currently on show in Gallery 150 of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A gallery talk led by Alice Boone will take place on 27 November 12:00 -13:00.

For further information visit the website of the Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition: Peacock in the Desert – The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India

Exhibition dates: 18 October 2018 – 21 January 2019

This exhibition, previously shown in Houston, has now moved to Seattle.

Five centuries of magnificent art celebrate the rich artistic traditions of the kingdom of Marwar-Jodhpur. Many of the 250 extraordinary objects are on display outside their palace setting for the very first time. Vibrant paintings, intricate furnishings, fine jewellery, and decorated arms and armour, presented beside videos and large-scale photomurals, evoke the stunning atmosphere of the Mehrangarh Fort and the city of Jodhpur—the permanent home of the works on view.

Established in the 15th century, the kingdom of Marwar-Jodhpur in the northwestern state of Rajasthan continues to innovate support for the arts into the 21st century. Highlights of the lavish exhibition include a re-creation of a royal wedding procession featuring majestically adorned life-size elephant and horse mannequins; a rare and elaborate 17th-century tent; dozens of intricate Rajput and Mughal era paintings; and a splendid 18th-century carved-wood and glass palanquin, known as the Mahadol, used to transport the maharaja and queens.

A short video of the wedding procession section of the exhibition can be viewed here

Full information on the exhibition can be found on the website of the Seattle Art Museum