Exhibitions: Peruvian and Guatemalan Textiles in London and the USA

Today’s blog focusses on two exhibitions featuring textiles from South and Central America.

Exhibition dates: 21 June – 8 September 2019

A proto-Nazca culture tapestry. Photo courtesy of Paul Hughes Fine Art.

The first of these is Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru which recently opened at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. This exhibition has traditional textiles on one floor and those by contemporary designers on another. Running alongside the main exhibition is a display entitled A Thread: Contemporary Art of Peru, which showcases the work of seventeen Peruvian artists.

Hugh Thomson, the author of Cochineal Red, has written a very interesting article about this exhibition for The Design Edit. In it he stresses the importance textiles have always had in Peruvian culture and how when the “conquistadors arrived in 1532, they could not understand why so many Inca warehouses were stocked with textiles rather than gold or silver, which the indigenous people considered less valuable.”  Among the many highlights of the exhibition are thirteen pieces from the British Museum, a hat which dates to 600 AD and a tunic made of macaw feathers.

Some of the pieces from Peruvian artists such as Meche Correa and Chiara Macchievello are simply stunning, with intricate embroidery and weaving techniques. A dress that was inspired by Peruvian designs, but was actually part of a Vivienne Westwood collection, also features.

Floral skirt designed by Meche Correa. Photo © Momtaz Begum-Hossain.

For full details of opening hours and how to book visit the website of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

Location: Fashion and Textile Museum. 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF

 

Exhibition dates: 21 July – 13 October 2019

 

The second exhibition is on at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles and looks at Mayan Traje: A Tradition in Transition. This exhibition explores how the clothing of the Maya of Guatemala was once specific to each village, and how and why that is changing over time.

Photo © Rachael Myrow/KQED

Rachael Myrow has written an article for KQED Arts giving more background to how this exhibition came about and the links to Mayan people who now call San Francisco their home. Many of the textiles on display come from private collections and date to the early twentieth century.

For full details visit the website of the museum.

Location: Turner and Gilliland Galleries, San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, 520 S. First Street, San Jose, California.

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Events: Textile events in London and Singapore

Lots of exciting textile events happening soon!

22 – 30 June

It’s going to be a busy week in London with the Handcrafted Heritage events celebrating Indian textiles at The Bhavan in West Kensington, which is the largest centre for classical Indian arts and culture outside of India. A free exhibition and sale will showcase heritage textiles including Benarasis, Patan Patolas, and Dhakai Jamdanis and vintage silver jewellery.

On Wednesday 26th and Saturday 29th June there will be a workshop devoted to patolas. The tutor for this workshop will be Shri Kanubhai Salvi, a master weaver and holder of the UNESCO Seal of Excellence Award. His family have been producing these double ikat textiles in Patan for many generations.

Photo courtesy of Patan Patola Heritage

Also on 26 June (but in the evening) there will be a screening of the fascinating documentary Legend of the Loom, which tells the story of Bengal muslin and how the trade in it flourished and then declined. The screening will be followed by a conversation session with its producer Saiful Islam. An excellent review of this film by Hannah Sayer can be found here.

 

21 June- 8 September 2019

Opening shortly at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, is an exhibition entitled Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru. This exhibition ” explores the processes and practices of both historic and contemporary Peruvian costume via garments, textiles, photographs, tools, illustrations and paintings, dating from pre-Hispanic to present day.”

Photo courtesy of Fashion and Textile Museum

There will be a panel on the opening day discussing Peruvian Fashion with several of the designers whose work is featured in the exhibition along with its curator. Attendance at the panel is free with an exhibition ticket, but places must be booked as numbers are limited.

Contemporary designs by Mozhdeh Matin, who works with artisans and champions Peruvian textiles and techniques

24 – 30 June 2019

HALI London – this is a series of events to celebrate the 200th edition and 40th year of HALI. These include a fair with twenty of the best international dealers in attendance, a 6-day tour of Great British Collections, two symposia – each with twelve lectures, and a whole series of miscellaneous events. Full information can be found on their website. Please note that several of the events have already sold out – so act quickly if you want to book for those that are still available!

Selected highlights:-

The exhibition at Francesca Galloway’s gallery entitled Textile Splendours From The East. “The gallery will present a plethora of textiles from Asia, including a magnificent Sogdian costume, a delicate Ming period needle loop embroidery, Indian chintzes for domestic and export markets, as well as textiles made for spiritual pursuits.”

One of the items featured in Francesca Galloway’s exhibition

The other event that really stands out (of those that are not already sold out) is the visit to the Karun Thakar Collection. Participants will go to Karun’s private residence where they will be able to view his extraordinary collection. This includes Asian textiles ranging from 14th century Indian Trade cloths to folk textiles and costumes from Central Asia, Japan, Bhutan and Afghanistan; African textiles—predominantly narrow loom weavings from Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries, plus North African embroideries, veils and haiks from Morocco and Tunisia.(Information from Hali website). You can browse through images of some of his collection here.

Winter chuba from Western Tibet

15 June – 15 September 2019

Finally a new exhibition has just opened at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. Guo Pei: Chinese Art and Couture showcases twenty pieces from the Museum’s own collection along with twenty nine pieces created by the designer.

Image courtesy of the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Curator led tours will be held on 26 June, 31 July and 28 August and can be booked via the museum website. Steven G. Alpert has pulled together a huge amount of information about this exhibition on his excellent website Art of the Ancestors. It has stunning images and information on the links with the Peranakan – the golden bridal dress is simply a work of art! It seems pointless for me to attempt to replicate Steven’s piece so instead I simply recommend you click here to read it.

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Exhibition: Vanishing Costumes of the Shan Saophas

Exhibition dates: 9-18 June 2019, National Museum, Yangon.

 

Until the late 1950s chiefs known as Saopha or Sawbwa were responsible for the administration of the Shan State of Burma. This exhibition, which is only open for 9 days, showcases a total of 27 costumes which are over a hundred years old. The majority of these costumes previously belonged to prominent men, but there is also one costume which belonged to the Shan Princess Mahardevi Sao Nan Yar. The most important costumes belonged to Sao Shwe Thike, the first President of Burma, and his father Sar Sao Maung.

 

Sao Shwe Thike

These costumes were brought to the National Museum in Yangon from the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum, Shan State, in 2017 with the intention of having them properly restored and preserved. These costumes include textiles, silk, brocade, cotton, metals and precious stones.

For more information see this article in the Myanmar Times by Lae Phya Myo Myint. 

 

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Exhibitions and Event: Spotlight on Syria

Ottoman Syria man’s cloak (abaya) back, early 20th century. © Fowler Museum.

Exhibition dates: 17 March – 18 August 2019.

Dressed with Distinction: Garments from Ottoman Syria features a a rare selection of Syrian textiles from the collection of David and Elizabeth Reisbord, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“The exhibition features examples of Arab and Ottoman attire dating from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries and celebrates the talents of weavers and tailors in urban centres like Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs where a sophisticated range of dyeing, weaving, and decorative techniques earned the region international renown for its textile production. Men and women living in these cities were famous for wearing brightly coloured clothing worked in silk glittering with gold and silver thread. After World War I (and the end of 400 years of Ottoman rule), Syrians privileged Western attire, leading to an eventual decline in handwoven garment production. More recently, unrest and conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean have virtually eradicated any remnants of these textile traditions and skills. Thus, this exhibition documents the heritage of iconic Arab and Ottoman garments and the importance of fashion as a marker of cultural knowledge.” – Fowler Museum Press Release.

Bedouin man’s coat (damir), late 19th to early 20th century. © Fowler Museum.

This exhibition was curated by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, the Director of the Textile Research centre in Leiden, and includes examples of clothing worn by both urban and nomadic people. The techniques used include ikat, tapestry weave, brocade and embroidery. These clothes reflected status as well as religious adherence.

For more information and some great textile images go to the website of the Fowler Museum.

On Saturday 27 April Dr Vogelsang-Eastwood will be giving a lecture at the Fowler Museum on Syrian Garments. This will be followed by a book signing and reception. This event is free but registration is required.

9th – 10th century bowl with kufic script. © Art Gallery of South Australia.

In another part of the globe the exhibition Love from Damascus: The art of devotion in Islam, currently showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia, will be closing on 30 April 2019.

This exhibition, curated by James Bennett, explores the divine and worldly aspects of devotion expressed in the arts of Islam over one thousand years. The objects on show include richly decorated gold-illuminated manuscripts and paintings, ceramics, silverware and textiles from the Middle East, India and Indonesia. Among the highlights are richly decorated manuscripts, including Al-Qur’an, from the Turkish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery’s own unique copy of Mathnavi by the great medieval Sufi poet.

Visit the Gallery website for further details.

 

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Exhibition and Events: Living Colours – Kasane, the language of Japanese Colour Combinations

Date: 5 April – 19 May 2019

Japan House is located on Kensington High Street in London and presents the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology. It is part of a global initiative led by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This exhibition explores the work of the Yoshioka Dyeing Workshop in Kyoto. The Japanese have long had a deep appreciation of colour and a close relationship with their natural surroundings and the changing of the seasons. This exhibition aims to show how this has been expressed by the careful creation of colour combinations and how Yoshioka has studied and developed Japan’s age-old natural dyeing techniques showing its vibrant colour culture.

Yoshioka Sachio is the 5th-generation head of the workshop who, when he inherited the business, decided to discard the use of synthetic dyes and to ensure that all the work undertaken would use age-old natural dyeing materials. His daughter Sarasa is taking over the running of the workshop as a 6th-generation Yoshioka.

There will be a gallery talk by Sarasa who has studied silk production, including silk reeling, throwing, dyeing, and weaving, TODAY (Saturday 6 April). This is free, but space is limited.

On Thursday 11 April brothers SUGIMOTO Kakuro and Tetsuo of the Sugimoto Pharmacy based in Kamakura, will explore the history and current applications of herbalism in Japan, demonstrating how to make a soothing skin balm from purple shikon, a root which is also the main ingredient for the highly prized murasaki purple dye featured in the Living Colours exhibition.

Location: 101-111 Kensington High Street, London W8 5SA

For more information visit the website of Japan House.

 

 

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Exhibitions: Oceania, Japanese basketry and Anting Anting from the Philippines

© Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

In 2018 an exhibition entitled Oceania was held at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first Pacific voyage of Captain James Cook. This exhibition was organised in conjunction with the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. Those who missed seeing this exhibition last year now have another opportunity as it will be opening again – this time in Paris – from 12 March until 7 July 2019.

The museum’s website describes this exhibition as a ” journey across the Pacific to discover the island cultures and peoples of Oceania. From New-Guinea to Easter Island, from Hawaii to New Zealand, nearly 200 works provide an overview of the art of a continent, passing on both traditions and contemporary challenges.”

There is a huge amount of information about the original exhibition on the website of the RA, including a short video which provides an overview of it and another video on the art of tattooing.

© Lisa Reihana

The lengthy article by Maia Jessop Nuku, Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, examines the three key themes of the exhibition:- Voyaging, Making Place, and Encounter. She explains how the exhibition “presents the region’s distinctive landscape as a vital and deeply interconnected highway that links Pacific peoples together in a network of dynamic exchange and encounter.”

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Another strong article is entitled The art of Oceania: seven stories, in which several curators and scholars look at selected pieces in more detail. These include the sculpture of a Polynesian god which was admired by Picasso and Moore, the god image made from feathers presented to Captain James Cook (see above), and a stunning necklace from Fiji, carved from sperm whale ivory, which conveyed status. These various articles and videos provide a wonderful insight and are great preparation for viewing the exhibition in Paris.

Still on show at the Museum du quai Branly until 7 April is their exhibition on Japanese basketry – so if you time it right you can visit both at once. This exhibition is entitled Fendre l’air – Art du bambou au Japan (Split the Air) and looks at how the art of bamboo basketry became sculpture. There is an excellent video of the exhibition by Paris Match, in French but with English subtitles. The exhibition traces the development of basketry in a chronological order and examines the influence the tea ceremony had on these baskets.  Several beautiful vases by the acknowledged master Rokansai are featured.

photo by Tadayuki Minamoto, © musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

Lisa Chapman has written a beautifully illustrated article on the exhibition for TL mag (True Living Art of Design) entitled The Woven History of Japanese Basketry. She explains that although bamboo basket-making in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries was linked to the tea ceremony, artists eventually moved on from that and “contemporary weavers also reveal the potential of the material and their creativity in works that depart from their functional uses and become pieces of sculpture.”

© Seattle Art Museum

Coincidentally the Seattle Art Museum are also celebrating Japanese basketry this Saturday 9 March 2019 with a lecture entitled The Japanese Basket 1845-1958. The presenter, Joe Earle, was formerly the Director of the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Full details here.

Finally an exhibition of anting-anting from the Philippines will be opening in the central mezzanine of the Museum du quai Branly on the 12 March. This runs until the 26 May 2019 and showcases these talismans, worn by many people who believe they have special powers such as the ability to stop bullets.

Anyone for Paris?

 

 

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Exhibition: Collecting and Recollecting

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 14 July 2019

This exhibition has just opened at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM), which has the largest publicly held collection of quilts in the world.

According to the curator Marin Hanson

“Throughout western India, people make quilts for practical reasons: to have something to sleep under, to hang in doorways, to augment dowries, to sell. They make quilts for personal reasons, as well: to document daily life, to offer as gifts, to signal group affiliation or individuality. The quilts in this exhibition were made by women and men from towns and villages across the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. These craftspeople come from varied geographic, economic, and social backgrounds, but all value quiltmaking for the creative outlet it provides. The textiles often share visual and material similarities, but they also reflect their makers’ own communities, personalities, and life stories.”

Hanson goes on to explain how the IQSCM worked with researchers from various backgrounds to examine the quilting traditions of three regions: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Research on the quilts of Gujarat was carried out by Martha Wallace and Patricia Stoddard – the author of Ralli Quilts. They were assisted by Alok Tiwari and Salim Wazir, who is well-known to all who have had the good fortune to visit Bhuj.

Bhopa Rabari quilt. © IQSCM

Geeta Khandelwal from Mumbai has made and studied quilts since the 1970s. Recently she spent three years examining the quilts of Maharashtra. The quilt depicted below uses not only pieces srom saris and blouses but also seed bags that have the logo of the distributor printed on them.

Joshi quilt. © IQSCM

Karnataka quilts were studied by two different researchers – Henry Drewal and Shubhapriya Bennur. Henry Drewal was fascinated by the quilts of the Siddi people of northern Karnataka which are known as kawandi. These are usually made by older ladies, who are not able to work on the land. Drewal became involved in establishing a Quilt Cooperative to help these women to sell their textiles.

Siddi kawandi. © IQSCM

The quilts studied by Shubhapriya Bennur are known as kaudi. Most of these are formed from scraps of recycled clothing and they come in several different types for a variety of uses – baby quilts, ceremonial quilts, sitting quilts and bedcovers. 

 

Bedcover from northern Karnataka. © IQSCM

There are many more images of quilts featured on the museum’s website under the Featured Works section, with detailed information on the history and use of each example.

 

Location: International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

 

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Exhibition: Traded Treasures – Indian Textiles for Global Markets

Exhibition dates: 26 January – 9 June 2019

13th or 14th century cloth from Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market

This recently opened exhibition at the Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, showcase the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.

“Known for many centuries as the source of fine cotton and silk textiles, India has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. Spanning five hundred years of the history of India’s thriving commerce to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Japan, this exhibition reveals why Indian textiles were in demand the world over.

Some of the earliest surviving Indian textiles are printed and painted cotton fragments found in Indonesia. Along with silk double-ikat patola, these were used for ceremonial purposes and treasured in Indonesia as heirlooms. The maritime trade that relied on supplying Indian textiles to Southeast Asian markets in exchange for spices was first conducted by Arab, Persian, and Indian merchants but later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, which expanded the demand for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.

The textiles presented in this exhibition…….. tell a fascinating story of global commerce and the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced goods of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, while also revealing how cross-cultural interchange contributed to global aesthetic developments.”

A fully illustrated catalogue on the history of the Indian textile trade, is due out in March 2019 and will have contributions by many leading experts, including our founder Ruth Barnes, Kaja McGowan, and Sylvia Houghteling.

Location: Bartels Gallery, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 114 Central Avenue, Ithaca, NY.

 

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Event: Textile talks and more in Singapore

Event date: Friday 22 February and Monday 25 February 2019

 

Ikat loseng – photo copyright John Ang

Investigating the origins of Ikat Loseng: Malaysia’s Lesser Known Warp Ikat

Many of us have heard the term kain limar, which refers to the famous weft ikats from Malaysia’s northeast states of Terengganu and Kelantan. However ikat loseng, a warp ikat produced in the same states of Malaysia, is largely unknown. John Ang’s interest began with the purchase of his first Malay ikat loseng. Although he told many of his textile collector friends that it was from Terengganu, they insisted it was a warp ikat from Uzbekistan. The similarities between the two were intriguing and inspired him to investigate if there was a connection. His talk will focus on this investigation and its interesting results.

John Ang, who was based in Taiwan for over 30 years but has recently moved to Kuala Lumpur, is an avid collector of textiles. In recent years he has focussed his attention on the textiles of the Malay world and frequently contributes to the journal Textiles Asia.

Friday 22 Feb 2019, 10:00am (for 10:30 start),  Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore

 

Kelingkan embroidery – photo copyright John Ang

All that Glitters is not Gold

John’s second lecture is on the subject of kelingkan embroidery. This is a quintessentially Malay textile using flat metal strips to embellish the cloth. John will discuss where and how it was produced, and its possible origins. A short article on this subject, written by Adline Abdul Ghani (formerly of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia) can be found here.

Monday 25 February 2019, 11:00am, Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

 

Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman

Finally, this major new exhibition is opening at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 1 February 2019, and runs until 28 April 2019. It reexamines the life of Sir Stamford Raffles. According to the museum’s website “Sir Stamford Raffles was an official with the British East India Company stationed in Southeast Asia between 1805 and 1824. He is known for establishing Singapore as a British port, as the author of The History of Java, and as a collector of natural history and cultural materials. Opinions of Raffles have changed over time. He has been viewed as a scholarly expert on the region, a progressive reformer, a committed imperialist, and even a plagiariser. In keeping with the Asian Civilisations Museum’s mission to explore encounters and connections, this exhibition presents a complex, multilayered picture of Raffles while presenting the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Java and the Malay world.”

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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.

 

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