Event: Sumba – Island of the Ancestors

Event date: Thursday 19 July, 6-7:45pm

OATG members David and Sue Richardson first visited the Indonesian island of Sumba in 1991. They have since returned many times, drawn back by its fascinating culture and fabulous textiles.

This talk will briefly cover the history and ethnography of Sumba, before focussing on its weaving culture. Textiles are fundamental to life on this island, being used extensively in bridewealth exchanges, for settling disputes, and for funerals. Two main techniques are used – supplementary warp and warp ikat. It can take many months just to do the binding for one of the ikat cloths, with some requiring up to 20,000 separate knots.

David and Sue will also be showing some wonderful examples from their extensive collection – including textiles made by members of the Sumbanese Royal families.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

Time: 6pm for a 6:15 start

OATG events are free for members and £3 payable on the door for non-members. Advance booking is recommended.

Should you require disabled access, please do get in touch beforehand to make sure adequate provisions can be made.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.

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Exhibition: Empire of the Sikhs

 

Exhibition dates: 12 July – 23 September 2018

This major free exhibition telling the story of the last great native kingdom which challenged the British for supremacy of the Indian subcontinent opens today. The Sikh Empire (1799–1849), which spanned much of modern day Pakistan and northwest India, was forged by the ‘Napoleon of the East’ Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) who became known as Sher-e-Punjab, the Lion of Punjab, over his forty-year reign.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh established a powerful military meritocracy that included many European officers. His empire offered a crucial buffer state between the British and incursions via the Khyber Pass. The one-eyed king was a trusted ally of the British but also a potentially formidable opponent.

The inevitable clash with the British came in the form of two bitterly fought Anglo-Sikh Wars (1845–46, 1848–49) in which British pre-eminence hung in the balance as they came within hours of a total surrender. But through treachery, victory was turned into defeat for the Sikhs whose territories, treasury and fighting men became incorporated into British dominion.

A source of great interest to British visitors to the Sikh royal court prior to annexation was the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which was wrested from Afghan hands in 1813. The fabled jewel was eventually presented to Queen Victoria on 3 July 1850 in the armlet that Ranjit Singh had specially made for it. Fitted with a rock crystal replica of the original, uncut Koh-i-Noor, it is now preserved as part of the Royal Collection and will be one of the highlights on display along with a stunning array of over 100 objects and works of art from leading private and public collections.

Among them will be glittering jewellery and weaponry from the Sikh Empire including personal items that belonged to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the most famous of his thirty ‘official’ wives, Maharani Jind Kaur. They were the parents of the deposed boy-king Maharaja Duleep Singh and grandparents to prominent suffragette (and goddaughter to Queen Victoria), Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.

For more information visit the website of the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London.

Article: Diversity and Exquisiteness – Examples of Three Asian Textile Sample Books

 

 

In this article Andrijana Sajic, Senior Book Conservation Coordinator, Thomas J. Watson Library (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) discusses three Asian textile sample books from their Special Collections.

The first of these is Japanese Textiles, whose accordion structure allows readers to see either side of the book because they are mounted on the front and back of the boards. Based on the thickness and patterns of the samples, the textiles were used for mounting hanging scrolls. The book could have belonged to an individual scroll maker or studio, and been used as a personal record or a commercial reference guide. While little is known about this sample book, it is certain that these beautiful, thin, woven silks, with their extraordinary motifs, metallic threads, and metallic leaf applications, are remarkable samples of cloth.

Another Japanese textile sample book is Nippon Hand Weaves in Kusakizome Dyes, published in 1959 by Akira Yamazaki. Unlike the Japanese Textiles book, this book contains detailed information about its function and maker’s intentions. It is a collection of twenty-six plant-dyed, handwoven textiles that were specifically made for this book and created, as the author states in the introduction, to “transmit the wealth of the past.” This elegant structure contains information about each cloth sample and plant used in the dyeing process, and also about the materials used in the construction of the book.

The textile sample book Balai Penelitian Batik, which has an unknown date of production, was created by the Ministry of the Industry of People of Jogjakarta and Batik Research Centre. Unlike the two other books presented here, this is a manual that leads the viewer through steps in batik production, in both English and Indonesian. Each page contains a sample of treated cloth, a brief description of the process, and an illustrative photograph.

The information in the introduction does not explain the institution’s intention in creating this manual. However, this publication clearly captures the complex, time-consuming process of batik production and educates readers through didactic samples that illustrate the wax-resist dyeing technique with copper stamps. Descriptions are brief and factual, and samples are the focal point of the page. The viewer is invited, through nine consecutive cloth samples, to see and feel the transformation of pure starched white cloth into a finished batik design, a sample of which is adhered to the front cover of the book.

To read the full article click here

Exhibition: The Boteh Of Kashmir And Paisley – The Signature From The Most Revered Cloths Of Creation

 

 

Exhibition dates: 29 June 2018 – 2 February 2019

This exhibition looks at the development of the boteh motif and Paisley shawl from the late sixteenth to the late nineteenth century. Designs in the Mughal period were based on naturalistic forms and flowering plants, evolving into an increasingly symbolic style. This was followed by the cone shape and then with the elongated forms following a stylised representation of the boteh. Lots of information can be found in the exhibition catalogue here

For more information visit the website of the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles Berkeley, California

 

Event: A Revolution in the Bedroom – How Indian dyed cottons transformed Europe’s interiors in the 17th and 18th centuries

 

Event date: Friday 29 June 2018 at 18:00, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

Brightly coloured, washable Indian cotton fabrics revolutionised the décor of bedrooms and living-rooms of western households as soon as they were introduced in the 17th century.

Join Indian textiles specialist Rosemary Crill for a fascinating look at how the hybrid designs of these chintz fabrics, with their exotic flowers and trees, fed into the 18th-century craze for Chinoiserie, and how they became a staple element of western design vocabulary.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Ontario Museum

 

 

Exhibition: Fabric Africa – Stories Told Through Textiles

 

 

Exhibition dates: 30 June 2018 – 19 May 2019, Bristol, UK

Fabric Africa is a stunning snapshot of the diversity of modern and historic textiles from across the continent of Africa.

Highlights from the World Cultures and British and Empire and Commonwealth collections of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will reflect the variety of patterns, colours, materials and techniques created as well as focusing on the personal and provocative stories they can tell.

The selection of textiles and clothing dates from the late 1800’s to the present day and come from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, Mali and Swaziland amongst others.

From mud cloth to adinkra, barkcloth dresses to kanga cotton prints, ‘royal’ kente cloth to huge embroidered agbadas, this exhibition will give a taste of the amazing ingenuity of the textile artists of Africa and explore the importance of cloth in social and political lives of those who wear them.

There are also some individual stand-out pieces like the 1980’s European style dress and suit made from barkcloth – the clothes were a gift to some European friends from a Ugandan chief – and a Victorian style heavy cotton dress worn today by Herero women from Namibia.

For more information visit the website of the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

 

Event: ORTS Film Night

 

 

Event date: Wednesday 20 June 2018 at 6.30pm, St. James Piccadilly 

As part of their summer programme the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will be hosting a film night focussing on the Bakhtiari.

Antony Wynn, who spent many years living in rural Iran, will be showing two films about the migration of the Bakhtiari tribes.  The first one “Grass” is a classic silent film made in 1925 by three Americans who made their way across Turkey and Iraq to meet the Bakhtiari in their winter quarters  and follow them and their flocks over swollen rivers and up over snow-covered mountain passes to reach their summer pastures.  It is a very dramatic film and shows clearly how tough life was for the nomads in those days.

The second film “People of the Wind” was made by the late Shusha Guppy in 1976, following the same route with descendants of the same people, and it shows what had changed and what had stayed the same over those fifty years. This could be a long evening, so there will be an interval between the two films.

The doors open from 6pm with drinks and snacks being served. Non-members are welcome at a charge of £7 (£5 for students).

For details of the location visit the ORTS website

Event: The Importance of Gifts – Burmese Art and the Vessantara Story

 

Event date: 12 June 2018 13:00-14:00, Oxford UK

Stories of the Buddha’s many lives have long been essential in Burmese art, and occupying pride of place is the tale of Vessantara’s generosity. This talk by Dr Alexandra Green of the British Museum explores these narrative representations and the role they play more broadly in Burmese religious rituals.  This talk is linked to the current exhibition on The Tale of Prince Vessantara, showing in Gallery 29 until September 2018

For further information visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum

Article: Classes and costumes in traditional Vietnamese society

 

In this article Dr Sud Chonchirdsin discusses class division and its associated costumes, illustrating this with several examples from the British Library. Please note enlarged versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the relevant image.

In traditional Vietnamese society people were divided into four classes, similar to those found in Chinese and other East Asian Confucian societies. The tứ dân, or four social hierarchical classes, were scholars (sĩ), farmers (nông), craftsmen (công) and merchants (thương).

Vietnamese mandarins, both civil and military, were divided into nine grades and each grade was further subdivided into senior and junior levels. High ranking mandarins were distinguished by their official robes in purple or red, colours reserved for their class, while lower ranking officials wore blue robes. Commoners could only wear black, brown or white dyed costumes, as Harry A. Franck, an American travel writer, observed in Tonkin in 1923: “the Tonkinese were dressed in a cinnamon or tobacco-juice colour that suddenly became as universal as black had been further south … the country women, then their men, and finally all the hand-labouring class, took to wearing long cotton cloaks of this reddish brown hue” (Franck 1926: 191).

To read the full article visit the website of the British Library

Article: Weavings from the Land in the Cloud

 

This article by Nurdiyansah Dalidjo and Cassandra Grant looks at the Toraja weavings of  South Sulawesi.

Weaving is an important spiritual activity and is respected by the Toraja people, but only women weave the cloth. They inherit the skills and knowledge taught by their grandmother or mother. From childhood, girls are involved in the fabric-making process, starting with chopping cotton or rolling yarn. Over time they learn the complex stages of weaving.

Initially, Toraja woven fabrics use hand-spun cotton threads and natural dyes grown around gardens and in fields and forests. One of those dyes is the tarum plant that produces an indigo blue. Other dyes use noni roots and turmeric. In the distant past, Toraja also sourced a black coloring using katakante leaves and mud sourced from fields where buffalo were kept. According to a Toraja resident, using mud that was mixed with urine or buffalo dung would help lock in the dye. Woven fabrics that have been coloured through this mud-dyeing process are known as pote, and are worn as headbands or hoods by relatives of the dead as a symbol of mourning.

Woven fabrics also form an important part of the funeral ceremonies. One of the sacred ikat weavings features a bright orange and blue dominant color, and is decorated with rhombuses, arrows, and diamond shapes in geometric patterns. Known alternately as Rongkong and Galumpang, the pattern represents Toraja ancestors but may be known by different names elsewhere.

To read the full article, which also has some beautiful photographs, click here