Events: Textile events this week in Manchester, Washington DC, Tokyo and California

Another busy week in the textile world!

Tunic (Cushma), Wari culture, Southern Andes, alpaca wool, c800 AD,  Courtesy: Paul Hughes Collection.

Friday sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Whitworth in Manchester, entitled Ancient Textiles from the Andes. This will run until 15 September 2019.

This is a rare opportunity to see ancient Andean textiles of this quality and size exhibited in the UK. Through a major loan from the collector Paul Hughes, alongside pieces from the Whitworth, textiles from c300BC to c1400AD are on display. HALI have several images of textiles which will be part of this exhibition here, which are sure to whet your appetite! For further details visit the website of the Whitworth.

Location The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER

Searching A Female Smuggler. Source: Harper’s, 1884, pg.45.

This Saturday Louise Shelley, director, Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, George Mason University will give a presentation entitled The Dark Side of the Textile Trade. The title immediately made me think of the damage that textile production can do to the environment, people working for next to nothing to produce fast fashion etc. However when I read further I was fascinated to learn that Louise comes at this from quite a different angle, looking into the abuses of the textile trade for commercial and political gains by both criminals and states. 

Textiles have always been one of the most valued components of international trade. Both individuals and states have sought to profit from this trade in both illegal and immoral ways. The problem of counterfeit products we face today is not new; it was already an issue centuries ago, when British traders flooded the Venetian market with their products labelled “Made in Venice.” When cochineal was the most valuable product out of the New World, many pirates and traders sought to acquire cochineal and break the Spanish monopoly.” Textile Museum website.   

Location: The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, District Of Columbia.

This event will start at 10:30 and is free with no reservations required. For more details go to the museum’s website.

 

By a strange coincidence the subject of fakes and copies is also tackled the following day by Vedat Karadag in his talk to the International Hajji Baba Society on the subject of Current methods for making fake and copies of antique rugs in Anatolia and Persia. 

Fakes of antique carpets are nothing new in the rug and textile business. But today’s version are technically so good that they can fool even top rug experts, famous collectors, textile professors and museum curators. How do the counterfeiters do it?” I’m sure this is a question we would all like the answer to! Vedat is a textile researcher who has been looking into this question for over 15 years, so this is bound to be a fascinating talk.

Location:  Arlington County Public Library, Donnellan Auditorium (on the ground floor), 1015 N Quincy St

This event will take place at 15:00 and is also open to non-members. More details can be found on the IHBS website.

The Amuse Museum in Tokyo celebrates the 10th anniversary of its opening on Saturday with the exhibition Boro – Real Astonishment. On show will be the collection of Chuzaburo Tanaka who sought out these textiles, which are generally made of hemp,  from the mid 1960s. The textiles will be hung among newly published photographs by Kyoichi Tsuzuki which should create an interesting contrast.

Location 2-34-4 Asakusa, Taito Ku, Tokyo, Japan 111-0032

For more information visit the website of the Amuse Museum.

Image credit: Woman’s robe (munisak) Central Asia, 1850–75, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2004.94

Finally this Sunday in California the Bowers Museum will be hosting a very special event dedicated to Central Asian ikat. The respected textile researcher Dr Richard Isaacson  will present Silken Resistance: A Short History of Ikat.

“Central Asian ikats are among the most dramatic and spectacular hand-dyed and hand-woven textiles ever produced, enthralling both for the technique used to create them, and for their fabulous patterns and designs. They are not, however, the first or only ikats made in the world. Combining insights from archeological excavations, photo archives and museum collections, Dr. Richard Isaacson will trace the history of ikat from the 5th century to the present, concentrating on the height of production in 19th century Uzbekistan. Dr. Isaacson’s talk will incorporate rarely-seen French and Russian historical photographs of local people wearing ikat garments, providing a fascinating window into daily life and social class structure from the last third of the 19th century into the early 20th century in the Uzbek region, at the eastern edge of the Russian empire.” – Bowers Museum website.

I have attended (and given) many lectures which had a Show and Tell element at the end, giving attendees the opportunity to see actual textiles. However this event takes that to another level as Dr Isaacson’s talk will be followed by a show of over 40 antique ikat pieces on live models. This will obviously add a different dimension. These textiles are from the collection of Cheri Hunter – a doyenne of the textile world. Having seen some of these textiles when we were hosted by Cheri, I know that they are of an extremely high standard.

Location 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706

For more details and to book visit the website of the Bowers Museum.

 

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Event: Kyrgyzstan Textile Tour

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© Kyrgyz Art Museum

The Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) are organising an exciting Textile Tour of Kyrgyzstan, visiting many of the artisans who have featured in the research of Dr Stephanie Bunn the author of Nomadic Felts. The tour will run from 6-18 June 2019, starting and ending in Bishkek. ORTS have decided to open up the last few remaining places on this tour to non-members, offering them a fabulous opportunity to learn more about the textiles of this amazing country.

Participants will gain an insight into contemporary Kyrgyz design, with visits to Vorotnika Studio and Dilbar Fashion House in Bishkek,

Clothes from Dilbar Fashion House modelled in Jakarta. © Dilbar Fashion House

as well as the more traditional use of patterns with many visits to expert craftsmen across the country. These will include the opportunity for a masterclass on weaving in Sary Mogol

Making a shyrdak. © southshorekg.com

and feltmaking at the Golden Thimble workshop in Bokonbaevo. In 2014 this NGO, founded by Janyl Bayisheva, received a UNESCO Award recognising the excellence of their handicrafts.

Working on a shyrdak. © southshorekg.com

Through their contacts ORTS have been able to arrange for the group to have dinner with Zhyldyz Asanakunova, the head of the Felt Art Group in Bokonbaevo. Zhyldyz is recognised internationally for her shyrdaks – the felt rugs with powerful motifs seen throughout Kyrgyzstan.

© Kyrgyz Art Museum

Other special dinners will take place in traditional nomadic dwellings known as yurts. Accommodation will be in hotels, homestays and guesthouses.

This is a fantastic opportunity to take part in a very adventurous trip, experiencing the best crafts that Kyrgyzstan has to offer under expert guidance. To find out more please email Louise Teague (ORTS Chairperson).

 

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Video: Reviving a Silk Road Tradition

Screenshot from the documentary. © NHK World Japan

NHK World Japan have just released a new short documentary on ikat-making in Uzbekistan. It will be available to view until 8 March 2019 here.

This short documentary focuses on the work of Muhayo Aliyeva, the remarkable woman behind the Bibi Hanum brand. Muhayo created this brand back in 2006 and through it has provided work for many women not only in her Tashkent headquarters, but also further afield in the Ferghana Valley. According to their website “Bibi Hanum™ is a socially responsible enterprise that creates garments and accessories using traditional hand-woven silk cotton ikat fibre. Founded by Muhayo Alieva its mission is to provide economic opportunities for women while preserving Uzbekistan’s rich cultural and ethnographic heritage.”

Early on in the documentary we see the difficulties she has faced bringing a reinterpretation of Uzbek ikat to a modern audience, and how she has altered traditional patterns to suit her particular needs. We are also introduced to Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov, a fifth-generation ikat maker from Margilan – a famous centre of ikat production. In 2005 UNESCO awarded him a “Seal of Excellence” for his research into, and revitalisation of, the craft of velvet ikat weaving known as bakhmal. In fact 2005 was a very busy year for Rasuljon as that was also when he established the Khorezm Weaving centre in the old city of Khiva – a city which several OATG members have visited with Sheila Paine.  I was intrigued to see the machine they used for binding the bundles of 100 threads in his workshop in Margilan. Rasuljon demonstrated his expertise at the Textile Society of America Symposium in Washington DC in 2012 as part of a Central Asia panel organised by Christine Martens. He is a regular participant in the Santa Fe International Folk Art market.

Also in 2005 the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta used ikat cloths created by Rasuljon in his collection. The designer was clearly enamoured with these textiles, using them in many catwalk shows over a period of years. In this short video interview he speaks of his appreciation for the work that goes into creating ikat textiles and we can see some of his creations, including this stunning strapless dress.

Several of de la Renta’s pieces featured in the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia, which was held at the Freer/Sackler from March to July last year. Some of the highlights of the exhibition can be viewed here. Just click on each image to see the enlarged versions.

Ikat trench coat. Oscar de la Renta 2005 collection. © Smithsonian

Curatorial assistant Christina Elliott describes the process of preparing these textiles for the exhibition here. It was interesting to read of their method of insect prevention and see what goes on behind the scenes of a textile exhibition.

Part of the To Dye For exhibition. © Smithsonian

Last July Muhayo Aliyeva gave a presentation on Contemporary Ikat Designs at the Freer/Sackler as part of the programme arranged around this exhibition.  The whole event was filmed and can be seen here. In it she talks about the history of ikat in Central Asia and then shows current production methods, including the design, dyeing and weaving of the cloth. The video clips she shows of the warping up are really interesting, especially when you realise they are coping with 3000 fine threads.

Threading the reed. © Muhayo Aliyeva.

Another major ikat exhibition opened a couple of weeks ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Entitled Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection it highlights over 60 examples of ikat textiles – including clothing and woven panels. I like the fact that they show several garments worn in layers on the mannequins. This does mean that it’s more difficult to focus on an individual piece, but it gives a more accurate picture of how they would have been worn in the past.

The organiser of this exhibition, Clarissa M. Esguerra, will be giving an exclusive lecture to members of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) on Saturday 2 March 2019 in the Brown Auditorium at LACMA. Email info@tmasc.org for more details on membership.

One of the most striking garments in the Oscar de la Renta collection was this ikat coat with a fur trim, designed for the 2000 Balmain Haute Couture collection. The coat is clearly made up from several different sections of ikat, particularly on the right front. The pattern of the ikat is very reminiscent of the ikat made in a very different area of Uzbekistan – Khorezm.

Many people are unaware of the ikat-producing tradition in the city of Khiva. The cloth here is known as adras. It has a silk ikat warp and a cotton weft, giving it a fine ribbed texture.This design with the central turquoise  stripe and alternating red and green horns was the most popular with the nearby Qaraqalpaqs on their kiymesheks and shapans.

 Khivan patterns were simplified versions of Bukharan designs. This is not surprising given that they were made by members of a small community of Jewish dyers who arrived in Khiva with their traditional Bukharan designs.For more information on this small centre of ikat production visit the website of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on the Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Article: Kelaghayis of Azerbaijan

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The kelaghayi (kelagayi/kalaghayi) is a traditional silk scarf made in Azerbaijan. In 2014 this was added  to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This video was made by Asif Abramov and Rena Ibrahimbeyova to support the process of adding kelaghayi to this list.

These fine silk headcovers have been produced in Azerbaijan for generations. In 1862 Nasir Abdulaziz from Basgal showed his kelaghayis at the International Exhibition in London, gaining a silver medal for his work. In the mid-nineteenth century the Russian painter Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin depicted a woman from Shamakhi (probably a musician or dancer) wearing a kelaghayi over a small cap, in the local style.

“Woman of Shamakhi” by Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin

The silk scarf provided warmth in the cold weather, and protected the wearer from the heat in hot weather. It was produced in a variety of colours. Many believe that older women tended to wear darker colours, while younger women preferred lighter ones. Red was associated with weddings, and black with mourning – with scarves sometimes being used to cover the deceased too. It was tied in a variety of different ways, depending on the region. There were many beliefs associated with the production of these scarves – people should not enter the silkworm-incubation premises wearing gold or silver jewellery or a wristwatch, the scarves should never be folded with the pattern on the outside etc, etc.

Although these scarves used to be made throughout Azerbaijan, production is now centred on Sheki and Basgal. Basgal is also the home of the Kelagayi museum, the walls of which are decorated with some of the traditional motifs used on the scarves.

 Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The scarf shown below was bought by the author in Khiva, Uzbekistan, from an Azerbaijani shop owner. It was made in the Sheki Ipek Kombinat named after Lenin, in Sheki. At one time this was one of the largest silk-weaving centres in the Soviet Union, employing 7,000 people at its peak. The factory closed after the collapse of the USSR in 1995. The twin towns of Sheki and Shamakhi have been silk-weaving centres since medieval times and in the early twentieth century there were 127 silk mills in the Sheki region, employing 3,500 people. The seller told me that scarves such as mine date to the 1970s, but I haven’t been able to verify that.

The patterns on the kelaghayi are produced using a resist technique. They are applied using stamps which were traditionally carved from pear or walnut wood, but were often also made of metal.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

These stamps are dipped in a mixture of paraffin, resin and solid oil, before being carefully applied to the surface of the silk cloth. Various natural dyes are used to colour the cloths, before the wax is removed with hot water.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

Obviously the workload and time needed to produce such scarves is increased if several different colours are used. Kelaghayi with six or seven colours were perceived as the most valuable and desirable and are still being produced in Basgal today. Versions of traditional kelaghayi produced in China using synthetic fabric are now entering the market, providing stiff competition for the workshops who produce silk scarves in the time-honoured way.

Similar scarves seem to have been produced in other areas too. The author bought this one in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2001. It had been made in a factory in Chardzhou in the east of the country. The factory had closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many thanks to Christine Martens for allowing me to reproduce some of the photos she took in Basgal following the “Intersections in felt” Symposium in October 2018.

Some fabulous images, along with an interview with a workshop-owner which really gives a sense of the working conditions, can be seen in an article by Samra Sadraddinli on the Chai Khana website here.

More background information for this article comes from this piece by Emil Eyyabov for the Azerbaijan State News Agency, this article  by Valentina Reznikova for Region Plus, and finally this article by Afat Rustamayova and Ruslan Huseynov on irs-az.com.

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News: Textiles from the Silk Road in Museum Collections – Scientific Investigations and Conservation Challenges

 

On 10 December 2018 a Symposium in Conservation Science was held at the British Museum in London, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Department of Scientific Research of the British Museum hosted this symposium about the scientific investigation of Asian textiles in museum collections. There was a particular focus Chinese textiles, but there were also contributions covering other geographical provenances along the Silk Road. The symposium featured scientific research recently carried out on Dunhuang textiles from the British Museum’s collection. The focus of the workshop was the importance of different scientific approaches and analytical techniques to the study of weaving, fibres and dyes in Asian textiles. Comparisons between the information that can be obtained with non-invasive and invasive approaches were encouraged, as well as how this information relates to conservation challenges and display decisions.

The programme covered such diverse topics as Silk Road Thangka Textiles from the Sven Hedin Collection, Investigating Asian colourants in textiles from Dunhuang in the British Museum, and Silk, wild silk and half silk textiles from Palmyra – New scientific approaches. The full programme can be viewed here 

Book of Abstracts for the event has now been made available for download. These abstracts should certainly whet the appetite of textile enthusiasts and scholars alike!

 

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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: From Kabul to Kolkata – Of Belonging, Memories and Identity

 

 

Exhibition dates: 11 October – 15 December 2018 (Closed Sundays and Mondays)

Afghans have travelled to India for centuries but it was in 1892 that they were given a romantic, and lasting identity. This link was set into history when India’s most famous modern poet and one of its greatest cultural icons, Rabindranath Tagore, penned his short story about the Kabuliwala or man from Kabul.

This exhibition of photographs by Moska Najib and Nazes Afroz concerns a specific intra-Asian connection between Afghans and Indians that highlights larger historical patterns of trans-Asian migration, cultural resilience and transformation, and shifting senses of self, community and home.

While until a few decades ago, real Kabuliwalas were a common sight on the streets of Kolkata, as in most cities of north and central India, today stereotypes and standard attributes have formed an ambiguous image of these people. Moska Najib, an Afghan by origin but living in India for most of her life, says, ‘Being away from my homeland, I’ve been always drawn to the themes of identity and new belonging. This inspired me to photograph one of the oldest settled Afghan communities in India in modern times.”

More information about the project, including a short video, can be found on the From Kabul to Kolkata website. If you click on the “More” link at the top, you can access further background information. Moska describes how during their first encounter with the community, they realised that they kept a dual existence – one inside their home and one outside. In their abode, they’d wear their traditional attire and follow the typical customs observed in Afghanistan – the habit of sitting on the carpet and not on sofas or chairs, sharing a communal meal from the same platter, using the spittoons and drinking endless cups of green tea.

For more information about the exhibition visit the website of the Brunei Gallery

Location: Brunei Gallery Exhibition Rooms at SOAS, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H  0XG

Textile Tidbits: Jumlo from Indus Kohistan

 

This woman’s dress or jumlo is the featured Object of the Month from the SADACC (South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection) Trust.

It was made from a woven black cotton fabric and is finely embroidered with silk threads. It is constructed from three main parts: a bodice, long wide sleeves and a full skirt comprised of numerous triangular inserts of cloth, known as godets. Symmetry is an important element in the design and jumlos are elaborately adorned with buttons, beads and coins. This particular example features beadwork, mother-of-pearl buttons, metal amulets, chains and Pakistani coins dating from 1948 and 1949. Some jumlo are further embellished with zips, lead weights, key and bath chains, padlocks and brass buttons.

Jumlos are made and worn by women from the Shin community. The Shin are semi-nomadic shepherds, who live mainly in the upper valleys of Indus Kohistan, in north west Pakistan, where farming is difficult due to the dry, mountainous landscape. The Shin people move their livestock to higher or lower ground in accordance with the seasons, leaving their village homes during the summer months.

The SADACC Trust is based in Norwich, UK, and more information on this jumlo and many other objects can be found on their website

 

Event: World Textile Day – Central England

Event Date: – 2 June 2018 10:00-16:30, Banbury.

The World Textile Day team write: Arriving in King’s Sutton two years ago, how could we have known that Oxfordshire would turn out to be such hotbed of world textile fans? – We at the Oxford Asian Textile Group are certainly among them!

In 2018 World Textile Day Central is shaping up to be really something. Focusing on the theme Working Together, the SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER will be Chris Spring, curator of the British Museum’s Africa collection. Chris will speak on Social Fabric: Textiles and Teamwork in East and Southern Africa. There will also be a Fair Trade Market showcasing a wide variety of textiles.

Free parking available on site!

For more details visit the World Textile Day website

Exhibition: Portable Storage: Tribal Weavings from the Collection of William and Inger Ginsberg

Exhibition dates: 25 September 2017 – 7 May 2018, New York

 

Woven bags carried by nomads in the Middle East were designed to contain all of the necessities of life, from bedding to salt. This exhibition highlights 19 distinctly patterned examples of woven bags from nomadic cultures in Iran, Turkey, and the Caucasus, along with one striking pile-woven saddle cover. Featuring geometric patterns as well as stylised floral and animal motifs, these textiles are both utilitarian and expressive of a highly sophisticated tribal aesthetic.  The exhibition also includes an Islamic painting from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection that illustrates bags and trappings in use in traditional society.

For more information visit the website of the Metropolitan Museum