Article: Kisar Textiles

OATG members David and Sue Richardson are passionate about Indonesian textiles and recently have been researching the weavings of the small island of Kisar in the Lesser Sundas, to the east of Bali. As part of this research, last year they corresponded with Sonja Mohr, the curator for Insular Southeast Asia at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in Köln, about the museum’s collection of Kisar textiles. These were collected by Heinrich Kühn in 1888, Professor Alexander W. Pflüger in 1900 and Wilhelm Müller-Wismar in 1914. Sonja very kindly invited them to Köln to examine these textiles for themselves. The information gained during that visit, along with field research, has resulted in the publication of the final page on Kisar textiles on their website Asian Textile Studies. Below is their report of their trip to the museum.

Most of the visitors heading to Köln in December are there to see the Christmas markets, but we had a different objective in mind – textiles – and not just any old textiles, but textiles with excellent provenance collected on Kisar in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Textile heaven! A fantastic selection of Kisar textiles ready for us to examine.

We had corresponded with Sonja Mohr for several months and she and her colleague, Senior Conservationist Petra Czerwinske-Eger, had gone to great lengths to prepare for our visit. Christian Andert, the chief storekeeper, had brought the Kisar textiles from the main storage area to one of the laboratories so that we could all examine them in detail. All of the information they held on each piece had been printed out, along with questions it was hoped we might be able to answer together.

We started by looking at the sarongs, which had been prepared for us. These were more varied than expected, with some, such as the one below, having very little ikat but lovely rich deep colours.

A simple Oirata lau which might date to the late nineteenth century.

We then looked at the ceremonial sarongs, from both the Oirata and Meher communities and discovered that one Oirata tubeskirt had been mislabelled as Meher.

An Oirata mauwesi lau which had been mislabelled as a Meher homnon.

We then moved onto examining the male loincloths and it was again interesting to first see some very simple examples.

Sonja and David looking at a man’s simple loincloth.

The ceremonial loincloths collected in 1914 were just stunning – woven from fine hand-spun cotton with narrow bands of ikat and end sections of continuous supplementary weft.

A fantastic niala or irä from Oirata, which led to much discussion.

One of the unexpected highlights for us was the collection of waistbands, which really were little gems.

Analysing waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar in 1914.

We discovered silk threads had been used in some narrow warp stripes and the twinned end band of one of these.

Sue and Sonja discussing more waistbands collected by Müller-Wismar.

After two lengthy sessions we left the museum with a huge sense of satisfaction with our goal achieved, and looking forward to working together with Sonja, Petra and the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in the future.

If you would like to read more about these textiles, along with many detailed photographs, please visit the Kisar page of our Asian Textile Studies website.

 

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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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Event: The Seven Thousand Year Conversation – Tracing Ancestry through Weaving Traditions in the Asia Pacific Region

 

A weaver in Bubu village, Solor, Indonesia, weaving warp ikat cloth for a tubeskirt. Copyright Chris Buckley

Event date: 9 February 2019, 10:00am

OATG member Chris Buckley will give an illustrated talk on the migration of Austronesians from mainland Asia via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

According to the website of the Textile Arts Council these Austronesians “carried with them a suite of textile techniques that originated on the Asian mainland in the Neolithic period, including yarn preparation, a distinctive body-tensioned loom and the warp ikat technique.

The story told by the distribution of weaving techniques and textile motifs across the Pacific confirms the broad outline discovered by linguists, but it also provides new evidence that the migratory story was not as simple as has been previously supposed. In particular it shows that the “out of Taiwan” story told by linguists is only partly true. Characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques, including the loom and tubeskirt, do not appear to have originated on Taiwan, the supposed homeland of the Austronesian peoples, but seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland. Chris will present evidence for this and discuss the reasons why mainland-derived weaving techniques were important to early migrants.”

Chris will be showing a variety of textiles, particularly ikat weavings, to support these ideas. He will also use a selection of his many photographs of weavers and weaving from the islands of Indonesia.

A thorough discussion of this subject, with excellent maps and illustrations, can be found in a paper written by Chris Buckley and Eric Boudot in 2017.  The evolution of an ancient technology is available through the  Royal Society Open Science website here  4: 170208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170208

Location: Koret Auditorium,  de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118.

Please note: Following this lecture the Twelfth Annual Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Memorial lecture
will be given at 1pm, also in the Koret Auditorium. The subject of this lecture by Anna Beselin is Knots, Art and History – Shifting Perspectives and Perceptions within the Berlin Carpet Collection.

 

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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.

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Exhibition: The Fabric of India

Exhibition dates: 19 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

Discover the richness of Indian textiles from the fifteenth century to today in The Fabric of India, on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum 19 October 19, 2018 – 6 January, 2019. Organised by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London, this exhibition showcases the finest examples from the V&A’s world-renowned collection together with masterpieces from international partners, leading fashion and textile designers and additions from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection.

Handmade textiles are embedded in every aspect of India’s identity and the history of these fabrics dates back at least 6,000 years. Long before Europeans landed on the shores of the subcontinent, Indians were using indigenous resources to create colourful textiles desired around the world. Handwoven, printed, dyed and embellished fabrics were so central to the subcontinent’s character that in ancient Greece and Babylon the very name “India” was shorthand for “cotton.” Today a lively textile and fashion industry thrives in India.

The exhibition is organised in six thematic sections, exploring courtly splendour exemplified by sumptuous fabrics and dress alongside finely crafted sacred cloth used for religious worship. Centuries of global trade shaped by the export of Indian textiles is examined, illustrating a robust aesthetic exchange between artisans and their clients. The political power of textiles is considered through their use as a symbol of power and protest in the quest for independence in the early twentieth century.

Today, Indian designers and artists are adapting traditional techniques to create exciting new fashion, art and design for a global audience, giving India’s textile history a new relevance in the modern world. Innovative dress by contemporary fashion designers, including Manish Arora, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Abraham and Thakore, Rahul Mishra, Aneeth Arora and others will be on display.

For more information visit the website of the Cincinnati Art Museum

A one-day Symposium will also be held on 16 November featuring OATG founder Ruth Barnes. Click here for more details.

Event: Chinese Indigo Dyeing

 

Event date: Wednesday 19 September, 19:00.

This event, run by the Oriental Rug and Textile Society, features John Abbate of Bluehanded talking about how the  ancient cultural heritage of hand-printed fabrics has a rich history and exciting contemporary future. Artisanal traditions of naturally dyed indigo ‘Lan Yin Hua Bu’ textiles are used for interior decor and fashion design. All the work is done by the hands of an Indigo Master and his family using locally sourced materials, which makes the fabric sustainable and ethical.

The dyeing technique, which has been unchanged for centuries, involves applying traditional hand-cut decorative patterns to natural cotton. Coating the fabric in soybean and lime paste, before soaking in specially formulated vat dyes, gives the timeless blue and white finish. Traditionally used as wedding gifts in the form of bedding and cloth bags, the patterns bestow auspicious wishes such as good luck, long life and wellbeing.

After 25 years of retail design experience with Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Alfred Dunhill John moved to China as a retail brand consultant where he stumbled upon a beautiful blue and white cloth in the rubble of a Hutong in China. This discovery served as a starting point for his textile company. To John, luxury is in the unique perfect imperfection, individuality and craftsmanship that goes into the making each length of fabric. He works with designers to create new patterns that keep the ancient traditions alive.
For more details visit the website of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society

 

Location:  St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL

Event: Select Items from the Siam Society’s Textile Collection

 

Event date: Saturday 22 September, 2018, 10:00.

Among the rare artefacts collected under the custodianship of the Siam Society, the textile collection is prominent. It comprises items from various parts of mainland Southeast Asia, ranging from pieces belonging to the aristocratic class to tribal items, pieces extending from secular textiles to those created for ceremonial use. During this presentation, Thai Textile Society members and guests will have the opportunity to view selected pieces from the Society’s textile collection, including Shan aristocratic winter jackets, Tai Hun tube skirts and more.

Khun Ake (Thweep Rittinaphakorn) is curator of the Siam Society’s textiles collection, and an independent scholar whose main research focus is on textiles and art history, particularly of Myanmar, the Shan states and Thailand. He was guest speaker at the Siam Society, National Museum Volunteers group, as well as the Thai Textile Society. Khun Ake has also presented his research work on Shan royal costumes and Burmese silk tapestry woven textiles at international conferences and various other events.

Venue: The Siam Society, 4th floor, 131 Asoke Montri Road, Sukhumvit Soi 21

For more information and to reserve a place contact:  bkk.tts@gmail.com

 

 

Event: Religious Textiles of Southeast Asia

Event date: Saturday 15 September, 2018, 13:00.

In Southeast Asia, textiles are often made by women for the purpose of donation to the local monastery; the textiles are then displayed in monastery buildings or on their grounds. The donations bring the women merit, which is important for Buddhist practice. These displays also give the women a chance to show off their weaving skills and have their work appreciated by others. This talk by Rebecca Hall will concentrate on Buddhist textiles in mainland Southeast Asia, with specific attention paid to the countries of Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, and is held in conjunction with the just opened exhibition, Ceremonies and Celebrations which she curated. The focus will be on Buddhist banners, their form, and meaning, but will also include other kinds of textiles made and donated at monasteries. The motifs and scenes woven into the textiles are related to Buddhist beliefs and popular stories and help provide insight into the beliefs of laity across the region.

This event is run by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, but it is also open to non-members – museum admission fee applies.

Location: USC-Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave. Pasadena, CA 91101. Time 13:00

(Limited Free Parking adjacent to the Museum)

Event: Unpicking Woven Heritage – Cultural narratives of handwoven eri silk textiles from Meghalaya, Northeast India

 

 

Event date: Tuesday 4 September 2018 18:00 – 20:00

Anna-Louise Meynell (Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London) has been conducting doctoral research in the remote state of Meghalaya, Northeast India. The research aims to explore and define the cultural heritage of eri silk weaving in the Ri Bhoi District, considering the socio-cultural history, the craft process and the materiality of the product.

Eri silk holds many social narratives of North East India. It is cultivated domestically and known locally as “the poor man’s silk” or “peace silk”, as it does not harm the silkworm in the extraction of the silk. Unlike the continuous filament of the mulberry silk cocoon, the eri cocoon is made up of short staple fibres which require it to be hand spun, resulting in a slubby texture with a dull sheen of silk. It is still almost exclusively dyed with natural dyes and traditionally woven on a simple bamboo floor loom.

The eri silk communities of Meghalaya have been exposed to significant social change and external interventions since pre-colonial times, much of which can be ‘read’ through a study of the textiles and techniques. Anna-Louise will show photos and samples from the archive of eri silk textiles that has been collected during fieldwork – samples that are indicators of tribal migration and assimilation, of colonial influence and widespread conversion from the indigenous Khasi religion to Christianity.  

For further details and booking click here

This Oxford Asian Textile Group event will take place at the Pauling Centre, Oxford.

Event: In Celebration of the Sarong

 

Event dates: 10 – 13 August 2018

To mark the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s 86th Birthday, the Sanjai Saiyai Phasin Club is organising the fourth Annual Sarong Festival to promote woven fabrics from all regions of Thailand. The event will be held from August 10 to 13 from 10am to 10pm at The Street Ratchadaphisek, Bangkok.

“We will bring woven fabrics from all over the country to salute Her Majesty Queen Sirikit and to also preserve and support Thai handicrafts in line with royal aspirations,” said the club’s president Nayada Amatavanich.

“The event will also feature talks by many famous Thai Fabric designers, among them Thanit Phoomsawai, a well-known designer from the drama “Buppesanniwas”, Wasin Oonjanam costume designer of the drama “Nakaraj”, artists who have created and rewoven fabric patterns such as Terdsak Insaeng, Pairat Sararat, Jongjarun Manakam and Suriya Wongchai, as well as additional Thai fabric experts from different regions. And we will demonstrate how to wear a sarong in various forms.”

In partnership with Feature Co Ltd, the club will also unveil a precious publication on woven textiles in Thailand.

Sanjai Saiyai Phasin Club was established on December 5, 2017 with the objective of preserving and promoting Thai sarong and woven textiles in all regions. It currently has more than 17,000 members.