Event: Colourful Banjara Textiles from the British Museum’s Reserve Collection at Blythe House, Olympia

Event date: Wednesday 19 April 2017, 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

The Banjara are a semi-nomadic people who, prior to the construction of roads and railways, provided long-distance bullock caravans of goods across India. They are known for their vibrant clothing and domestic textiles in shades of rich yellow ochre and red madder decorated by mirrors, embroidery, applique and shells. This event will be presented by the British Museum’s T. Richard Blurton, Head of the South and Southeast Asia Section, and textile gallery owner (and OATG member), Joss Graham.

See Asian Textiles magazine #64 (June 2016) for a review of a new book on the Banjara: Textiles of the Banjara.

Event location: Blythe House, Olympia, London (more details on access provided when booking).

Please note that numbers for this event are strictly limited and advanced registration is essential. Places will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.

For more information, and to register for your place, visit the Eventbrite page.

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Exhibition: Asafo Flags from Ghana

Mingei International Museum - Asafo Flags from Ghana

Exhibition dates: 6 February – 10 July 2016

This exhibition features thirty-six flags from the West African country of Ghana. A recent donation to Mingei International Museum (USA), these colourful flags dating to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries feature graphic folk imagery and appliquéd designs on solid cotton grounds. They were commissioned by military organisations known as Asafo, or ‘companies’, whose primary role was to exert power, exercise political influence and maintain codes of conduct within Fante communities. Smaller towns had at least one company, and larger towns up to fourteen. Verbal proverbs are given imaginative visual form on the flags, in which messages and customs are remembered and oral traditions are preserved.

Asafo flags are displayed at funerals, annual festivals and other ceremonial occasions, where they adorn central shrines and are paraded and waved through villages and towns. Intense rivalry among companies once led to violent confrontations, but today this is channeled into peaceful competitions. Colonial influence can be noted in these flags, derived in part from the display of European flags in the region; indeed, the British Union Jack appears on flags created before Ghana gained its independence in 1957.

For more information, visit the website of the Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California, USA.

Textile Tidbits: SADACC’s Object of the Month – Patchwork Snakes and Ladders

SADACC - Snakes and Ladders textile

It’s now a little late in the month, but there’s been quite a deluge of wonderful textile material for the blog recently, and I wanted to share SADACC’s wonderful object of the month with you before it’s too late. (Some of you may have seen this already if you subscribe to the SADACC newsletter – apologies for reposting if so.)

Sap sidi (snakes and ladders) is a popular game in Jain, Hindu and Muslim cultures. Snakes and Ladders originated in India, possibly as early as the second century BC. Early versions were known as Moksha-Patamu (heaven and hell) and the game works on the principle of good versus evil.

Cloth games have been made since the Mogul era and are often included in a girl’s dowry. The board is a miniature patchwork quilt of vegetable-dyed fabric. It was made by female artisans in Kutch, Gujarat. These women are descendants of a nomadic tribe from Nagar Parkar, in the Sindh region of Pakistan. Elderly women typically turn to patchwork from embroidery when their eyesight begins to fade.

For more information, visit the website of the South Asian Decorative Arts & Crafts Collection (SADACC), Norwich.

Textile Tidbits: Ottoman Tents in Vienna

Ottoman Tents - Stambouline

For my latest Textile Tidbit, I’d like to share a blog post all about sixteenth and seventeenth-century Ottoman military tents. Following various European victories over the Ottomans, a number of these magnificent tents can be found in museums around Europe, and in particular, the Museum of Applied Arts and the Museum of Military History in Vienna. For my part, I think I can safely say I have never seen a tent as large or impressive as these – every inch of them is covered in intricate appliqued decoration – and it’s quite a discovery to learn about them.

To read more about these Ottoman tents, click here.