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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Article: Recreating Ancient Brocade to Preserve History

Photo of the loom and cloth from the Shanghai Daily

In 1995 a small (18.5cm by 12.5cm) piece of brocade was excavated from a tomb in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region. Woven in red, yellow, blue, white and green silk the motifs on it included the phoenix and the tiger as well as various heavenly bodies. This textile fragment was produced 2000 years ago. The sophistication of it doesn’t surprise me, having already seen Chinese textiles of a similar age as part of the Living in Silk exhibition at Nottingham Castle when they were exhibited in the UK for the first time in 2012.

In this Shanghai Daily article the author, Shi Jia, explains  some of the symbolism found on this textile and the lengths that Zhao Feng, the director of the China National Silk Museum, and his team went to in order to reproduce it. First they had to build a loom with which to weave the cloth. They decided to reproduce a hook-shaft pattern loom which had been found in a Han Dynasty tomb. The cloth took over a year to weave. It has an astounding 10,000 warps and was woven on 86 shafts – so much room for error! The description of how they got around the need for dozens of treadles fascinated me.

According to Zhao Feng the next goal is to reproduce the natural dyes that were used to colour the original fabric so that it can once again be seen as it would have so many years ago.

The full article can be read here

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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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Article: Bagru Textiles – Woodblock Printing near Jaipur, India

This article, written for the KINDCRAFT by Justin Lancy, looks at the tradition of woodblock printing in one particular community in Rajasthan.

The Chhipa clan have lived in Bagru for 400 years and Viju Chhipa, the founder of Bagru Textiles, is a fifth-generation dyer and printer. Lancy explains how the designs on each cloth might use 4 or 5 different woodblocks, which are carved from a variety of local trees including teak and rosewood. In this community the designs are traditionally printed onto a cream background, or sometimes the cloth is dyed blue or red. Another type of printing is done using mud-resist. The blocks are dipped into the dye and the colour applied very carefully onto the cloth by hand – a laborious task requiring a good eye for detail.

This tradition is now threatened as it requires a lot of water and the water table in the region has dropped in recent years.

The full article can be read on the KINDCRAFT website here. The majority of the beautiful images, taken by Justin and Lauren K Lancy, can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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Article: Ainu Culture – Garments and Embroideries of the Ainu People

Image by Keisuke Fukamizu

This article, with text by Kosuke Ide and fantastic photographs by Keisuke Fukamizu, examines the clothing of the Ainu people of Hokkaido island, Japan. Ide explains that hundreds of years ago these were made from the animal skins – there was a reference to them wearing “bird skin” as late as the eighteenth century. Over time they began to use fibres obtained from the inner bark of elm and linden trees to weave their textiles.  The cloth woven from these fibres was known as attush, and was sewn into garments primarily used as work clothing. These garments were decorated with patterns embroidered in cotton. Later, as cotton became cheaper and more accessible, they began to use it for their clothing rather than the attush. However the art of making attush has not died out completely. It is still practised by Rumiko Fujitani, using a traditional backstrap loom.

Ide also interviewed Nobuko Tsuda, who has conducted research on traditional Ainu garment culture and for the past 20 years has served as a curator at the Hokkaido Ainu Centre in Sapporo. I was particularly struck by her appreciation of what she refers tom as the “natural imperfections” of Ainu embroidery done in the traditional way, as opposed to the “perfection” which can be achieved using more modern methods.

The full article, which really does have some wonderful images, can be accessed on the visvim website here. Please note that this does take quite a while to load – presumably because of the quality of the images.

Textiles of Japan by Thomas Murray has recently been published by Prestel and contains over 100 pages on Ainu textiles. This book is already available in Europe and will go on sale in the US from 29 January 2019.

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Event: Stitching New Identities -: Embroidery and Socio-Political Change in Late-Nineteenth/Early-Twentieth Century Japan and Korea

Event date: Thursday, 17 January, 2019. 12:00-1:30 PM

“As Japan and Korea opened to the international community in the nineteenth century, their ensuing social, political, and economic transformations found vibrant visual expression in the ancient art of embroidery. Using primary sources including extant textiles and period literature, this lecture by Lee Talbot will examine changes in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Japanese and Korean embroidery in light of concurrent socio-political developments. The lecture will illustrate how embroiderers in Japan and Korea developed innovative aesthetics, forms, and subjects that gave visual voice to new social and national identities emerging as their countries forged new, sometime perilous paths domestically and internationally.”  – from the website of the Center for Japanese Studies.

Lee Talbot is currently the Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. and has previously spent two years as curator at the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum (Seoul, Korea).

Location: Center for Japanese Studies, Room 110 Weiser Hall, 500 Church Street, Suite 400, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1042

 

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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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Event: Following The Flow Of Indigo In Africa

Event date: Saturday, November 10, 2018, 10am

For those who crave indigo, a journey to Africa is recommended. This virtual tour, presented by Pamela McClusky, shows how indigo has been adapted to multiple uses across many countries, revealing where this dye has had a pronounced impact.

The journey starts in ancient Egypt, to see a kerchief used by King Tutankhamun that retains the deep hue of a majestic aesthetic. Moving southwest, it follows the path of camels to the Tuareg, or the Blue People, as their clothes and skin are saturated with indigo. From there, a caravan leads to Kano, Nigeria which is renowned for its distinctive dedication to dye pits that are hundreds of years old and still in active use today. Moving south to Abeokuta the unique transformation of white cloth shipped to Nigeria by British colonists is investigated. How the women of this city invented a flourishing vocabulary of designs filled with proverbs, symbols and meanings is an epic chapter of textile history in the 20th century.

For more information visit the website of the Textile Arts Council

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

 

Event: Pop-Up Palaces – A journey through 1000 years of Egypt’s ceremonial tent-making tradition

 

Event date: Wednesday 14 November 2018, 18:30-20:30

In one of medieval Cairo’s last remaining covered streets is a community of tentmakers whose work has transformed the Egyptian landscape at times of celebration and festivity. For at least a millennium, these craftsmen have created magnificent handstitched cotton pavilions of a thousand colours which have entertained kings and country folk alike, awed enemies, and brought powerful sultans to tears.

Discover the stories of this fascinating craft through the voices of its craftsmen and patrons, past and present. Get to handle some of the treasures of this remarkable textile tradition, and immerse yourself in a little-known treasure-trove of Islamic art.

Seif El Rashidi is a historian of Islamic art who worked in historic Cairo for a decade, where he was first captivated by the tentmakers, and their splendid textile creations. This talk and textile handling session is the result of several years of research into the tent making tradition, leading to his newly published book The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft, (with Sam Bowker). 

For more details and booking click here

Location: Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Rd, London, W14 8LZ

 

Exhibition: Kuba – Fabric of an Empire

Exhibition dates: 19 August 2018 – 24 February 2019

This exhibition of dazzling Kuba textiles presented in the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Cone Collection galleries reveals how a central African kingdom independently developed a form of modernist abstraction in the 20th century.

The Kuba kingdom, on the southern edge of the Congolese Rainforest in central Africa, developed one of the greatest civilisations in the history of the continent. Art and design were central to their life. In addition to an elaborate and varied masquerade tradition, Kuba men and women were prolific textile artists, even weaving houses and embroidering currency. As the kingdom grew richer and more powerful, Kuba men and women began to create increasingly abstract designs. Works produced in Kuba’s earlier periods are defined by repeating patterns and minute details. Textiles created at the height of the kingdom’s power and prestige are characterised by bold, inventive designs that are constantly in flux.

An excellent in depth review of this exhibition, entitled A Great African Kingdom Tells Its History In Fabulous Royal Clothes, by Tim McDonnell with many additional images can be found here

For further information on visiting the exhibition see the website of the Baltimore Museum of Art