Events: Northeast India with Anna-Louise Meynell

Publication of this guest blog is for information only and does not indicate an endorsement of this tour by the OATG.

Anna-Louise Meynell, the author of the summer 2018 Asian Textiles cover story is leading 2 exciting textile tours of Northeast India. This is her guest blog about these tours.

Eri silk fibre and thread

Last summer I had the privilege of contributing to Asian Textiles. My research on the eri silk textiles and traditions of Meghalaya was the feature of the article, and I am excited to now announce two textile tours to Northeast India, to the location of my research. It is an opportunity to visit the villages, to meet the artisans and learn from them in a workshop of spinning and natural dyeing.

The colourful Hornbill Festival

Textiles and Tribal Festivals Tour of Northeast India: 27th November – 11th December 2019.

This tour will start in the Ri Bhoi District in Meghalaya, Northeast India, exploring the textile culture and traditions of the matrilineal Khasi tribe. There will be a focus on understanding the diversity of tribal life in Northeast India as the tour moves across into Assam to meet the Mishing tribe who work with complex supplementary weft designs. It will finish in Nagaland, exploring Naga culture and backstrap weaving and with 2 exciting days at the vibrant Hornbill Festival. A full colour pdf brochure can be downloaded here.

Traditional dress of the Khad Ar Lyngdoh communities,
Khasi Bhoi ethnic group

Textiles and Tribes Tour of Assam & Meghalaya: 26th March- 7th Feb 2020

This tour will also begin with the artisans in the Ri Bhoi District and a natural dye workshop. From here we drive to Majuli, the largest river island in the world and the cultural heart of Assam. There will be visits to weavers, potters and mask makers along with visits to the monasteries of the island. The tour finishes in Upper Assam, with the Singpho and Tai Phake tribes. These tribes are fascinating for many reasons including their textiles, and their tribal origins on both sides of the border of Northeast India and Myanmar. The pdf brochure for this tour can be accessed here.

Anna-Louise has been working in Meghalaya since 2014, and is currently based in Shillong, doing research on the traditional Eri silk textiles of Meghalaya. She has written a great blog about her obsession with eri textiles which can be accessed here. Please email Anna-Louise directly for more information.

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Feature: The Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia

Publication of this guest blog is for information only and does not indicate an endorsement of this tour by the OATG.

THE LESSER SUNDA ISLANDS OF INDONESIA

OATG member Jenny Spancake recently joined a Textile Tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia on which fellow OATG members David and Sue Richardson were the textile experts. Here she shares her some of her experiences:-

My husband and I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1983. One of our first trips in the region was to Bali where a friend asked if I would buy her a piece of ikat; this was my introduction to this technique. As an embroiderer, I was fascinated with ikat and wanted to learn more about it. Living in a number of locations around the world, including around four years in Thailand and seven in total in Kuala Lumpur, I was able to learn quite a bit about the ikat textiles of Southeast Asia. However living in mainland Southeast Asia meant I focused on weft ikat, mostly done on silk, and these are the type of ikats we began to collect. With travels to India, Central and South America and Central Asia, I broadened the base of that knowledge. What was needed to close the circle of study was a trip to the islands of Indonesia.

The perfect opportunity came in May 2019 with a trip to the Lesser Sunda Islands with David and Sue Richardson. As these islands we visited are part of the province of Indonesia known as Nusa Tenggara Timur I will refer to them as NTT. Traveling with the Richardsons was a good choice for us as they are very willing to share the knowledge of Indonesia and its textiles that they have gained over many years. The Richardsons focus on the textile techniques and visit only villages that still do natural dyeing.   As my husband’s undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering, he was eager to travel with someone as interested in the chemistry of natural dyes as David Richardson is.   The islands of NTT were perfect – a gorgeous landscape with fascinating textiles still woven in the traditional way with natural dyes.

Cotton threads which were bound with strips of a palm leaf and then dyed indigo.

At each village we visited we were welcomed by villagers dressed in their traditional costume, dancing their traditional dances and perhaps the most unexpected joy, playing their traditional music. Videos truly are the only way to capture the magic of these moments. The music is not heard looking at pictures in books and the music is the way the spirit of the village is actually captured. We were entertained in one village by a man playing the hoe as the main performer. In still another village, it was obvious that when they had done the planned program, they continued to play and sing for the sheer joy of the music. These are the moments that only visiting in person can provide.

This man was having such fun and creating great sounds just by hitting his hoe with a stone!

A visit to the village of Lamalera was of twofold interest – of course, we saw textiles. But we also talked to the villagers about their traditional livelihood of whaling and saw a demonstration of how they actually practice it. It is very easy for us in the West to see whaling as only the large scale enterprise that has a negative impact on the existence of whales. We forget that traditionally villages existed in harmony with the environment and depended and still depend on the whales for food and products. Risking their lives to harpoon a whale is a different way of life. The number of whales taken by a village is also a small fraction of that worldwide. [Editor’s note: this is the village where OATG founder Ruth Barnes did much of her research].

A demonstration of traditional whaling from a small boat at Lamalera.

In every village we saw demonstrations of the entire process of creating a textile from picking the cotton, processing it, spinning, dyeing, tying, and then the weaving process. In NTT textiles are produced in cotton in the warp ikat technique. As stated above, one of the things that most appealed to us about this tour was its emphasis on natural dyeing. Natural dyes are making a comeback in some parts of the world, but it is in fact an uphill battle. It is more expensive to use natural dyes because it takes more time to create the desired color. Synthetic dyes are much quicker, so cheaper in the long run when the final price of the piece is considered. In today’s market it is difficult for a weaver to charge a price that reflects the extra time spent in using natural dyes. Also part of the price must reflect the time it takes to produce a multi-colored complex design in ikat. Therefore, what tourists generally see are textiles produced with synthetic colors and a very simple ikat design – which exactly describes my first purchase. But as I learned more about ikat and dyes, I began to desire the more complex, naturally dyed examples. Steve and I have always tried to buy the most well produced pieces as we travel to encourage women to keep weaving at a high quality. Weavers must be able to earn a fair wage so that traditional textiles can continue to be made.

Patterns showing naga, which is very traditional in many parts of Southeast Asia.

I plan to describe just a few interesting experiences from the trip. First, natural dyeing involves a complicated chemical process. Dyers in the villages use both inherited knowledge plus trial and error today to create a wide range of colors.   In NTT the two major colors are indigo (blue) and morinda (red). It is very interesting to see that each village had its own variation on using these dyes.   Indigo is perhaps one of the most common dyes used around the world. Morinda is less well known and I will concentrate on this dye.

Threads dyed with morinda at a workshop on Timor.

Please note that I have used the website of David and Sue Richardson, Asian Textile Studies, as my source for the information detailed here. A great deal more information is included on that website than I will present here. On this trip we saw very detailed demonstrations of how red and brown colors are achieved by using this dye.   This can take a huge amount of root to complete the process to achieve the color desired for the finished textile. Once the bark is collected and prepared to begin to dye, a complex process begins.   Cotton that is to be dyed with morinda must be pretreated and a mordant must be used to fix the color. In NTT the most frequently used mordant is the leaf or bark of the tree belonging to the genus Symplocos. I was intrigued to learn that what made this possible was that the tree draws aluminium from the soil and accumulates it in the leaves and bark. Once processed these produce aluminium salts that then act as a mordant.

However, this process does not work unless the cotton is prepared before the dye made from morinda is applied. The first part of this preparatory process is cleaning the cotton. This is done by washing the yarn in water filtered through wood ash, thus creating an alkaline solution.   Then the cotton must be soaked in oil made from the candlenut tree, widely known as kemiri. Oil is produced from the candlenuts themselves. I have just described in a very simplistic way how cotton is dyed with morinda; for those interested in more detail and the chemistry of this process, please consult the morinda page of the Richardson’s website. The final process of any dyeing sequence is to rinse the cotton in water and here was the insight that interested me most.   I had of course read about the dramatic difference credited to the water of certain production areas when oriental rugs are woven and then washed after their completion. But for some reason I never carried that thought on to natural dyes and cotton and silk textiles.   It was one of those ideas that floats around in your mind but then one day you suddenly say, “Of course, the water is the final important piece of the dyeing puzzle.”   Water is a localized issue; each source of water has its own particular chemical makeup and the minerals present are the final creator of the color produced by the natural dye in question. Pointed out by the Richardsons on this trip, I finally saw the obvious.

Adding alkaline ash water to the morinda dye bath.

Although the main colors that we saw produced were blue and red from indigo and morinda, on one particular island we saw an astonishing array of different colors – all from natural dyes. This was on the tiny island of Ternate where we saw how they made dyes from a huge variety of plants as well as sea sponges and, most fascinating of all, a gastropod called a sea hare. We were told they had dived at 5am to get these creatures, which release purple ink as a defense mechanism. The innards are also used to make a pale green color and finally the sea hare is cooked and eaten so nothing is wasted.

An amazing demonstration of dyeing on Ternate.

Another highlight was our visit to the workshop of Freddy Hambuwali on Sumba. Modern hinggi, a man’s cloth with a long history, are created with a very high standard of warp ikat and finishing.   We were able to see all of these steps, beginning with the drawing of the pattern on the warps. I was particularly interested in the beautiful shade of indigo blue produced here. The ikat threads are dyed with indigo and morinda but a different method is used in Sumba to add a yellow dye – it is painted on after the weaving of the hinggi.   Another Sumbanese method is used to finish the hinggi; the hinggi is turned and the warp threads become the weft as a band called a kabakil is woven on to the bottom to create a finished end to stop the threads from unraveling.

The hinggi produced here are very detailed and are made in a wide variety of designs. We also learned about the computation of bundles of threads to facilitate the process of tying and dyeing. I myself was most attracted to the hinggi that are so obviously based on the patterns of Indian patola cloths. These patola have been a high status cloth in Indonesia for hundreds of years and are preserved as heirlooms in many households in the islands.   The layout of many Indonesian textiles can be seen to originate in the design of patola. Involving complex ikat, these hinggi were for me personally the most interesting ones.

I have oversimplified all of the aspects of weaving and dyeing just briefly mentioned here and have omitted so much, especially the supplementary warp weaving techniques we encountered.

Supplementary warp weaving on Sumba. Here we are being shown how the pattern is kept on sticks.

And I have not even begun to describe all of the villages visited, the many rewarding encounters with villagers and all that I learned. I relaxed on the beautiful Ombak Putih with its attentive crew, delicious food and comfortable cabins, learned so many new things about textiles, experienced new cultures in majestic landscapes and made new friends. I doubt one can ask for more in life.

What I really wanted to express to readers is the great joy that I experienced throughout this trip, which is extremely well designed and lends itself to a constant learning experience.  We’ve been on many textile tours, quite a few led by textile experts, but none of these leaders have ever been so generous with their knowledge as David and Sue – they love Indonesian culture so much it’s infectious and inspires you to want to learn more We’re always looking for trips that focus on textiles and this one exceeded our expectations.

For full details of this tour visit the Tour page of Asian Textile Studies or email David and Sue directly.

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Event: Caucasian Textiles and Carpets in the Georgian National Museum

Event date: Tuesday 2 July 2019 18:00

Fresh from giving a paper at the HALI Symposium we are delighted that Professor Dr Irina Koshoridze will give a talk to the OATG on the subject of Caucasian Textiles and Carpets in the Georgian National Museum. In it she will present the richness and variety of Caucasian textiles, carpets, and traditional costumes found in the museums of Tbilisi. She will explore how traditional arts and crafts techniques changed and developed against the background of different political circumstances in Georgia. Products of a thoroughfare between East and West, Caucasian textiles from the Georgian region reveal the influences of the Persians and Ottomans who variously ruled over the region and much of the Orthodox Christian world.

© Federica Gigante

Dr Irina Koshoridze is Professor of Art History and Theory at the State University in Tbilisi and Chief Curator of the Georgian National Museum, as well as Director of the State Museum of Folk and Applied Arts of Georgia. She has co-authored several books including Stars of the Caucasus: Antique Azerbaijan Silk Embroideries, Flat-Woven Rugs & Textiles from the Caucasus, Treasures of the Georgian National Museum, and the Oriental Collections of the Georgian National Museum.

© Federica Gigante

© Federica Gigante

Unfortunately the future direction of one of these museums seems to now be under threat. Earlier this year the Museum of Folk and Applied Arts was put under the care of the Georgian Museum of Cinema, Theatre, Choreography and Music – clearly not a suitable fit for it. William Dunbar, journalist and long-time Georgia resident, wrote an article about this for HALI – see image below – describing how the Folk and Applied Arts museum traces its roots to an attempt in the late nineteenth century by the Russians to encourage handicraft enterprises in this area. They made a detailed record of all of the textiles they could find at that time, which included taking photographs of classic Caucasian rugs in the places where they were originally found. 

© William Dunbar. Shared with his kind permission.

 

 

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

Date: Tuesday, 2nd of July 2019

Time: 6 pm for a 6.15 pm start

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members

 

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Feature: The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Köln

“It is only through knowledge of other cultures and other ways of life that mutual understanding, respect and tolerance between people in their immediate vicinity can be promoted.” RJM catalogue.

The exterior of the museum

Last autumn OATG members David and Sue Richardson spent time at the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World in Köln, Germany at the invitation of Sonja Mohr, the curator for Insular Southeast Asia, and give their impressions of it below.

The first thing that hits you as you enter the huge reception area of this museum in central Köln is the rice barn from Kesu’ region, Tana Toraja which the museum acquired in 1984. Fortunately they have the provenance of this structure and know that it was decorated in around 1935 by the master carver Ne’Kambane. It must have been an enormous task to dismantle this and reconstruct it the museum.

The rice barn which dominates the entrance to the museum. © David Richardson

© Sue Richardson

The bones of the collection came from that of Wilhelm Joest. He was a great traveller and collector and when he died of fever in the South Seas his collection went to his sister Adele, who was married to Eugen Rautenstrauch. When her husband died just a few years later, Adele financed the construction in 1901 of a museum to house this collection, which opened in 1906 in South Köln.

Joest in his Berlin apartment. © Rauchenstrauch-Joest Museum

Damage sustained by the building during the war, plus the risk of flooding from the Rhine, meant a new location was required and the current museum opened in the city centre in 2010. It is spread over several levels, with a gallery for temporary exhibitions on the ground floor and the main permanent exhibition above.

The main exhibition is grouped around several themes, based on cultural comparisons, under the banner People in their Worlds.  As we entered the exhibition we were faced with a large screen with a video showing numerous people of different ethnic origins saying welcome in a variety of languages. “This comparative cultural approach emphasises the equality and validity of all cultures and provides impulses for thought and stimulating dialogue.” RJM catalogue.

The next area was used for the performance of gamelan music and wayang shadow plays.

One of the areas we found fascinating was the recreation of the homes of several major collectors. The walls were covered with a facsimile of the interiors, and items that could be seen on those images were also exhibited in the room. This gave us a greater understanding of context.

Max Oppenheim’s apartment c 1920 decorated with items from his collection of Orientalia. © David Richardson.

After considering the role of the collector we entered an area which looks at The Distorted View, examining our prejudices about other people. It looks at historical views of people seen as “other”, as well as current ones.

Following this we entered the section which examines the portrayal of the human figure by peoples with different artistic traditions. One of the stand-out pieces for us was this altar from Leti, Eastern Indonesia, acquired there in 1912 by Wilhelm Müller who unfortunately died of typhoid on Java just 4 years later.

An altar for offerings to Hu-rainna Hu-tualinna, the founding ancestress of a particular kinship group.© David Richardson

Next we entered the area looking at Living Spaces. This contained many examples of dwellings including a tipee from the Blackfoot of the northern Plains, a Tuareg tent , and a large section of a men’s house from the Asmat people. This was of particular interest to us as we have visited several Asmat villages over the years. This particular example was abandoned in 1993. In complete contrast to this was the reception room of a house from Kayseri in Cappadocia (Turkey). This dates to the beginning of the 19th century and the interior decoration is a combination of Islamic and European styles.

© Martin Classen and Arno Janson

Our favourite part was next – The Body as a Stage: Clothes and Adornment. One section looked at how regional forms of clothing and decoration have evolved and how some fabrics have come to represent a people – as in the case of batik.

Sarong (cut open and rolled) from Lasem on the north coast of Java c. 1880. This is a masterpiece of batik with lots of different animal motifs.

© Sue Richardson

The next section looked at how clothing differs by gender in many societies and we were delighted to see cloths from Tanimbar Island in Indonesia used to convey this.

Tanimbar sarong. C. 1900. The black and white stripes in the middle show that this belonged to someone of high rank. © David Richardson

Tanimbar loincloth, dyed with indigo and decorated with shells. This section would have hung down at the front. © Sue Richardson.

One of the most outstanding pieces came in the section on Power and Wealth and was this feather cloak from Hawaii. This sort of cloak could only be worn by certain members of the nobility, and hundreds of thousands of feathers went into making this.

Feather cloak ‘ahu’ula from Hawaii. This dates to pre-1823 and originally belonged to King Kamehameha II. © David Richardson

We also loved this extraordinary bull-shaped coffin which was made for the museum in 2006 by the Balinese artist I Ketut Budiana.

© Sue Richardson

The exhibition ends with almost a mirror image of how it began – with a video on a large screen of the same people who said welcome in differnt languages. However there is a twist – this time they all speak in German and say Ich bin ein Kölner/Kölnerin – I am from Köln. We really loved this idea.

We have only been able to provide a snapshot of this excellent museum here – omitting a Peruvian cloth that dated to the 14th century, Gujarati patolu, fabulous Asmat carvings etc, etc. The museum has over 3,500 textiles and a varied selection of them are on display – with yet more in their wonderful storage area. We highly recommend a visit!

 

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Video: Ursula Graham Bower – Fieldwork in Nagaland (1939-1944)

Last month several OATG members attended special walk-throughs of the Intrepid Women exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum, led by two of the curators of that exhibition Julia Nicholson and Zena McGreevy.

One of the highlights for me was the display of textiles from Nagaland, collected by Ursula Graham Bower. When she was only 23 years old she went to Manipur and the Naga Hills. She was fascinated by the Naga culture – as was I on my first visit several decades later. She returned a couple of years later with the idea of doing some medical work and taking photographs. She succeeded in doing both. As well as dispensing medicines she took several thousand photographs and shot some of the earliest colour film taken by an anthropologist.

The time she was there was certainly a dangerous one. According to the Pitt Rivers website “During the Second World War, when the Japanese threatened to launch an invasion of India through the north-eastern hills, the British asked Bower to form a band of Naga scouts as part of the ‘V Force’ guerrilla unit. Her forces became so effective that the Japanese put a price on her head.”

The Pitt Rivers Museum has an excellent collection of Naga textiles, several of which are on permanent display. Several years ago while attending a festival in Nagaland I was approached by a woman who explained she was a researcher from the Pitt Rivers and was taking images of textiles held in their collection to show the local people so she could gain more information about them. This turned out to be a two-way process as some of the patterns and techniques used on the textiles now in the UK had not been in use locally for some years.

 

This nine-minute video clip was originally shown as part of the ‘Intrepid Women: Fieldwork in Action” exhibition. It shows highlights of film footage, in both black and white and in colour, which was recorded by Ursula Graham Bower during fieldwork in Nagaland between 1939 and 1944.

Although the opening sequence is not so relevant to textile lovers, patience is rewarded. From 02.02 to 06.40 we see the fabulous beaded headcovers worn at the Tangkhul Spring Festival and this then leads on to footage of the weaving and spinning by various different groups – the Kabui, Kuki and Chiru. It was very interesting to see the angle at which the backtension loom was placed. Stick with this right to the end and you will see some great blankets and jewellery too.

Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. Video editing by OATG member Katherine Clough.

 

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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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Events: Textile events this week in the UK, Bangkok and New York

It’s a busy week for textile lovers with several interesting talks across a variety of subjects.

Woman’s hat, late 19th century. Photo © Wendel Swan

Tomorrow evening Roger Pratt, a Trustee of The Textile Museum, will give a talk on Selected Hats from the Silk Road as part of the Hajji Baba Club of New York’s ongoing programme. Roger will show and discuss some of the hats from his collection which featured in the exhibition held at the Corcoran Museum last June as part of the International Conference on Oriental Carpets XIV. These will include Turkmen Hats; Turkmen Tekke Hats; Central Asian Non-Turkmen Hats; Persian Conical Dervish Hats; Central Asian Longtail Hats; Inscribed Religious Hats; and Ottoman Syrian Aleppo Hats. 

Early 19th century dervish hat. Photo © Wendel Swan

Location: The Coffee House Club, 20 West 44th St (bet 5th & 6th Ave), 6th Floor, New York NY 10036
Doors open 6:00pm for cocktails, meeting starts at 6:30pm

This event is also open to non-members for a fee. For more information visit the website of the Hajji Baba Club. For those who cannot make it to this talk R. John Howe has given a wonderful overview of the exhibition, along with lots of excellent images on his Eccentric Wefts site here.

Woman’s dress made from alatzia. © Mary Spyrou.

On Wednesday 20 March Mary Spyrou will talk to members of the London-based Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) on the subject of Cypriot textiles – techniques, materials, patterns, uses and the importance of dowry textiles.

This talk will encompass the wide variety of Cypriot textile traditions, which include weaving, embroidery and lace making – now listed under the UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage of Cyprus. The ORTS website points out :- “Cyprus is located in the eastern corner of the Mediterranean sea, at the cross roads where the west meets the east, settled, conquered and occupied by many civilisations, including Byzantines, Venetians and Ottomans, all of whom have had an influence on the development of the artistic heritage of Cyprus.

The raw materials used – silk, cotton,wool, flax and linen ; the designs and patterns inspired by nature, and the many items made, including garments and domestic furnishings, for example, and especially their role and importance as dowry textiles, part of a rich Folk art tradition which experienced a decline from around the middle of the 20th century will be the main focus of the talk.”

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

Non-members welcome for a fee. For more details visit the ORTS website.

This Thursday Karen Horton, Independent Textile and Ethnographic Conservator, will give a talk to Oxford Asian Textile Group members on the subject of Lifting the Veil: The Conservation and Mounting of Thangkas at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. The talk will focus on the conservation of the Tibetan thangkas textile mounts and the minimal intervention policy that the Chester Beatty Library adheres too. She will discuss the methods and materials used, the ethical implication of conserving sacred textiles and the non-invasive mounting method she designed and developed with her colleagues at the library to install the thangkas allowing them to be displayed with their veils pleated as they would have hung in their Himalayan temple setting.

The Chester Beatty Library Dublin, is an art museum and library that houses the world-class collection of East Asian, European and Islamic art assembled by the great philanthropist and collector Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). The Tibetan collection, which is mainly Buddhist, includes Tibetan sacred texts, ritual objects and forty-eight predominantly nineteenth century thangka’s of which 26 retain their textile mounts.

Karen is currently conserving and researching a group of Ming Dynasty textiles in Xi’an China where she works each year. She is studying for her Ph.D. and her research topic is Tibetan/Chinese Embroidered and Woven Thangka’s and Buddhist Textiles, Collections, Provenance and the Art Maker 1400 to present.

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

Time: 6.00 p.m. (for a 6.15 p.m. start) – 8 p.m.

Non-members welcome for a small fee. Visit the OATG website for more details.

This short video by the Asia Society of New York has some wonderful black and white images of thangkas in use in monasteries. Adriana Proser, the John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art, also gives an insight into several richly coloured thangkas which formed part of an exhibition called Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting, which she co-curated with Deborah Klimburg-Salter.

Screenshot from the video by Dawa Drolma. © Smithsonian Institution.

Thangkas have been produced since at least the 14th century and are still being produced today. Some are made from small pieces of fabric and others are painted. This article in the magazine of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage discusses modern thangka production, contrasting the work of dedicated painters who use traditional mineral pigments and have studied the relevant techniques for many years, with thangkas which are mass-produced by companies in factories by printing images on canvas with acrylic paint.

The article includes an excellent video produced by Dawa Drolma which shows all of the steps taken in producing a thangka, beginning with making the actual canvas on which the image will be painted. The painters describe the three different styles of thangka painting and it is a joy to watch them producing these paintings right down to the final gilding.

Thangka held at the Met Museum. © Metropolitan Museum.

Kristine Kamiya, a textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, has written a great blog on restoring a particular appliquéd textile thangka. After careful examination with a microscope they discovered that it was made up of lots of different textiles which may even have spanned the duration of the Ching dynasty. The enlarged images showing the use of horsehair to give an extra dimension to the cloth are fascinating.

Saturday 23 March sees two events, luckily in different parts of the globe. World Textile Day Wales, the first World Textile Day of 2019,  will take place in Llanidloes. This will include an exhibition of world textiles, a presentation by Jacqui Carey (Japanese kumihimo expert), a demonstration by Liz Beasley (expert in Chilean dyeing and weaving), a braiding demonstration by the Braid Society and much, much more.

For full details visit the World Textile Day website.

Two examples of 18th century Indian chintz intended for European clientele. © Thweep Rittinaphakorn.

The second event is a talk to the Thai Textile Society in Bangkok by Thweep Rittinaphakorn (known as Ake), on the subject of Export Chintz – The Flagship Indian Trade Cloths. Ake is the curator of the Siam Society textiles collection and an avid textile scholar. 

“India has clothed the world for centuries. Its rich textile heritage has left imprints on and influenced textiles artistic sense and production worldwide. Among all textiles exported from India to other lands, “Chintz” (fine cotton fabric with hand-drawn motifs and details) were the most prized items. Known locally by the technical term of “Kalamkari”, the type produced for export has distinctive characteristics and held high virtue in various ways from its complex production technique, perplexing range of colours, and vast design customisation for different markets they were intended for.  Although in Thailand Indian Chintz has been known to Thai textiles collectors and enthusiasts for years, it was rather limited to only those that were made for the Siamese court. Little is known about the Chintz produced for other markets, both in Southeast Asia as well as in Europe. This talk intends to provide a glimpse of examples of Chintz produced by the Indians for other markets, to provide a basic understanding in the differences from design aspect to usage context.” – Thai Textile Society website.

Location: Bandara Suites Silom, 4th floor conference room, first building 75/1 Soi Saladaeng 1, Bangkok

For further information on this talk, which is also open to non-members, please visit the website of the Thai Textile Society.

 

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Exhibitions: Oceania, Japanese basketry and Anting Anting from the Philippines

© Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

In 2018 an exhibition entitled Oceania was held at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in London, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first Pacific voyage of Captain James Cook. This exhibition was organised in conjunction with the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. Those who missed seeing this exhibition last year now have another opportunity as it will be opening again – this time in Paris – from 12 March until 7 July 2019.

The museum’s website describes this exhibition as a ” journey across the Pacific to discover the island cultures and peoples of Oceania. From New-Guinea to Easter Island, from Hawaii to New Zealand, nearly 200 works provide an overview of the art of a continent, passing on both traditions and contemporary challenges.”

There is a huge amount of information about the original exhibition on the website of the RA, including a short video which provides an overview of it and another video on the art of tattooing.

© Lisa Reihana

The lengthy article by Maia Jessop Nuku, Associate Curator for Oceanic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, examines the three key themes of the exhibition:- Voyaging, Making Place, and Encounter. She explains how the exhibition “presents the region’s distinctive landscape as a vital and deeply interconnected highway that links Pacific peoples together in a network of dynamic exchange and encounter.”

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Another strong article is entitled The art of Oceania: seven stories, in which several curators and scholars look at selected pieces in more detail. These include the sculpture of a Polynesian god which was admired by Picasso and Moore, the god image made from feathers presented to Captain James Cook (see above), and a stunning necklace from Fiji, carved from sperm whale ivory, which conveyed status. These various articles and videos provide a wonderful insight and are great preparation for viewing the exhibition in Paris.

Still on show at the Museum du quai Branly until 7 April is their exhibition on Japanese basketry – so if you time it right you can visit both at once. This exhibition is entitled Fendre l’air – Art du bambou au Japan (Split the Air) and looks at how the art of bamboo basketry became sculpture. There is an excellent video of the exhibition by Paris Match, in French but with English subtitles. The exhibition traces the development of basketry in a chronological order and examines the influence the tea ceremony had on these baskets.  Several beautiful vases by the acknowledged master Rokansai are featured.

photo by Tadayuki Minamoto, © musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

Lisa Chapman has written a beautifully illustrated article on the exhibition for TL mag (True Living Art of Design) entitled The Woven History of Japanese Basketry. She explains that although bamboo basket-making in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries was linked to the tea ceremony, artists eventually moved on from that and “contemporary weavers also reveal the potential of the material and their creativity in works that depart from their functional uses and become pieces of sculpture.”

© Seattle Art Museum

Coincidentally the Seattle Art Museum are also celebrating Japanese basketry this Saturday 9 March 2019 with a lecture entitled The Japanese Basket 1845-1958. The presenter, Joe Earle, was formerly the Director of the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Full details here.

Finally an exhibition of anting-anting from the Philippines will be opening in the central mezzanine of the Museum du quai Branly on the 12 March. This runs until the 26 May 2019 and showcases these talismans, worn by many people who believe they have special powers such as the ability to stop bullets.

Anyone for Paris?

 

 

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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.