Feature: Bronze Drums and their Motifs

© David Richardson

Dong-son drums and the motifs found on them have fascinated several OATG members. Chris Buckley has conducted a phylogenetic analysis of warp-ikat motifs, including a comparison of the geometric figures found on mainland and island Southeast Asia textiles with those found on Dong-son drums. He found little or no overlap. In particular, the hook and rhomb motifs characteristic of Southeast Asian weaving that are often claimed to be Dong-son were not identified on Dong-son bronzes.

For further information on the spurious link to the Dong-son culture see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson here. They show the differences between the sophisticated motifs found on the Heger type-1 Dong-son drums found in Eastern Indonesia and the anthropomorphic figures found in local weavings. They have also written on the anthropomorphic figures found on moko drums here.

Being welcomed to a village on Alor by Mama Agus Fanmalai of Suku Marang. The function of this clan is to connect the people with their ancestors. © David Richardson.

Hourglass-shaped bronze drums called mokos are still in use today on the island of Alor in the Indonesian archipelago for ritual celebrations and as part of the marriage exchange. Ownership of certain types of moko conveys social status. The majority of them probably came from north-east Java. In 1916 the government conducted a registration of the mokos on Alor and at that time they numbered over two thousand. This number is probably conservative as many people would have hidden their mokos to avoid registering them.

They are also occasionally found on sale in the local market. These drums come in a variety of different sizes and were probably brought to Alor by Makassarese and Chinese merchants. In the past they were used as  a medium of exchange – just like a currency.

A moko drum for sale on the bazaar. © David Richardson

Indeed the provincial museum in Kalabahi, the capital of Alor is called the Museum of a Thousand Moko – however we have never counted to see if there really are 1000! This museum also has a fine display of textiles, including some made of barkcloth, and weaving equipment. Their collection of baskets is also strong, and ceramics include a VOC plate.  

Leaflet from the excellent Museum of 1000 Moko

On Wednesday 20 February 2019 at 17:15 Anna Karlström, a researcher in heritage studies at the department of art history/conservation, Uppsala University Campus Gotland, will give a seminar on bronze drums at SOAS, London. Below is the information on this seminar, provided by the SOAS website.

“Bronze drums were produced and used within animist traditions, in a pre-Buddhist era almost three thousand years ago. Dong Son culture, bronze age, early civilisation and sophisticated art production are concepts that most scholars within Southeast Asian archaeology and art history immediately think of when bronze drums enter the academic discussion. The drums have been, and still are, examined primarily as prehistoric artefacts or pieces of art and categorised according to established typologies. Archaeologists and art historians are looking into distribution patterns of the drums through which trade, exchange and cultural contacts can be traced, as well as production methods, techniques and iconography. Little attention has been given the fact that these artefacts constitute a living heritage, and that they are still being produced and used in various ways for different purposes all over Southeast Asia. In some contexts the drums are still parts of animist traditions, in others they have been incorporated into Buddhist traditions and religious practices, linked to cultural heritage politics, identity and nationalism. In this presentation, the transformation of bronze drums as heritage is examined through a case study from Vietnam, but also related to other examples from mainland Southeast Asia.”

This event is free, but registration is required.

Location: SOAS Russell Square: College Buildings Room 4429

 

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Event: OATG Show and Tell – Corrected Version

Several members have kindly informed me of a couple of errors in my original blog about this event. I wrongly referred to Jen Gurd as Helen Wolfe and to Judith Gussin as Judith Condor-Vidal – my apologies to all concerned. This is the corrected version with a bonus photo! These images can also be viewed in a much larger format on our Facebook page here

Following our recent AGM, many members brought some fantastic textiles for the Show and Tell session. It was great to see such enthusiasm and the sharing of knowledge as we had a few “mystery” textiles. Here are just a few photographs to whet your appetite for the full report which will be in the summer issue of Asian Textiles.

Jen Gurd showed us a lovely thangka – very apt as Karen Horton will be giving us a talk on the conservation of thangkas on Thursday 21 March.

Sheila Allen holding an exquisite little bag from Uzbekistan brought by Sue Morley

As well as compering the event, Pamela Cross showed us this very special textile from Sumatra – a headcloth woven by a weaver who was trying to remember long-forgotten skills. The weaver made two of these textiles for an exhibition at the China National Silk Museum last year and is shown in the photograph Pamela is holding.

David Richardson brought a magnificent example of double ikat, featuring tigers and elephants. This was made in India for the Royal families of Java and Bali and had wonderful rich colours.

The Indonesian theme continued with this spectacular batik belanda from the collection of Lesley and Diccon Pullen, which featured European ships.

Also from Indonesia we had this sarong brekke from the island of Flores, brought by Chris Buckley. This would have been worn by the village headman during certain ceremonies.

 

Another lovely piece from the collection of Judith Gussin, this time from an artisan’s village near Bhuj in India.

Marion Maule in full flow, explaining the rituals Japanese have regarding needles.

Carolyn Gurney regaled us with the tale of how she rescued this lovely front of a Baluch child’s dress from a skip!

Sue Morley, Helen Wolfe and Leah Offer were clearly enjoying themselves!

Sue Morley and Eiko Cunningham examining some of the textiles brought by Carolyn Gurney

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Event: OATG Show and Tell

Following our recent AGM, many members brought some fantastic textiles for the Show and Tell session. It was great to see such enthusiasm and the sharing of knowledge as we had a few “mystery” textiles. Here are just a few photographs to whet your appetite for the full report which will be in the summer issue of Asian Textiles.

Jen Gurd showed us a lovely thangka – very apt as Karen Horton will be giving us a talk on the conservation of thangkas on Thursday 21 March.

As well as compering the event, Pamela Cross showed us this very special textile from Sumatra – a headcloth woven by a weaver who was trying to remember long-forgotten skills. The weaver made two of these textiles for an exhibition at the China National Silk Museum last year and is shown in the photograph Pamela is holding.

David Richardson brought a magnificent example of double ikat, featuring tigers and elephants. This was made in India for the Royal families of Java and Bali and had wonderful rich colours.

The Indonesian theme continued with this spectacular batik belanda from the collection of Lesley and Diccon Pullen, which featured European ships.

Also from Indonesia we had this sarong brekke from the island of Flores, brought by Chris Buckley. This would have been worn by the village headman during certain ceremonies.

 

Another lovely piece from the collection of Judith Gussin, this time from an artisan’s village near Bhuj in India.

Marion Maule in full flow, explaining the rituals Japanese have regarding needles.

Carolyn Gurney regaled us with the tale of how she rescued this lovely front of a Baluch child’s dress from a skip!

Sue Morley, Helen Wolfe and Leah Offer were clearly enjoying themselves!

Sue Morley and Eiko Cunningham examining some of the textiles brought by Carolyn Gurney

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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: 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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Video: Rare Archival Footage of Early Twentieth Century Tokyo

EYE film museum have made this wonderful short film of life in Japan at the beginning of the twentieth century available to view on Youtube. The first section was filmed in 1913, and the second in 1915.  Both show many people in traditional costumes such as kimonos, and some with elaborate hairstyles. The ball control skills displayed by the young girls are particularly impressive!

The video can be viewed here

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News: Asian Textiles 71

Asian Textiles is the Journal of the Oxford Asian Textile Group and is published three times a year. The latest edition, number 71, has just been sent out to members. Regular features include a detailed book review, the “My favourite…” feature (this time by Sheila Paine), an exhibition review and a mystery object. Articles in this particular issue are on subjects as diverse as a Palestinian thōb (Abigael Flack), Chinese imperial court costume (David Rosier) and Finnish ryijy (Gavin Strachan).

Members of the Oxford Asian Textile Group automatically receive a hard copy of this full colour Journal. They are also provided with a password, enabling them to access the current calendar year’s editions of Asian Textiles plus those of the previous two complete years. Non-members can access older editions (at the moment up to the end of 2015) via the OATG website here

Asian Textiles is just one of the benefits available to members as we also have a programme of talks, events and visits. Although these are generally held in the UK, we do have many overseas members. If you are not yet a member, go to the Membership section of the website and join up NOW!

 

 

 

Exhibition: Kimono Refashioned – 1870s-Now!

 

Dress by Yohji Yamamoto, 1995

 

Exhibition dates: 13 October 2018 – 6 January 2019, Newark, New Jersey

Featuring a diverse range of fashions, this exhibition showcases more than 40 extraordinary garments created by more than 30 Japanese, European and American designers from the world-renowned collections of the Kyoto Costume Institute and the Newark Museum. Follow the fascinating storyline of Japanese inspiration, influence and active engagement with global fashion from the 1870s to present day. The exhibition highlights not only spectacular couture gowns, innovative men’s wear, shoes with a sense of humour and ready-to-wear that tells a story, but also significant paintings, prints and textiles that reflect and resonate with these style trends.
Viewing these superb garments and fabrics with paintings and prints reveals how cutting edge styles also are a constant rediscovery—transforming history and incorporating new technological breakthroughs into the latest vogue.
For more information visit the website of the Newark Museum,

Article: Conserving a suit of Samurai armour

DF3CE811-B0E5-43EA-BD96-AC7256E719C6The Department of Asia of the British Museum has recently acquired a fine set of Japanese samurai armour and accessories dating from the 1700s. During the Edo period (1615-1868), Japan was largely at peace, so armour was more for ceremonial occasions than for battle. It was a beautifully decorative ensemble of finely crafted materials, including metal, lacquer, textile, leather and horn.

Each of these presented different challenges for the team of conservators at the British Museum. In this article Organics conservator Tania Desloge discusses how some of these challenges were met. Wood, horn, metal, textiles and lacquer all needed to be treated differently, and then a special mount had to be made to showcase this fascinating acquisition.

To read the full article and see more images of the conservation work click here

To find out more about the newly refurbished Japanese Galleries click here

Video: Women in Iraq’s refugee camps taught to sew

Vulnerable women living in northern Iraq’s refugee camps are being taught how to sew.

Paula Horsfall, from Berkshire, has collected old sewing machines and transported them to Iraq, where skills the women learn keep them off the dangerous streets of the refugee camp and allow them to make money for their families and children.

The cloth they sew is the native jajim and Paula has struck a deal with a multi-national fashion retailer to provide the finished garments for non-profit sale, with proceeds going back to the women and charity. What a brilliant use for old sewing machines!

To watch a short video about this visit the website of the BBC