Exhibition: Samurai at the Art Gallery of South Australia

 

©Art Gallery of South Australia

The Art Gallery of South Australia has recently reopened its doors to the public. Later this month will herald the opening of an exhibition showcasing the warrior culture of the Japanese Samurai. “From the austerity of lacquer and tea bowls to the opulence of golden screens and armour, this exhibition demonstrates how the ethos and tastes of the Samurai (a military elite whose name means ‘one who serves’) permeated every aspect of Japanese art and culture from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.” – AGSA website.

 

©Art Gallery of South Australia

This set of armour is sure to be one of the highlights of the Samurai exhibition, which runs from 24 July. It dates to 1699 and is made from iron, copper, gold leaf, wood, silk, cotton, leather and animal fur. The date can be ascribed so precisely as it is written on the inscription on this wonderful breastplate.

 

 

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Focus on Savu

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email will need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

Savu is an island in eastern Indonesia which OATG members David and Sue Richardson have returned to many times since their first visit in 1991. It’s not hard to understand why, when you see the beautiful scenery and of course the wonderful textiles created by the skilled weavers there.

Savu dancers in 1991. © David Richardson.

But this isn’t the only OATG link to Savu. In 2004/5 the Horniman Museum held an exhibition about the culture of Savu entitled Woven Blossoms, organised by OATG member Fiona Kerlogue (who was at that time their curator of Asian Collections) in conjunction with French anthropologist Geneviève Duggan. Several members of the Savunese community accompanied Geneviève to London to take part in a series of events and workshops built around this exhibition. Ten years later David and Sue were able to take some of Fiona’s photos back to Savu, where the exhibition participants were delighted to show them to their friends and family.

Sue Richardson and Geneviève Duggan giving photos from the Horniman exhibition to the local community. Looking over Geneviève’s shoulder is Ina Koro, a very experienced weaver who demonstrated her skills in London.

 

Being welcomed by members of the community

The community that Geneviève works most closely with is in the Mesara district and has 28 active weavers. In Savu society women belong to one of two origin groups (moieties) – the Greater Blossom and the Lesser Blossom. Each of these groups has particular textile motifs associated with it.

The diamond-shaped wo kelaku motif is typical of the hubi ae moiety

The serpent-shaped èi ledo motif is typical of the hubi iki moiety

This is a piring (plate) motif on an ei worapi sarong. This type of sarong can be worn by members of either moiety

As is common in this area of Indonesia the two dyes most frequently used are indigo and morinda.

A locally produced dyepot. For more background on these see My favourite: dye pot in Asian Textiles no. 70, 2018.

After binding the threads to form the pattern, then dyeing them (often several times) the threads need to be untied before they can be put on the loom.

Removing the bindings

Here, as in much of southeast Asia, the textiles are woven on a backstrap loom. Sometimes handspun cotton is used, and sometimes machine spun.

One of the most positive developments in this village is that young girls are also learning to produce textiles. In so many communities weaving seems to be the preserve of the older generation and it is so heartening to see these traditions carried on. The young weaver pictured below was 12 years old at the time the photo was taken. She did the binding and weaving for the indigo sash that she is wearing.

A young Savunese weaver

The island is extremely dry and the local people have to rely on the juice of the lontar palm for sustenance. The fresh juice is very thirst-quenching, but they can also distill this into a very powerful drink! The lontar palm is also the source of the delicious palm sugar and of course the leaves are used in making the roofs for the traditional houses, making baskets, and so much more.

Climbing a lontar palm tree to collect the juice. The basket hanging from the man’s belt is also made from lontar palm.

However lontar palm is not enough, especially as over the last few years Savu has sadly undergone several periods of serious drought. This year has been especially difficult with the added problems of Covid 19 and Asian Swine Flu. To raise funds for the weavers Geneviève will be speaking about the ikats of Savu on a webinar this Thursday. Joining her will be Ice Tede Dara, a teacher and the secretary of the local weaving group.

Ice Tede Dara, photographed in her village with a beautiful sarong

Just to whet your appetite here is a short video of just some of the gorgeous textiles woven on Savu! The textiles with the fringes are men’s blankets known locally as hi’i.

 

Geneviève has spent several decades studying Savu and has published a great deal on this subject. She spends months there each year, staying in the village and is fluent in Savunese. I highly recommend setting some time aside on Thursday to watch this webinar by a real expert in this area!

 

 

 

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Textile tidbits

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email will need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the videos.

This week members of the OATG were scheduled to visit the Mediterranean Threads exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. For obvious reasons this was not possible. However a virtual tour has now been made available online.

Linen and silk bed valance fragment with cockerel. Northern Sporades, 18th century. EA1960.153. ©Ashmolean Museum.

Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700-1900 AD gives us a flavour of the hugely diverse textiles being created across the Greek islands and mainland using a variety of techniques. As houses often consisted of just one room, bed curtains were essential to provide some privacy. These provided an ideal way to decorate the home and showcase the skill of the occupants. The exhibition also looks at possible links between the Greek embroidery and that of the Egyptians, and trade links with Venice and other areas. I was struck by the similarity between a textile from Naxos and the embroidery I have previously seen in Fez, Morocco. Do make sure you click to see the images in full screen to fully appreciate them.

Douwe Klaas Wielenga (1880-1942) of the Dutch Reformed Church.

From a current exhibition to one that ended decades ago. Leven en Dood op Sumba (Life and Death on Sumba) was an exhibition held at the Museum of Ethnology in Rotterdam in 1965/66. The majority of the exhibits were collected by the missionary Douwe Klaas Wielenga between 1904 and 1921 and have been held by the museum ever since. A 32 page introduction to the exhibition was written by the late Monni Adams.

This is a great opportunity to see a collection of textiles with a well-documented provenance. Please note – I copied this video a couple of years ago and omitted to note where it came from. I have searched unsuccessfully to find the source, so uploaded the video myself. If anyone can tell me the original source I will obviously link to that instead.

19th century Ainu robe made from elm bark fibre and cotton. ©Thomas Murray

I’ve written previously about Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection – a weighty tome in every sense. An interesting article about this book and its author by Andrea Marechal Watson can be found here. Ainu robes are very striking and were made using a variety of materials including nettles, hemp, salmon skin, cotton and elm bark.

A wonderful set of photos of contemporary Ainu people by Laura Liverani was produced for an exhibition which took place in Sydney last year. I was particularly drawn to the image of Kazunobu Kawanano, an elder photographed outside of his home wearing a traditional robe.

 

Another exciting development is the opening of the new museum in Hokkaido prefecture celebrating Ainu culture – thanks to Tom Murray for sharing this information. This video was taken last week when local people were invited in small groups to see the museum before it opens to the public – date to be confirmed.

 

This photo of the exhibition gives some idea of the size of the pieces.

The Historical and Ethnographical Museum in Switzerland has now reopened its doors and has an exhibition entitled Manzandaran Kilims: Unknown Flat Fabrics from Northern Persia. A few examples of these strikingly modern textiles can be seen in this article in Selvedge. These kilims were created in around 1900 and have a real freshness and vibrancy.

And finally the Californian Lutheran University will be hosting a webinar tomorrow evening (19 June 2020) by Dr Sam Bowker who will be discussing the Tentmakers of Cairo. The good news for those of you in the wrong time zone is that the lecture is being recorded and will be available to view online this weekend. Go to the university website for more details.

 

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Textile news

For subscribers who usually read this blog in their email, may I suggest that instead you access it on our WordPress site by clicking on the blue title. This should ensure you don’t have any problems watching the videos and reading the PDF documents in this blog.

 

Subscribers can look forward to the next edition of our Asian Textiles Journal landing on their doorsteps in the near future. This issue includes a substantial article by Nick Fielding on the Reverend Dr Henry Lansdell, one of the great Victorian collectors who collected thousands of objects from Central and Northern Asia as well as India and America. The article contains several photographs of textiles held in the reserve collection of the British Museum, located by our Chair, Helen Wolfe. Other features focus on Double warp weaving in Poland (Fiona Kerlogue), Ottoman saddles and saddle cloths, a Chinese child’s tiger hat (Felicity Wood), the OATG tapestry weaving clinic (Jen Gurd) and our Show and Tell from January.

Members can access pdf versions of all past issues by using the password on the back page of the Journal. Non-members can access issues from 1995 to 2017 by clicking here This is a really great resource with articles by many leading scholars and academics.

 

Parr (1893–1969); cotton or polyester cotton blend; screen printed. © Dorset Fine Arts

Several museums that have been unable to open physically have produced virtual tours of their exhibitions. I blogged about this exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada last December, but thought it was worth repeating as a video has now been added. It is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxanne Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth.

 

Kate Taylor has written an interesting article on this exhibition for The Globe and Mail. In it she explains that as “the Canadian government forced a people living on the land into permanent settlements, the Inuit began to need cash. The art projects…… were initially introduced by government agents. The idea was that the skills used to carve stone, incise bone and sew clothing could be adapted to produce handicrafts for southern markets. But carving and printmaking were just two possibilities: This show offers a wide selection of rarely seen textiles, startlingly modernist and highly colourful designs created in the 1950s and 60s.”

 

Utagawa Hiroshige, colour woodblock print showing a view of Edo, 1858. © British Museum

The British Museum has a new series of blogs in the style of historical travel guides. I really enjoyed this guide to 19th century Edo (Tokyo) by Alfred Haft, JTI Project Curator for Japanese Collections. He discusses the best time to visit, how to get there, getting around (sedan chairs can be rented), things to see and do, where to stay and even what to eat. Visitors are reminded that they must bow to every samurai they encounter – they are easily recognised by the two swords that they wear. The blog has lots of excellent woodblocks and paintings so do take a look.

 

American star quilt, 1840’s (TRC 2018.3119). ©TRC

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden reopened on 2 June, obviously subject to some Covid restrictions. Their current exhibition is on the subject of American Quilts and several are featured in this article on the Selvedge website, including one with a rather heartbreaking back story.

 

‘Safety First Veil, a Flu Preventive’, WWD, October 23rd, 1918.

While checking the details on the TRC website this blog by Loren G. Mealey caught my eye. In it she looks at the different types of face coverings that were used during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. I was amazed to hear that people poked holes in their masks so that they could smoke – hopefully the fabric was flame-retardant! One of the punishments for breaking the masking rules was to have your name printed in the newspaper…..

 

 

On Sunday 14 June the British-Uzbek Society will host a Zoom talk by Marinika Babanazarova, the former curator of the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, Qaraqalpaqstan, which many OATG members will be familiar with through the work of Sheila Paine and David and Sue Richardson. This museum is full of fantastic avant-garde paintings, as well as a remarkable collection of textiles and jewellery. This 55 minute talk will take place at 15:00 GMT and costs £5. For more information click here or email Rosa at this address. The number of places are limited so don’t delay!

 

 

OATG member Chris Buckley has put together another fascinating short video, filmed and edited by Sandra Sardjono. This one focusses on a blue and white Kerek batik from East Java. Chris looks at the similarities of the technique and materials used with those of mainland Southeast Asia, in particular Chinese blue and white ceramics with marine designs as a possible source of design inspiration. He also examines indigo paste resist in China and the wax resist techniques used by the Hmong in Vietnam.

 

 

Click to access lecturelist.pdf

 

 

The Indonesian Heritage Society have supported “Meet the Makers” for many years. This event usually takes place near Jakarta and brings artisans from all over the archipelago together. Keen to continue to spread the word about these artists the Society have put together a set of 10 talks on a variety of subjects. Each webinar will be available for a donation of 5 USD, which can be paid using PayPal. These donations will be used to directly support the craftspeople. The full list of talks and further information is given in the PDF above.

 

Click to access mtm-webinar-kaleidoscope-biboki-2020.pdf

The first talk takes place on 18 June and features Joanna Barrkman, Senior Curator of Southeast Asian and Pacific Arts at the Fowler Museum and Yovita Meta, Director of Tafean Pah – a non-profit organisation which serves 150 weavers in 10 villages. See the PDF above for full details.

 

Finally, OATG members David and Sue Richardson have added another section to their Asian Textile Studies website. This examines the textiles of the Klon people of the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia, giving information on their history, language, culture and of course their textiles. There are some wonderful images of Klon beadwork as you can see from the image above.

 

 

 

 

 

Video issues

For a reason I don’t understand the link to the V&A videos on the kimono exhibition does not work if you click on it in the email. However if you click on the title (Textile films in a blue font) at the top of the blog it will take you to the web version of the blog and the link does work there.

My apologies!

Textile films

 

The next OATG event – A visit to the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A and talk by the curator Anna Jackson – was supposed to take place next week and has obviously had to be cancelled due to the current situation.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

However all is not lost! The V&A have produced a series of 5 short films through which Anna guides viewers through the exhibition. Each episode is beautifully filmed and the pace is just right. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about these fascinating textiles and their history. As the V&A point out kimono are sometimes “perceived as traditional, timeless and unchanging” but this exhibition “counters this conception, presenting the garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion.” I highly recommend watching these films in the correct order to gain a better understanding of this evolution.

The Japan Society in New York was due to hold an exhibition entitled Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics this Spring, the main focus of which was over 50 pieces from the collection of the late Chuzaboro Tanaka. These pieces were previously shown at the Amuse Museum in Tokyo and more background can be found here.

©Amuse Museum, Tokyo

Once again they have turned to the medium of film to ensure that the results of all of the hard work that went into putting this exhibition together can be shared widely. A 5 part video tour narrated by Yukie Kamiya and Assistant Curator Tiffany Lambert guides us through the exhibition. I loved the way the pieces were hung and the section in the first video explaining how and why this method was chosen.

 

Finally, moving away from Japanese textiles, OATG member Dr Chris Buckley has been busy putting together a series of short films  focussing on looms and textiles. Many of you will be aware that Chris is an expert on loom technology. The first of this series looks at a particular Indian saree and the loom technology with which it was produced. We look forward to seeing the rest of the series….

 

Hope you enjoy watching these and may your isolation keep you safe.

 

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A selection of textile resources

 

I fully expected in this blog to be waxing lyrical about the kimono exhibition at the V & A, the chintz exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, and the talk on batiks which Maria Wronska-Friend was scheduled to give to the OATG last night. However these are not normal times. Many of us are experiencing lockdowns and as such perhaps have more time to read, watch documentaries and improve our knowledge. To this end here are some suggestions on textile-related sites.

I spent quite a lot of time enjoying this blog from the British Museum, which explains several different ways of exploring the museum from the comfort of your own home. I was amazed to discover that you can visit the museum using Google Street View. It took a while for me to get used to the controls, but the level of detail is incredible and in many instances you can read the panels of text by the displays. You can also explore the different galleries for example this is the link to the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world.

A helmet made from basketry and feathers from the Hawai’ian Islands.
This may have been collected by Cook during his third voyage in 1776-1780. ©British Museum

 

Another website with some fascinating online exhibitions is the Kyoto Costume Institute. I particularly enjoyed this one entitled Japonism in Fashion which examines the profound effect of the kimono on fashion.

This type of garment was exported from Japan to the West. ©Kyoto Costume Institute

Moving from Japan to China, this short video presented by Sophie Makariou (President of the Musée Guimet) showcases a stunning semi-formal Imperial dragon robe from their collection. It belonged to the Emperor Jiaqing (1796-1820) and had slits in the front, back, and sides so that it could be worn while horseriding. This robe is generally kept in storage and is only displayed occasionally so this is a wonderful opportunity to see it close-up.

 

The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum have recently launched their free digital catalogue for the Woven Interiors:Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt exhibition. This beautifully illustrated 134 page full colour catalogue was co-authored by Gudrun Bühl, Sumru Belger Krody and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams. The authors look at how these textiles from the early medieval period were used in a variety of settings, describing how they “served as cozy bed cloths, they enlivened bare walls and colonnades with shocking color, they cushioned hard surfaces and veiled sacred spaces”.

Textile fragment with head and duck, early 5th century. © Dumbarton Oaks, Byzantine Collection

 

Finally this short article by Ruth Clifford for The Textile Atlas raised some important questions about the relationship between weavers and designers of Kota Doria saris in the Rajasthan area of India..

Kota Doria saris. © Ruth Clifford

 

Hope you enjoy browsing through these websites and may your isolation keep you safe!

 

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Selected textile events and articles

 

A selection of current and upcoming textile-related events and articles. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a sample of the things that have caught my eye.

 

©British Museum EA71854, Trustees of the British Museum.

Next week the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen will host a free two-day programme on The Colour Blue in Ancient Egypt and Sudan. “Since the Neolithic, the colour blue has been highly prized all along the Nile Valley, where its strong relation to the divine is particularly embodied by the god Amun. Blue pigments and dyes occupied a very special place in the visual landscape, where they adorned temples, palaces, statues and people’s bodies thanks to a large repertoire of blue cloths and personal adornments.” – TAES Network at Centre for Textile Research. This interdisciplinary programme includes a presentation on The use of blue in Egyptian garments of the 1st millennium, another on Blue in the iconography and textiles in the medieval kingdom of Makuria (Sudan), and a workshop on Reviving indigo dyeing in Mali: from farming to contemporary arts.

Aboubakar Fofana – master indigo dyer. ©Jonas Ungar

Hole and Corner have a great interview with Aboubakar Fofana, who was born in Mali but grew up in France, in which he discusses indigo dyeing in Ancient Egypt and concludes that “What they were doing 5,000 years ago is the same as I am doing today, and in 100 years’ time we can do the same thing.”

For more details and to register please click here.

Details
3-4 March 2020
Karen Blixens Plads 8
2300 København S
Denmark

 

Lena Bjerregaard, a guest researcher at the Centre for Textile Research, has just published a catalogue of the pre-Columbian textiles from the Roemer-und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim, northern Germany. There are 405 pre-Columbian textiles in the museum collection, of which 133 are represented in this extremely well-illustrated catalogue. “Along the coast of Peru is one of the driest deserts in the world. Here, under the sand, the ancient Peruvians buried their dead wrapped in gorgeous textiles. As organic material keeps almost forever when stored without humidity, light and oxygen, many of the mummies excavated in the last hundred years are in excellent conditions. And so are the textiles wrapped around them.” – Lena Bjerregaard. This catalogue has very generously been made available as a free download which can be accessed here.

 

Curator Oliver Gauert with a selection of textiles, including an Egungun dance costume from Benin. ©Romer-Pelizaeus Museum

In addition to their collection of pre-Columbian textiles, the Romer-Pelizaeus Museum also has extensive holdings from Africa – the focus of their current exhibitions. Voodoo has been curated by Oliver Gauert and also showcases items from other museums such as the Soul of Africa Museum in Essen and the Africa Museum in Berg en Dal. It opened last October and continues until mid-May. ZDF heute journal have produced an excellent video giving an overview of the objects in the exhibition, which includes several textiles.

Details
19 October 2019 – 17 May 2020
Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum
Hildesheim Am Steine 1-2, D-31134 Hildesheim

 

Kaparamip with red cotton fabric border © Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection at The Minneapolis Institute of Art

The speaker at the next meeting of the New York-based Hajji Baba Club will be Thomas Murray – a well-respected researcher, collector, dealer and author of several books, the latest being Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection.

This talk, entitled Traditional Textiles of Japan, will explore Japan’s rich tradition of textiles, from firemen’s ceremonial robes and austere rural workwear to colourful, delicately-patterned cotton kimono. “The traditional clothing and fabrics featured in this lecture were made and used in the islands of the Japanese archipelago between the late 18th and the mid-20th century. The Thomas Murray collection includes daily dress, workwear, and festival garb and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement, which saw that modernisation would leave behind traditional art forms such as the handmade textiles used by country people, farmers, and fishermen. The talk will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics, often indigo-dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu, along with garments of the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fibre, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin to the north, and the brilliantly coloured cotton kimono of Okinawa to the far south.” – Thomas Murray.

Details
Monday 9 March 2020
The Coffee House Club, Sixth Floor, 20 West 44th St, Manhattan, NY

 

 

Japanese textiles – this time focussing on embroidery are the subject of an exhibition currently taking place at the Japanese Foundation in Los Angeles. The exhibition is entitled Melodies of Shining Silk: Japanese Embroidery and features the work of Shizuka Kusano, a leading contemporary textile artist. “Embroidery was initially introduced into Japan from China together with Buddhism.  It became open to the merchant class culture in the Edo period.  As the clothing arts flourished, advanced dyeing and weaving techniques were used to create kimonos and kimono sashes.  Today, a variety of materials are available, enabling various expressions depending on individual originality and ingenuity.” – Japan Foundation website.

Details
15 February – 21 March 2020
The Japan Foundation, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., #100 Los Angeles, CA 90036

 

A day dress from around 1800 and a portrait of Constance Pipelet, 1797. ©Art Institute Chicago

Opening at the end of the month in Chicago is a new exhibition on Western European dress. Fabricating Fashion: Textiles for Dress, 1700-1825 examines how clothing from that period was assembled by hand and looks at the importance of selecting the right fabric. “In the early 18th century, the most fashionable men’s and women’s ensembles were made of richly coloured silks and translucent lace, but by the early 1800s lighter cotton textiles, both plain and printed, became more common. The increase in Europe’s taste for cotton textiles gave rise to intense international competition for technical innovation and control of worldwide markets, which produced a wide variety of beautiful fabrics.” – Art Institute Chicago website.

Some portraits and prints will be presented alongside textiles from the period, thus bringing an extra dimension to them.

Details
28 March – 26 July 2020
Art Institute Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

 

Photo ©Barbara Kaslow.

On a similar note, the new British Galleries will open at The Met in New York next week. These will consist of ten galleries with 11,000 square feet devoted to various forms of British art from 1500-1900 including sculpture, ceramics and textiles. These textiles range from tapestries to embroideries, coats to bed panels.

You could always combine a visit to these galleries with a visit to the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara exhibition which I blogged about recently.

Details
Opens 2 March 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10028

 

Part of a banner which will be displayed in full at the special event. Photo courtesy The Siam Society.

The Siam Society will be hosting a special event in collaboration with the Thai Textile Society in late March. On display will be several painted Vessantara Jakata scrolls from the collection of ML Pawinee Santisiri. These banners range in length from 30 to 50 metres and this will be a unique opportunity to see them opened and displayed in full. They are usually used during the Boon Phra Ves festival – a very important Buddhist ceremony.

Details
Saturday 21 March 2020
1.30pm–4pm (Registration opens at 1pm.)
The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21
Members and Students THB 200,  Non-Members THB 300

 

Image courtesy of IMDB

The Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) will be screening a 1976 film entitled People of the Wind about Bakhtiari migrations. This film is a sequel to Grass, a classic silent film made in 1925 by three Americans who made their way across Turkey and Iraq to meet the Bakhtiari in their winter quarters and follow them and their flocks over swollen rivers and up over snow-covered mountain passes to reach their summer pastures.  Following the same route with descendants of the same people, People of the Wind shows what has changed and what has stayed the same over the intervening decades.

“There are two hundred miles of raging rivers and dangerous mountains to cross. There are no towns, no roads, no bridges. There is no turning back. The Bakhtiari migration is one of the most hazardous tests of human endurance known to mankind. Every year, 500,000 men, women and children – along with one million animals – struggle for eight grueling weeks to scale the massive Zagros Mountains in Iran – a range which is as high as the Alps and as broad as Switzerland – to reach their summer pastures. The film’s astonishing widescreen photography and brilliantly recorded soundtrack take the viewer out onto the dangerous precipices of the Zardeh Kuh mountain and into the icy waters of the Cholbar River.” – Fiona Kelleghan

The film will be presented by Antony Wynne who lived in rural Iran for many years. Click here for more details.

Details
Wednesday 18 March 2020, 19:00.
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, South Audley Street, London, W1K 1DB

 

Hanbok: The Colours of Korean Lunar New Year

Hanbok: The Colours of Korean Lunar New Year is an exhibition in Sydney, Australia, co-presented by the Korean Cultural Centre and the Hanbok Advancement Center in South Korea. It introduces “many different kinds of hanbok, the traditional garment worn by Korean people on many traditional and family occasions including seollal, Korea’s Lunar New Year. In this exhibition, the KCC will showcase the colourful, eye-pleasing attire highlighting various forms of seolbim or ttae-ttae-ot referring to a new set of hanbok prepared on Lunar New Year’s Day.” – The Asian Arts Society of Australia.

Details
5 February – 13 March 2020
Korean Cultural Centre, Ground Floor, 255 Elizabeth St., Sydney.

 

Woollen tunic, 700-800 AD. © Bolton Museum and Art Gallery.

Back in the UK I was fascinated to read of the amazing collection of Egyptian textiles at Bolton Museum and Art Gallery. The spinning mule was invented in Bolton by Samuel Crompton in the 1780s and over the following century Bolton became famous as a textile production centre. “The first two curators of the Chadwick Museum in Bolton, William Midgley (curator 1881-1908) and his son Thomas Midgley (curator 1908-1934), were specialists in the study of ancient textiles. In some cases, they provided excavators with an assessment of the textiles found at a particular site in return for a share of the finds. As a result, Bolton’s ancient textile collection has a known archaeological context which makes them especially significant for study.” – Museum website. These curators were fascinated by the fact that the people of Ancient Egypt were producing such high quality fabrics thousands of years ago despite not having access to modern technology.

 

©visitmanchester.com

I highly recommend reading this article by Emily Oldfield which gives a great overview of the museum and certainly made me want to head over there.

Details

Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton, BL1 1SE

 

Layout of pattern with prefelt – beginning to fill in with fleece, Khotan. ©Christine Martens

Finally the March programme from the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMASC) is a talk by Christine Martens, an expert on Central Asian felts and patchwork.

“Felt-making has existed for millennia in the cities and villages of what is now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China, homeland of the Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs. Archeological discoveries give a sense of this ancient art, which continues to flourish in the oases that dot the southern rim of the Taklamakan. Christine Martens will … examine the processes, and tools that distinguish Uyghur felt from those of the Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Turks and Mongolians” – TMA/SC newsletter.

Details
Saturday 21 March 2020 09:30am
Luther Hall, St Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd., Los Angeles

For further information please email info@tmasc.org

 

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Films and online resources

 

I recently blogged about the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara exhibition which opened recently at the Met Fifth Avenue, in New York. The museum have now released a short film with an overview of some of the artefacts on display in the exhibition. These include a royal robe from West Africa which is dated to pre-1659 and was dyed with indigo.

 

 

Details
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York

The Met is currently celebrating its 150 year anniversary and to mark the occasion they will be releasing one film every Friday from their archive. This archive contains over 1500 films that date from the 1920s to the present. Some of them were made by the museum itself and others were collected. It seems very appropriate to share this film from 1928 which is a look behind the scenes. In this film you can see how they were preparing a mannequin to display a suit of armour and how the upholstery team worked to restore tapestries. I was amazed to see the beautiful hand-lettered labels being produced too.

 

 

While on the subject of museums, I highly recommend looking at the website of the Textile Museum of Canada. Click through to the Collections page where you can either search for specific items of interest or just browse. For example, I was drawn to this wedding blouse from Sindh in the section Explore Ceremonial Cloths. As well as providing excellent images of the front, back and a detail of this piece the page also shows other related pieces – several wedding blouses from India and Pakistan and one from Hungary – enabling the viewer to see similarities and differences at a glance.

 

Lohana wedding blouse from Sindh. © Textile Museum of Canada.

 

Another great resource is the Digital Exhibitions section of the Textile Research Centre Leiden website. These cover a wide range of subjects ranging from Chinese Lotus Shoes to the Tentmakers of Cairo. Each exhibition is accompanied by several images and is broken down into different sections with informative text. The image below is from the Afghan Dress exhibition. This is split across no less than 15 pages which examine Hamid Karzai and dress as a national unifying force, the textiles of several of the different ethnic groups, wedding costume etc. Do take a look, but be warned – it’s a rabbithole and you may be there for some time….

Dress from Afghanistan. Image Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden. TRC 2008.0228b

 

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Mud glorious mud!

Shortly after posting my most recent blog I was contacted by designer and anthropologist Charlotte Linton with an update on her research into textile production on the Japanese island of Amami Ōshima. Along with several other OATG members I attended an excellent presentation and workshop by Charlotte at Wolfson College in Oxford last year.

 

A weaver re-aligning the threads. © Charlotte Linton.

Charlotte spent one year in Amami Ōshima, during which she explored “how traditional craft industries navigate the paradox between preservation and innovation”. The main cloth produced there is tsumugi for kimono. This is dyed using a process known as dorozome, which involves mud (as a mordant) and the boiled wood of the local hawthorn tree. The production of these cloths is very labour-intensive as it involves at least 28 separate processes. In her new paper Charlotte discusses the future of these textiles from her experiences working in Kanai Kougei – a traditional family business there. She looks at the implications the conferring of Mukei Bunkazai (Intangible Cultural Property) status would bring to these textiles, and the fact that it may mean stagnation rather than innovation. This is examined in the context of the current interest in sustainable fashion. “Making It For Our Country”: An Ethnography of Mud-Dyeing on Amami Ōshima Island appeared in the journal Textile: Cloth and Culture and is available here. I highly recommend taking the time to read this. The OATG are hoping to persuade Charlotte to come and talk to us about her findings in the future. Watch this space for details!

Below I am reproducing some of a blog I wrote on this subject last summer, simply so that readers can have all of the information in one place:

An excellent article by Martin Fackler on the economic issues facing the kimono producers of Amami Oshima appeared in The New York Times in 2015. He describes how 20,000 people were once employed in this profession, but that number has now shrank to 500. His article ends with the following words from Yukihito Kanai:

“We need to become more like artisans in Europe or artists in New York,” said the younger Mr. Kanai, 35, who said he is one of the few “young successors” in the island’s kimono industry. “Even traditions have to evolve.”

An example of a tsumugi textile from Amami Ōshima. ©David Richardson

The production of a kimono on the island of Amami Oshima is so meticulous that a single mistake could squander the efforts of every artisan in the process. The BBC series Handmade in Japan tracked the year-long transformation of the island’s famous mud-dyed silk into an exquisite garment. Although the full-length programmes are no longer available online, short video clips still are. These cover the various people involved in making a kimono – the starcher, the designer, the binder, the mud-dyer, the weaver, the inspector and the tailor. They can be viewed on the BBC website under the title Mud, Sweat and Fears

 

Karanja Ngana immersing her threads in mud on Sumba. ©David Richardson.

For more information on mud dyeing (more correctly mud-mordanting as it is the tannin which produces the dye) see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on their Asian Textile Studies website. David and Sue have now also documented the process of mud-dyeing used by the last major practitioner of this craft on the Indonesian island of Sumba.

 

A new 6 part documentary series on the V&A called Secrets of the Museum began on BBC2 last night. The series looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a Dior gown. The star of last night’s episode for me was Pumpie the Victorian elephant. It was fascinating to see just how much work went into his conservation, right down to dyeing lots of samples with which to repair his trunk. Looking forward to future episodes….

Details
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100

 

Demonstration of how to fold a kimono collar. © Staphany Cheng.

Also on the subject of conservation is this interesting blog by Staphany Cheng, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Textiles, Conservation Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art., in which she shares her experience of participating in the Workshops on the Conservation of Japanese Textiles, held in Taiwan. Much of the emphasis seems to have been on kimono. I had no idea there were three particular ways to fold these garments!

 

Dragon medallion, China, 16th century, silk and metallic-thread tapestry (kesi), 15 x 15 in., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

The Seattle Asian Art Museum finally reopens this weekend after a major project to renovate and expand it.  The next event in their Saturday University series is a talk entitled The Dragon and the Pearl: Explorations of a Eurasian Motif by Joel Walker of the University of Washington.

“The art and literature of medieval Eurasia abound with stories of precious jewels guarded by monstrous serpents or dragons. This presentation will investigate iterations of this motif in the Syrian Christian tradition, including a famous stele from the Tang-dynasty capital of Xi’an in northern China and a silver reliquary fragment from Roman Syria. Taken together, these artworks reveal the powerful symbolism of pearls as markers of spiritual excellence.” Seattle Asian Art Museum website.

Details
15 February 2020,10:00 – 11:30
Emma Baillargeon Stimson Auditorium, Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park, 1400 East Prospect Street, Seattle

 

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