Focus on conservation

Sufiyan Ismail Khatri. ©two circles

Next Friday, 20 September, the Met Museum in New York will be hosting a Textile Conservation Colloquium focussing on recent research.

Participants will “gain an inside perspective on the fascinating work of The Met’s Department of Textile Conservation. From investigating silk production in Japan and block printing in India to conserving precious tapestries and exploring applications for new technologies, conservators share their research and discoveries from the past year.” – The Met website.

In the afternoon there will be a demonstration of traditional Indian block printing by Sufiyan Ismail Khatri, a tenth-generation artisan whose family has been involved in the art of Ajrakh printing since the fifteenth century.

Advance registration is required for this event as space is limited. For more details and booking for this free event click here.

Photo ©TAASA

The Asian Arts Society of Australia (TAASA) recently met with textile conservation expert Kate Chidlow from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney forms part of this museum. They looked at a variety of conservation-related topics such as how to protect home textile collections from the negative effects of insects, PVC or cardboard, folding, pressure, sunlight and time. The MAAS website has a series of excellent information sheets which you can download, which will help you learn how to best care for your textiles. These include How to store a fragile garment in an acid-free box, How to create rolled storage for flat textiles, How to brush vacuum an object, and many more.

Another good source of information on caring for your textiles is the Threads of Life Gallery, based in Ubud, Bali. Take a look at their practical hints and tips here.

Maria working on an Egyptian mummy. © National Museums Scotland

On a lighter note I really enjoyed reading this blog by Maria Armstrong, former Assistant Textile Conservator at National Museums Scotland on things you might not know about working as a conservator – apparently it requires very strong core muscles!

 

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Events: Textile events in the UK and beyond

 

Several new textile-related events have caught my eye this month.

The first of these is the exhibition of over 100 pieces collected over a period of forty years by Silke and Roland Weise that will take place in Traunstein, Bavaria, from 14 September to 6 October 2019. According to Hali “The Weise collection comprises an eclectic mix of knotted carpets from court and town workshops, flatweaves and bags of nomadic origin, and antique woven silks, silk embroideries, velvets and ikats. In provenance, its range extends to almost every country of the Near and Far East with any historic importance for the textile arts, including the classic sources for carpets and rugs in Persia, Turkey, the Caucasus and the Silk Road lands of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as India, Tibet, China, Morocco and Egypt. Pieces span a time frame of more than 2000 years, from the 1st century BCE to around 1900. Some 120-140 items will be on show in Traunstein, with a focus on early fragments and carpets from around 1800. Many are of museum quality or of international importance, and almost 60 of them have already appeared in HALI and other international publications.”

Three of the exhibits have a radiocarbon dating from the 1st century BC, but the main focus is on early fragments from the 14th-17th centuries and rugs from around 1800.

Details: 14/09 – 06/10

Kulturforum Klosterkirche
Ludwig Straße 10, 83278 Traunstein
Wed, Thu, Fri 13:00 to 18:00
Sat, Sun 11:00 to 17:00

The Weise exhibition is linked to the upcoming ICOC Alpine Tour, as is this new exhibition at the Museum der Völker in Schwaz. Entitled Richter Guter Stoff (True Good Fabric) – Woven and Embroidered Stories this runs from 7 September 2019 to the end of February 2020. Ten German collectors have brought together examples from India, Greece, Albania, Indonesia, Central Asia – the list goes on…

Details: 07/09/19 – end of February 2020.

Museum der Völker
St. Martin 16, A-6130 Schwaz
Thu-Sun 10:00 to 17:00

Moving now to India, this month the National Museum in Delhi are showcasing the work of the Asha workshop in Varanasi. This workshop has been producing top quality silks for over 25 years, using a wide variety of techniques. Examples will be shown alongside textiles, jewellery and paintings from the National Museum’s own collection. The Asha workshop was established in the 1990s by Rahul Jain and Ruth Clifford has a very interesting interview with him on her Travels in Textiles blog.

 

Details: 10/09/19 – 08/10/19
National Museum
Janpath, Delhi

The India theme continues with an upcoming talk entitled Chasing Tensions: A lifelong pursuit of an understanding of stitch and textile by Professor Anne Morrell as part of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) programme in London. She is a respected artist and some images from a recent exhibition of her work can be found on the Selvedge website here. Anne is also consultant to the Calico Museum at Ahmedabad and has written many books on Indian embroidery.

 

Details: 18 September 2019
St James Piccadilly Conference Room
197 Piccadilly
London W1J 9LL

Over in the US on 21 September Martha Bluming will give a talk to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California entitled The Octopus Enigma. In 2017 Hali published an article of the same name by Martha (Issue 193, pp76-85) in which she described how she and her husband Avrum had acquired a beaded sarong, known as a lawo butu, in an auction two years earlier.

Fascinated by this unusual textile Martha set out to discover more about how it was used and what the motifs on it signified. Its two main uses were in the muré rain dance – performed in periods of extended drought – and during the reroofing of a clan house. She pursued many different avenues of research into this textile – consulting experts on ancient beads, specialists in marine biology, and perhaps most significantly, having threads from the sarong carbon 14 dated. The results gave quite a wide range of dates, with Roy Hamilton of the Fowler Museum being fairly confident it dated to the period 1650-1800.

A beaded lawo butu sarong being worn over another longer sarong in the village of Nggela, on the Indonesian island of Flores.

Much of Martha’s Hali article – and presumably her upcoming talk – focused on the motif which local people referred to as an octopus. Was this simply an octopus, or did it convey other meanings associated with female fertility? More background on Martha’s textile can be found here.

Details:

Saturday, September 21, 2019, Refreshments 10 a.m., Programme 10:30 a.m.
Luther Hall, Lower Level St. Bede’s Episcopal Church
3590 Grand View Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90066-1904

There is a charge of $10 for non-members

A three yuan cloth note from 1933

Last but certainly not least, back in the UK on 26 September Dr Paul Bevan will give a talk to the OATG in Oxford on Chinese Cloth Banknotes. In China the Communist revolution began in the 1920s and many base areas were set up known as “Soviets”. The largest of these was the Jianxi Soviet, set up by Mao Zedong in 1931. Many of these Soviets issued their own currency – both coins and paper money. In at least one area, due to a shortage of paper, money was printed onto cotton cloth. Examples can be found in many museums, including the British Museum and the Ashmolean.

Dr Bevan will examine  the iconography used in these banknotes. This one shows the hammer and sickle, clenched fist, and the slogan Workers of the World, Unite. He will discuss how this imitates Russian Constructivist design and modern Art Deco. According to him “It is this aspect of Soviet Russian art and design, adopted by the creators of the cloth banknote in this remote area of China in 1933, that makes it so important in the fields of numismatics, textile history, and the history of art and design in China.”

A five FEN paper note with similar design features

Many of these notes had slogans such as “Uphold the soviet economic policies, break through the enemy’s financial blockade”, “Guarantee active trade and unify the currency standard”, “Land to the farmers, jurisdiction to the soviet. Eight hours work!”. An interesting article by John E. Sandrock with lots more examples and images can be found here. More details can be found on the Eventbrite page here. Do join us for what is sure to be a fascinating talk – who knew that a simple banknote could tell us so much?

Details:

Thursday, 26th of September 2019, 6 pm for a 6.15 pm start
The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS
Free for members and £3 for non-members

 

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Articles: Object of the Day for New York Textile Month

September is Textile Month in New York and Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum are celebrating it in style.

Every Monday to Friday a new addition will be made to their blog by one of their curators or a leading scholar. According to their website “With over 210,00 objects spanning thirty centuries of decorative arts and design, Object of the Day explores the material culture of textiles, graphic design, furniture, products, architectural drawings, wallcoverings, and much more.”

You can subscribe to their Object of the Day email to ensure you don’t miss any of these posts.

So far this week Elizabeth Pope has written on Peruvian Painted Patterns, Cynthia Fowler on Nature and the Embroidered World, Janine LeBlanc on Eye-catching Appliqué (mola blouses), Richard Landis on Warp and Weft, and Elena Phipps on a Fragment of the Cahuachi Great Cloth. You can also listen to audio versions of these items. With such a great list last week I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for the rest of the month.

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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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