Article: Alive with artisans – Cairo’s al-Darb al-Ahmar district – a photo essay

 

 

“Whatever manufactured items there are in the world,” wrote the Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi in 1671, “the poor of Cairo get hold of them, set them out and trade in them.” Nearly 350 years later, this tradition lives on in al-Darb al-Ahmar. This neighbourhood of 100,000 people, south-east of central Cairo, is said to be home to a thousand workshops. The place teems with artisans crafting everything from tents, books, boxes and brass lanterns to glass bowls and silk carpets.

The Street of the Tentmakers captures this commercial spirit. Built in 1650 as an arcade, this covered street is a succession of workrooms whose interiors are lined with decorative textiles. From his cubic cavity in the Ottoman-era wall, a weaver called Hasan says that al-khayyamiya, the craft of tentmaking, goes back to the time of the pharaohs. Some of today’s weavers are descended from the families who would produce the kiswa, the fabric that covered the great stone at Mecca, as well as tents, cloths and saddles for those setting out on pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site.

This article gives an excellent overview of this district of Cairo with its weavers, dyers, bookbinders, carpet makers, glass blowers and lantern makers, explaining how many of the buildings have been restored with the help of the Aga Khan Development Network.

To read the full article visit the website of the Guardian

A free exhibition of photographs entitled The artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar: life and work in historic Cairo is also taking place from 23 March – 24 April at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

For more information visit their website here

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Event: Textile Tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands 2018

Event dates 16-28 May 2018

 

OATG members David and Sue Richardson will again be leading a textile tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands in 2018.  They will be exploring some of the most beautiful islands of Indonesia – Flores, Lembata, Alor, Timor, Savu, Sumba and Rinca – from the comfort  of the beautiful Ombak Putih. This fabulous tour, limited to just 22 participants, uses a traditional boat, but with all of the modern comforts including air-conditioned en-suite cabins. The cruise will start from Maumere on the island of Flores on 16 May and end at Labuan Bajo (also on Flores) on 28 May. Both towns are easily accessed by short flights from Bali.

This year the itinerary is one day longer than usual and also includes visits to the islands of Ternate, Pantar and Raijua. One of the highlights is the day spent in Lamalera where the founder of the OATG, Ruth Barnes, did her research. In every village guests will be welcomed by expert weavers and natural dyers, keen to share their knowledge. Of course there will also be some time for snorkelling and relaxing on deck. Each evening there will be a talk on the people and textiles to be encountered the next day. The highlight of the final day is a close encounter with the  Komodo dragons on the island of Rinca.

There are just a few spaces remaining  for the 2018 tour, so if you are interested in this trip of a lifetime contact David and Sue without delay!

For more information and photos, visit their website Asian Textile Studies here

Article: Innovation and sustainability to ensure future of Indonesian batik

 

 

Batik is not just a pattern on fabric – it is integral to Indonesian identity.

Every design has a special meaning and a story that has been passed down through the generations by the artisans who have mastered this craft.

Batik is a wearable art created through an intricate process involving wax-resist dyeing cloth and is believed to date back more than 1,000 years in Indonesia. Artists can create complex patterns and add multiple colours by repeating the drawing and dyeing process.

In modern society, it is rare for fashion to last years, let alone centuries, but batik is a living example of a timeless creation. It continues to be worn by all members of society, mostly on formal occasions.

The popularity of the art form was assisted in 2009 when the UNESCO listed batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity – or a significant piece of intangible cultural history.

This article examines batik production in Cirebon and the move to the use of natural dyes by some craftspeople.

To read the full article visit the website of CHANNEL NEWSASIA here

Textile Tidbits: Asian Textile Studies – Update

 

OATG members David and Sue Richardson have just uploaded the first of what will be two parts  to their website Asian Textile Studies. It covers the geography and history of Sumba from pre-history to 1866. Although this isn’t specifically about textiles the authors firmly believe that you need to understand a people’s history and culture to understand their costume. For example, the relationship with the Dutch led to new motifs in the Sumba iconography as shown in the photo above.

Part Two will eventually cover from 1866 to the present day, linguistics and ethnography.

They hope you enjoy reading Part One here

Article: From lotus pond to high fashion

 

 

INLE, Myanmar: If there should be any textile fitting for faith and devotion, a piece of fine fabric meticulously woven by hand from the delicate fibres of tens of thousands of lotus stems is no doubt one of the top contenders.

“A square metre of this fabric requires at least 20,000 lotus stems and takes a skilled artisan 40 days to produce,” said Myint Thein Htun, owner of the established lotus weaving centre Khit Sunn Yin.

The lotus’ beauty, symbolic of purity of the mind in Buddhism, inspired the devout artisan to turn its delicate filaments into a monk robe – a sacred offering of passionate devotion and purity of the soul. Legend has it that Sa Oo spent one whole year extracting and weaving lotus fibres into an exquisite garment for an abbot she revered.

“The stem is long and fresh in deep water but short and weak in shallow areas,” said Myint Thein Htun. His family has been making lotus fabric for four generations and is renowned for its expertise in the craft.

“If we harvest in the dry season when the mud is less fertile, the stem won’t be strong enough.”

After the harvest, each stem is gently cut with a fine blade and carefully pulled apart to expose the delicate fibres within. These almost transparent filaments are then rolled on a moist surface into a thread.

To read the full article visit the website of  CHANNEL NEWSASIA

 

Exhibition: Rushnyky – Sacred Ukrainian Textiles

Exhibition dates: 15 February – 3 June 2018

 

 

This exhibition celebrates and explores Ukrainian culture through one of its most ancient and valued traditions.

A rushnyk is a long, rectangular cloth, typically made from linen or hemp, which is woven in one solid piece and sometimes adorned with bright, intricate patterns. They are traditionally made by women, who start learning to spin, weave, and embroider the cloths at a very young age.

Rushnyky are ritual objects used in ceremonies from birth to death. Newborns are immediately laid on a rushnyk; intricate wedding formalities utilise several rushnyky; coffins are sometimes lowered into the ground with rushnyky.

This exhibit of over 80 rushnyky, Ukrainian icons, and related artefacts comes from the collection of Franklin Sciacca, Associate Professor of Russian Language and Literature at Hamilton College in New York.

For more information visit the website of  The Museum of Russian Icons Clinton, Massachusetts.

Event: Block Printing and Bhujodi Weaving Workshops

Block Printing & Bhujodi Weaving Workshops by Textile Artists from Kutch, India

Two workshops will be held in Hammersmith, London this April. These will be led by Indian National Award Winner Ajrakh Block Printer – Abdulrauf Khatri, and renowned traditional weaver from Bhujodi – Vankar Murji Hamir.

This is the perfect opportunity for textile lovers to also participate in a Workshop & Masterclass under the guidance of the artists themselves.

Venue : The Bhavan’s, London W14 9HE


Traditional Kutchi Shawl Weaving Masterclass & Workshop
Each workshop has a maximum of eight attendees and all materials will be provided at the workshop.

Dates :
April 20, 2018 11AM-4PM
April 22, 2018 11AM-4PM

Tickets: £135.00 per person
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/workshop-and-masterclass-on-traditional-kutchi-shawl-weaving-by-vankar-murji-hamir-from-kutch-india-tickets-43491374873


Ajrakh Block Printing Masterclass & Workshop
Each workshop has a maximum of eight attendees and all materials will be provided at the workshop.

Dates :
April 19, 2018 11AM-4PM
April 21, 2018 11AM-4PM

Tickets: £135.00 per person
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/workshop-and-masterclass-on-hand-block-printing-ajrakh-by-abdulrauf-khatri-indian-national-award-tickets-43290653510

There will also be an exhibition and sale at The Bhavan’s during the days of the workshops. Admission to the exhibition is free. The exhibition focusses on block printed naturally dyed Ajrakh textiles by Abdulrauf Khatri, and handwoven traditional Kutchi textiles by Vankar Murji Hamir. Also on display will be jewellery designed by Sanskara Designs which reflect the spirit of Kutch, and textiles inspired by the embroideries, prints and weaves of Kutch by The Far East Art Studio.

Dates :

April 19, 2018 3:00 pm – 7:30 pm

April 20, 2018 11:30 am – 7:30 pm

April 21, 2018 11:00 am – 7:30 pm

April 22, 2018 11:30 am – 4:00 pm

For full information visit the website of The Bhavan here

Article: Master Weavers of Bhujodi

 

 

Up until fifty years ago, weaving was not an year-round activity. Bhujodi’s inhabitants dedicated half of the year to farming, and the other half to weaving. But due to climatic shifts that caused inconsistency of the monsoon and its consequential lack of water, farming became less reliable. In order to sustain a living, the shift to weaving became the community’s main livelihood.

The village of Bhujodi is now full of weavers. But how does one distinguish the quality of a weaver’s work from that of another, beyond that relative degree of “taste” that one may own, or years of expertise most people do not possess? Dinesh’s response is humorous and poignant: “It’s just like handwriting. Some have good handwriting, some have bad handwriting.”

Good weavers work with their mind. The mind needs to “see” the pieces. Some people do not see it. But those who have been the benefactors of generational continuity see it. According to Dinesh, it is not just about weaving–the mind needs to be trained. They have lived with the art and have been weaving for generations so they recognise what quality needs to be.

Read more about these master weavers, along with some stunning photography and video on the Moo Won website

Exhibition: To Dye For – Ikats from Central Asia

Exhibition dates: 24 March – 29 July 2018, Washington DC

 

With their brilliant designs, ikats are among the most distinct fabrics produced in Central Asia. The name, derived from the Malaysian word for “to tie,” refers to the distinct technique of making these textiles: bundles of threads are painstakingly patterned by repeated binding and dyeing before being woven. In present-day Uzbekistan and the Fergana Valley, the fabric is known as abri (cloud) and the technique as abrbandi (tying clouds), referring to the fluid yet bold motifs in bright colors.

Not surprisingly, ikats caught the attention of contemporary designers, most notably Oscar de la Renta (died 2014). In 2005 de la Renta included ikat designs in his collections, an innovation that was soon followed by other designers in the United States and elsewhere. Since then ikat motifs have become ubiquitous—from couture gowns to jeans and T-shirts, and from carpets and sofa coverings to stationery and wallpapers.

This exhibition brings together about thirty of the finest historical Central Asian ikat hangings and coats from the Freer|Sackler collections, donated by Guido Goldman, as well as seven of Oscar de la Renta’s iconic creations. The aim is to explore the original use and function of these dazzling fabrics and the enduring appeal of their extraordinary designs.

This exhibition runs almost concurrently with Binding the Clouds: The Art of Central Asian Ikat at the Textile Museum, also in Washington DC

For more information visit the website of The Freer/Sackler

Exhibition: Binding the Clouds – The Art of Central Asian Ikat

Exhibition dates: 10 March – 9 July 2018, Washington DC

Across Central Asia, oasis towns were once awash with the rainbow colours of ikat fabrics. Through exceptional artworks recently donated to the Textile Museum, this exhibition focuses on the sophisticated art of dyeing known in this region as abrband (binding the clouds).

A lifelong devotee of the arts, in 1975 Dr. Guido Goldman first encountered Central Asian ikats, an art form that employs a sophisticated resist-dye technique to create vibrant abstract patterns in dazzling colours. He subsequently became a passionate collector and went on to build the world’s premier ikat textile art collection. This pursuit led to preservation, education, and a widespread public interest that was influential in the modern revival of Central Asian ikat technique and design. In the late 1990s he organised a stunning exhibition drawn from his collection which traveled to major museums in six cities. Concurrently, he produced what is recognised as perhaps the best art book ever published of a single textile collection, IKAT: Silks of Central Asia, the Guido Goldman Collection.

In 2015, Dr. Goldman donated his favourite 73 ikat textile panels from his collection to The Textile Museum in honour of Bruce P. Baganz, growing the museum’s holdings to one of the largest and most prestigious collections of Central Asian ikats in the world. Highlights from Dr. Goldman’s collection will be on view at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum in this exhibition, along with a simultaneous exhibition of other Goldman-donated ikat textiles to the Smithsonian at that institution’s Freer-Sackler Galleries.

For more information, visit the website of The Textile Museum