Article: Iwatate Folk Museum

Suzani. © Keisuke Fukamizu

This article, with text by Kosuke Ide and photos by Keisuke Fukamizu, looks at the Iwatate Folk Museum in Tokyo. The museum houses the collection of Hiroko Iwatate which consists of over eight thousand textiles from many different areas of Asia. Having studied dyeing techniques under two prominent artisans Hiroko then embarked on her travels, spending time in Peru, Mexico and Guatamala. However it was her first visit to India in 1970 that really seems to have sparked her imagination and set her off on a lifetime of collecting. Indeed half of the eight thousand pieces in the collection are from India.

This article showcases some wonderful textiles from an exhibition entitled Suzani Magnificent Embroidery (although most of the images are not of suzanis), which was held in 2015.

Labijar kilim. © Ryohei Sasatani.

The current exhibition is on Kilims – Daily Rugs from Afghanistan, and ends on 16 March 2019. Again the title of the exhibition is slightly misleading as you will see if you click through some of the images of the pieces featured in it. These include salt bags, tent bands, bed ornaments and coats.

Pashtoon child’s coat. © Ryohei Sasatani.

 

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Event: Japanese Resist-Dyeing Techniques

 

Detail of a woman’s kimono, shibori technique

Event date: Saturday, 9 March, 2019. 10:30 AM

Jeff Krauss, the president of the Washington-based International Hajji Baba Society, will give a lecture and show-and-tell on Japanese resist-dyeing techniques next Saturday. He will also be showing videos of Japanese craftsmen displaying their skills.

According to the website of the Textile Museum

Japanese textiles are decorated with designs ranging from simple to elaborate. Some designs are added to the surface of a textile after it has been woven, while others are created before the fabric is woven. The most labor-intensive technique, called resist dyeing, involves preventing dye from reaching some parts of the fabric.”

This event is free and no registration is required. 

Location: The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052

 

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Exhibition: Collecting and Recollecting

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 14 July 2019

This exhibition has just opened at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM), which has the largest publicly held collection of quilts in the world.

According to the curator Marin Hanson

“Throughout western India, people make quilts for practical reasons: to have something to sleep under, to hang in doorways, to augment dowries, to sell. They make quilts for personal reasons, as well: to document daily life, to offer as gifts, to signal group affiliation or individuality. The quilts in this exhibition were made by women and men from towns and villages across the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. These craftspeople come from varied geographic, economic, and social backgrounds, but all value quiltmaking for the creative outlet it provides. The textiles often share visual and material similarities, but they also reflect their makers’ own communities, personalities, and life stories.”

Hanson goes on to explain how the IQSCM worked with researchers from various backgrounds to examine the quilting traditions of three regions: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. Research on the quilts of Gujarat was carried out by Martha Wallace and Patricia Stoddard – the author of Ralli Quilts. They were assisted by Alok Tiwari and Salim Wazir, who is well-known to all who have had the good fortune to visit Bhuj.

Bhopa Rabari quilt. © IQSCM

Geeta Khandelwal from Mumbai has made and studied quilts since the 1970s. Recently she spent three years examining the quilts of Maharashtra. The quilt depicted below uses not only pieces srom saris and blouses but also seed bags that have the logo of the distributor printed on them.

Joshi quilt. © IQSCM

Karnataka quilts were studied by two different researchers – Henry Drewal and Shubhapriya Bennur. Henry Drewal was fascinated by the quilts of the Siddi people of northern Karnataka which are known as kawandi. These are usually made by older ladies, who are not able to work on the land. Drewal became involved in establishing a Quilt Cooperative to help these women to sell their textiles.

Siddi kawandi. © IQSCM

The quilts studied by Shubhapriya Bennur are known as kaudi. Most of these are formed from scraps of recycled clothing and they come in several different types for a variety of uses – baby quilts, ceremonial quilts, sitting quilts and bedcovers. 

 

Bedcover from northern Karnataka. © IQSCM

There are many more images of quilts featured on the museum’s website under the Featured Works section, with detailed information on the history and use of each example.

 

Location: International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

 

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Video: Reviving a Silk Road Tradition

Screenshot from the documentary. © NHK World Japan

NHK World Japan have just released a new short documentary on ikat-making in Uzbekistan. It will be available to view until 8 March 2019 here.

This short documentary focuses on the work of Muhayo Aliyeva, the remarkable woman behind the Bibi Hanum brand. Muhayo created this brand back in 2006 and through it has provided work for many women not only in her Tashkent headquarters, but also further afield in the Ferghana Valley. According to their website “Bibi Hanum™ is a socially responsible enterprise that creates garments and accessories using traditional hand-woven silk cotton ikat fibre. Founded by Muhayo Alieva its mission is to provide economic opportunities for women while preserving Uzbekistan’s rich cultural and ethnographic heritage.”

Early on in the documentary we see the difficulties she has faced bringing a reinterpretation of Uzbek ikat to a modern audience, and how she has altered traditional patterns to suit her particular needs. We are also introduced to Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov, a fifth-generation ikat maker from Margilan – a famous centre of ikat production. In 2005 UNESCO awarded him a “Seal of Excellence” for his research into, and revitalisation of, the craft of velvet ikat weaving known as bakhmal. In fact 2005 was a very busy year for Rasuljon as that was also when he established the Khorezm Weaving centre in the old city of Khiva – a city which several OATG members have visited with Sheila Paine.  I was intrigued to see the machine they used for binding the bundles of 100 threads in his workshop in Margilan. Rasuljon demonstrated his expertise at the Textile Society of America Symposium in Washington DC in 2012 as part of a Central Asia panel organised by Christine Martens. He is a regular participant in the Santa Fe International Folk Art market.

Also in 2005 the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta used ikat cloths created by Rasuljon in his collection. The designer was clearly enamoured with these textiles, using them in many catwalk shows over a period of years. In this short video interview he speaks of his appreciation for the work that goes into creating ikat textiles and we can see some of his creations, including this stunning strapless dress.

Several of de la Renta’s pieces featured in the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia, which was held at the Freer/Sackler from March to July last year. Some of the highlights of the exhibition can be viewed here. Just click on each image to see the enlarged versions.

Ikat trench coat. Oscar de la Renta 2005 collection. © Smithsonian

Curatorial assistant Christina Elliott describes the process of preparing these textiles for the exhibition here. It was interesting to read of their method of insect prevention and see what goes on behind the scenes of a textile exhibition.

Part of the To Dye For exhibition. © Smithsonian

Last July Muhayo Aliyeva gave a presentation on Contemporary Ikat Designs at the Freer/Sackler as part of the programme arranged around this exhibition.  The whole event was filmed and can be seen here. In it she talks about the history of ikat in Central Asia and then shows current production methods, including the design, dyeing and weaving of the cloth. The video clips she shows of the warping up are really interesting, especially when you realise they are coping with 3000 fine threads.

Threading the reed. © Muhayo Aliyeva.

Another major ikat exhibition opened a couple of weeks ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Entitled Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection it highlights over 60 examples of ikat textiles – including clothing and woven panels. I like the fact that they show several garments worn in layers on the mannequins. This does mean that it’s more difficult to focus on an individual piece, but it gives a more accurate picture of how they would have been worn in the past.

The organiser of this exhibition, Clarissa M. Esguerra, will be giving an exclusive lecture to members of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) on Saturday 2 March 2019 in the Brown Auditorium at LACMA. Email info@tmasc.org for more details on membership.

One of the most striking garments in the Oscar de la Renta collection was this ikat coat with a fur trim, designed for the 2000 Balmain Haute Couture collection. The coat is clearly made up from several different sections of ikat, particularly on the right front. The pattern of the ikat is very reminiscent of the ikat made in a very different area of Uzbekistan – Khorezm.

Many people are unaware of the ikat-producing tradition in the city of Khiva. The cloth here is known as adras. It has a silk ikat warp and a cotton weft, giving it a fine ribbed texture.This design with the central turquoise  stripe and alternating red and green horns was the most popular with the nearby Qaraqalpaqs on their kiymesheks and shapans.

 Khivan patterns were simplified versions of Bukharan designs. This is not surprising given that they were made by members of a small community of Jewish dyers who arrived in Khiva with their traditional Bukharan designs.For more information on this small centre of ikat production visit the website of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on the Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Article: Iranian nomads, and ORTS event in London tonight

A nomadic family during their migration. © Newsha Tavakolian

Why Iran’s nomads are fading away, with text by Thomas Erdbrink and wonderful photographs by Newsha Tavakolian, is a very thought-provoking article on the difficulties faced by Iranian nomads.

There are over a million nomads in Iran, and for many years they have followed a traditional lifestyle which involved moving their animals along ancient routes to cool pastures in the Zagreb mountains every spring. Now many transport their belongings on trucks instead of horseback. The number of black tents being set up in the pastures is dwindling year on year as young people sell off their flocks and move to the towns. One of the main reasons for this change seems to be the desire for education. As one woman put it “I won’t let my daughters marry a nomad,” she said. “Our lifestyle is horrible. I want them to live in a city and study.” Do click through the slideshow near the beginning of the article for extra images and information.

Reading this brings to mind the famous film Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life made about the Bakhtiari migration in 1925. The numbers of people involved in that migration in contrast to the situation today is stark. Fifty thousand people, led by Haidar Khan, made this trek which lasted for 48 days and involved crossing an icy river on inflated goat skins. Seeing them climb the snowy mountains – in one case with a man carrying a donkey on his back – makes you realise just how desperate these people were to reach the life-sustaining grass on the other side. This really is a truly remarkable film, a ten-minute excerpt of which can be viewed here and is highly recommended.

Last year the Metropolitan Museum in New York held an exhibition entitled Portable Storage: Tribal Weavings from the Collection of William and Inger Ginsberg, which I blogged about here.

Spindle bag. Gift of Inger G. and William B. Ginsberg, 2015. © Metropolitan Museum.

More information on the various tribes, as well as their weavings can be found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum here.

Khamseh bird rug. © Paul R Benjamin

Tonight – Wednesday 20 February 2019 Professor Paul R Benjamin is giving a talk on South Persian Rugs, Bags and Saddle Covers to the Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain (ORTS). Professor Benjamin’s subjects  will include Qashqa’i Shekarlu rugs and Khamseh saddle covers . This talk in Piccadilly, London, is also open to non-members. Click here for further details.

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Event: International Convention of Asia Scholars (and more) in Leiden

This July a series of textile-related events will take place in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars runs from 16-19 July 2019. Participants from over 60 countries, covering a multitude of disciplines, are expected to attend. Registration details for ICAS can be found here. Please note there is a significant discount for early registration and this ends on 15 March 2019.

As part of this Convention the Tracing Patterns Foundation are organising several Textile Panels around the subject Fibre, Loom and technique. Fifteen researchers will present their findings on a variety of subjects. These include our founder Ruth Barnes on Early Weft Ikats found in Sumatran Textiles and OATG member Chris Buckley on The Origin of Chinese Drawlooms. Itie van Hout, whose book on Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum was recently reviewed in Asian Textiles will speak about Twill Weaving in Kalimantan and Sandra Niessen will give a presentation on the Bulang of the Batak people – which Pamela Cross spoke of with such passion at our recent Show and Tell.

Although several of the talks are on Indonesian textiles, other areas covered include the Philippines, Egypt, Laos, China, India and Africa.

From 13-19 July the Textile Research Centre (also in Leiden) is organising a special Asia Week on the theme of East-West connections. This will include an exhibition, workshops and lectures. The exhibition, entitled Out of Asia: 2000 years of fascination with Eastern textiles, aims to show “how economics and trade have played an essential role in the movement and use of textiles” and will present a range of textiles, from Indian block-printed textiles from the thirteenth century to regional Dutch textiles from the early twentieth century.

Back of a woman’s blouse from the Dutch island of Marken, with a panel with a chintz-style decoration with peacocks and buteh, 1937. © Textile Research Centre

The workshops will include Indigo Printing and Dyeing with Georg Stark (read my earlier blog on him here), Analysing Ancient Textile Fragments with Affordable Equipment, and Embroidery from Afghanistan.

Full details of the talks and workshops, along with registration details, can be found here – please note spaces are limited.

Obviously a visit to Leiden would not be complete without spending time in the Museum Volkenkunde, where you are greeted by a huge totem pole as you enter the museum. Its collection is vast and it seeks to convey through universal themes that “despite cultural differences, we are all essentially the same”.

Part of the Indonesia Gallery display at the Museum Volkenkunde

A short train ride (around 40 minutes) will take you to Amsterdam where you can visit the Tropenmuseum.

It’s easy to travel to Leiden from many parts of the UK – just fly to Amsterdam (Schipol) and get the train from there (15 minutes), or take the Eurostar to Amsterdam. See you in Leiden!

 

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News: Hali & Cornucopia Ancient and Modern International Research Award

A research award of £1000 is being sponsored by Hali and Cornucopia. This award for original research was initiated by John Carswell after he realised that there were two groups of people who often found it difficult to get grants – those at the beginning of their career and those who are rather more mature in years. For this reason the award is open to candidates from around the globe who are aged under 27 or over 60 at the time of application. The subject matter should fall within the scope of Hali and Cornucopia, which is of course very wide.  Hali covers textiles of every type and all cultures, while Cornucopia specialises in Turkic and Ottoman culture.

It is easy to apply, with no references needed, simply a statement of your age and a brief summary of your project (no more than 500 words), with an emphasis that it would be difficult for you to find funding for the project from any other source.

It’s well worth taking a look at the list of previous winners. The range of subjects they covered is extraordinary and includes:-

Field Study of Fourteenth-Century Underglaze Decorated- Ceramics in Yunnan, South China,

an Inventory of early Anatolian kilims surviving in Ethiopian Orthodox churches,

Research on the tent of Tipu Sultan (1750–99) at Powis Castle and the Tienda de Campana (1535) in Toledo,

and Following Gertrude Bell’s pre-First World War travels around Turkey.

Full details of how to apply can be found here.

Please note that the closing date for applications is 31 March 2019.

 

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Feature: Bronze Drums and their Motifs

© David Richardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaflet from the excellent Museum of 1000 Moko

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

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

This event is free, but registration is required.

Location: SOAS Russell Square: College Buildings Room 4429

 

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Exhibition: Traded Treasures – Indian Textiles for Global Markets

Exhibition dates: 26 January – 9 June 2019

13th or 14th century cloth from Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market

This recently opened exhibition at the Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, showcase the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.

“Known for many centuries as the source of fine cotton and silk textiles, India has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. Spanning five hundred years of the history of India’s thriving commerce to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Japan, this exhibition reveals why Indian textiles were in demand the world over.

Some of the earliest surviving Indian textiles are printed and painted cotton fragments found in Indonesia. Along with silk double-ikat patola, these were used for ceremonial purposes and treasured in Indonesia as heirlooms. The maritime trade that relied on supplying Indian textiles to Southeast Asian markets in exchange for spices was first conducted by Arab, Persian, and Indian merchants but later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, which expanded the demand for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.

The textiles presented in this exhibition…….. tell a fascinating story of global commerce and the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced goods of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, while also revealing how cross-cultural interchange contributed to global aesthetic developments.”

A fully illustrated catalogue on the history of the Indian textile trade, is due out in March 2019 and will have contributions by many leading experts, including our founder Ruth Barnes, Kaja McGowan, and Sylvia Houghteling.

Location: Bartels Gallery, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 114 Central Avenue, Ithaca, NY.

 

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Event: OATG Show and Tell – Corrected Version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Carolyn Gurney with a lovely child’s Baluchi dress front, purchased in Kabul many years ago.

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

Sue Morley and Eiko Cunningham examining a beautiful embroidery that  Carolyn Gurney rescued from a skip!

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