Event: Textile talks and more in Singapore

Event date: Friday 22 February and Monday 25 February 2019

 

Ikat loseng – photo copyright John Ang

Investigating the origins of Ikat Loseng: Malaysia’s Lesser Known Warp Ikat

Many of us have heard the term kain limar, which refers to the famous weft ikats from Malaysia’s northeast states of Terengganu and Kelantan. However ikat loseng, a warp ikat produced in the same states of Malaysia, is largely unknown. John Ang’s interest began with the purchase of his first Malay ikat loseng. Although he told many of his textile collector friends that it was from Terengganu, they insisted it was a warp ikat from Uzbekistan. The similarities between the two were intriguing and inspired him to investigate if there was a connection. His talk will focus on this investigation and its interesting results.

John Ang, who was based in Taiwan for over 30 years but has recently moved to Kuala Lumpur, is an avid collector of textiles. In recent years he has focussed his attention on the textiles of the Malay world and frequently contributes to the journal Textiles Asia.

Friday 22 Feb 2019, 10:00am (for 10:30 start),  Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore

 

Kelingkan embroidery – photo copyright John Ang

All that Glitters is not Gold

John’s second lecture is on the subject of kelingkan embroidery. This is a quintessentially Malay textile using flat metal strips to embellish the cloth. John will discuss where and how it was produced, and its possible origins. A short article on this subject, written by Adline Abdul Ghani (formerly of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia) can be found here.

Monday 25 February 2019, 11:00am, Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

 

Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman

Finally, this major new exhibition is opening at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 1 February 2019, and runs until 28 April 2019. It reexamines the life of Sir Stamford Raffles. According to the museum’s website “Sir Stamford Raffles was an official with the British East India Company stationed in Southeast Asia between 1805 and 1824. He is known for establishing Singapore as a British port, as the author of The History of Java, and as a collector of natural history and cultural materials. Opinions of Raffles have changed over time. He has been viewed as a scholarly expert on the region, a progressive reformer, a committed imperialist, and even a plagiariser. In keeping with the Asian Civilisations Museum’s mission to explore encounters and connections, this exhibition presents a complex, multilayered picture of Raffles while presenting the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Java and the Malay world.”

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Event: The Seven Thousand Year Conversation – Tracing Ancestry through Weaving Traditions in the Asia Pacific Region

 

A weaver in Bubu village, Solor, Indonesia, weaving warp ikat cloth for a tubeskirt. Copyright Chris Buckley

Event date: 9 February 2019, 10:00am

OATG member Chris Buckley will give an illustrated talk on the migration of Austronesians from mainland Asia via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

According to the website of the Textile Arts Council these Austronesians “carried with them a suite of textile techniques that originated on the Asian mainland in the Neolithic period, including yarn preparation, a distinctive body-tensioned loom and the warp ikat technique.

The story told by the distribution of weaving techniques and textile motifs across the Pacific confirms the broad outline discovered by linguists, but it also provides new evidence that the migratory story was not as simple as has been previously supposed. In particular it shows that the “out of Taiwan” story told by linguists is only partly true. Characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques, including the loom and tubeskirt, do not appear to have originated on Taiwan, the supposed homeland of the Austronesian peoples, but seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland. Chris will present evidence for this and discuss the reasons why mainland-derived weaving techniques were important to early migrants.”

Chris will be showing a variety of textiles, particularly ikat weavings, to support these ideas. He will also use a selection of his many photographs of weavers and weaving from the islands of Indonesia.

A thorough discussion of this subject, with excellent maps and illustrations, can be found in a paper written by Chris Buckley and Eric Boudot in 2017.  The evolution of an ancient technology is available through the  Royal Society Open Science website here  4: 170208. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170208

Location: Koret Auditorium,  de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118.

Please note: Following this lecture the Twelfth Annual Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Memorial lecture
will be given at 1pm, also in the Koret Auditorium. The subject of this lecture by Anna Beselin is Knots, Art and History – Shifting Perspectives and Perceptions within the Berlin Carpet Collection.

 

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Article: Bagru Textiles – Woodblock Printing near Jaipur, India

This article, written for the KINDCRAFT by Justin Lancy, looks at the tradition of woodblock printing in one particular community in Rajasthan.

The Chhipa clan have lived in Bagru for 400 years and Viju Chhipa, the founder of Bagru Textiles, is a fifth-generation dyer and printer. Lancy explains how the designs on each cloth might use 4 or 5 different woodblocks, which are carved from a variety of local trees including teak and rosewood. In this community the designs are traditionally printed onto a cream background, or sometimes the cloth is dyed blue or red. Another type of printing is done using mud-resist. The blocks are dipped into the dye and the colour applied very carefully onto the cloth by hand – a laborious task requiring a good eye for detail.

This tradition is now threatened as it requires a lot of water and the water table in the region has dropped in recent years.

The full article can be read on the KINDCRAFT website here. The majority of the beautiful images, taken by Justin and Lauren K Lancy, can be enlarged by clicking on them.

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Article: Ainu Culture – Garments and Embroideries of the Ainu People

Image by Keisuke Fukamizu

This article, with text by Kosuke Ide and fantastic photographs by Keisuke Fukamizu, examines the clothing of the Ainu people of Hokkaido island, Japan. Ide explains that hundreds of years ago these were made from the animal skins – there was a reference to them wearing “bird skin” as late as the eighteenth century. Over time they began to use fibres obtained from the inner bark of elm and linden trees to weave their textiles.  The cloth woven from these fibres was known as attush, and was sewn into garments primarily used as work clothing. These garments were decorated with patterns embroidered in cotton. Later, as cotton became cheaper and more accessible, they began to use it for their clothing rather than the attush. However the art of making attush has not died out completely. It is still practised by Rumiko Fujitani, using a traditional backstrap loom.

Ide also interviewed Nobuko Tsuda, who has conducted research on traditional Ainu garment culture and for the past 20 years has served as a curator at the Hokkaido Ainu Centre in Sapporo. I was particularly struck by her appreciation of what she refers tom as the “natural imperfections” of Ainu embroidery done in the traditional way, as opposed to the “perfection” which can be achieved using more modern methods.

The full article, which really does have some wonderful images, can be accessed on the visvim website here. Please note that this does take quite a while to load – presumably because of the quality of the images.

Textiles of Japan by Thomas Murray has recently been published by Prestel and contains over 100 pages on Ainu textiles. This book is already available in Europe and will go on sale in the US from 29 January 2019.

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Article: Minority Textiles – Kam Women Artisans

This article by Marie Anna Lee highlights the textile traditions of the Kam people from Dimen village in Guizhou province, China. They are called the Dong by the majority Han Chinese. These traditions are kept alive by a group of elderly women, known as za.

Lee explains how the za used to grow and spin their own cotton, but now use machine-made thread. They make these threads stronger through a process of treating them with an alkali solution, beating them with a flat paddle, starching in warm rice water and then drying them.

Locally grown indigo is turned into a paste which is used to dye the cloth woven from these threads time after time until it is almost black. The cloth is then dyed seven times in a red dyestuff made from dyeing yam, Rhododendron leaves and Chinese sumac. Lee goes on to describe how the cloth is stiffened and then beaten with a wooden mallet until its surface is shiny.

This dark indigo fabric really sets off the colourful belts, hand-embroidered with satin stitch which are another speciality here. Sadly many young women do not want to spend time mastering satin stitch and so use cross-stitch instead. The elderly za can no longer embroider due to their failing eyesight and so now often buy machine-made embroidery. As in so many places in the world traditions are fading with the passing of the generations.

To read the full article which describes the dyeing and other textile processes visit the  Asian Art  website.

Marie Anna Lee is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of the Pacific in California, USA. Her recently published book, Kam Women Artisans of China: Dawn of the Butterflies, follows five of these remarkable women as they reveal their unique heritage through practical demonstrations. This book was reviewed by OATG member Pamela Cross in the Summer 2018 edition (number 70) of Asian Textiles.

 

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Event: Stitching New Identities -: Embroidery and Socio-Political Change in Late-Nineteenth/Early-Twentieth Century Japan and Korea

Event date: Thursday, 17 January, 2019. 12:00-1:30 PM

“As Japan and Korea opened to the international community in the nineteenth century, their ensuing social, political, and economic transformations found vibrant visual expression in the ancient art of embroidery. Using primary sources including extant textiles and period literature, this lecture by Lee Talbot will examine changes in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Japanese and Korean embroidery in light of concurrent socio-political developments. The lecture will illustrate how embroiderers in Japan and Korea developed innovative aesthetics, forms, and subjects that gave visual voice to new social and national identities emerging as their countries forged new, sometime perilous paths domestically and internationally.”  – from the website of the Center for Japanese Studies.

Lee Talbot is currently the Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. and has previously spent two years as curator at the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum (Seoul, Korea).

Location: Center for Japanese Studies, Room 110 Weiser Hall, 500 Church Street, Suite 400, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1042

 

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Video: Hairstyles from the Floating World

 

The exhibition entitled Painting the Floating World – Ukiyo-e Masterpieces from the Weston Collection, which I blogged about here is ending on 27 January.

According to the website of the Art Institute of Chicago the courtesans, geisha, and actors depicted in the ukiyo-e paintings of the 17th -19th centuries were the beautiful people of Edo-period Japan. “The world they moved in, the “floating world” (ukiyo), was all about glamour, sophistication, and style. The fashions they wore reflected not only class and occupation but also trends and individual taste, all of which were focused on the attempt to create an ideal picture of beauty. 

Though the overall look of each individual bijin (beauty) was created by the combination of cosmetics, clothing, and hairstyle, this video focuses on the complicated process and elaborate result of hairstyling. Filmed in a shrine in near Kyoto, the 90-year-old Minami Tomiko, one of the few living masters of the art, recreates three intricate hairstyles”. These are the Kamome tabo or seagull’s tail, the Tōrōbin or lantern locks, and the Yoko hyōgo or butterfly.

It’s amazing to see just how much work went into creating these elaborate styles, and this really brought the world in which these women moved to life.

Click here to view the video.

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Article: Kelaghayis of Azerbaijan

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The kelaghayi (kelagayi/kalaghayi) is a traditional silk scarf made in Azerbaijan. In 2014 this was added  to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This video was made by Asif Abramov and Rena Ibrahimbeyova to support the process of adding kelaghayi to this list.

These fine silk headcovers have been produced in Azerbaijan for generations. In 1862 Nasir Abdulaziz from Basgal showed his kelaghayis at the International Exhibition in London, gaining a silver medal for his work. In the mid-nineteenth century the Russian painter Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin depicted a woman from Shamakhi (probably a musician or dancer) wearing a kelaghayi over a small cap, in the local style.

“Woman of Shamakhi” by Grigory Grigoryevich Gagarin

The silk scarf provided warmth in the cold weather, and protected the wearer from the heat in hot weather. It was produced in a variety of colours. Many believe that older women tended to wear darker colours, while younger women preferred lighter ones. Red was associated with weddings, and black with mourning – with scarves sometimes being used to cover the deceased too. It was tied in a variety of different ways, depending on the region. There were many beliefs associated with the production of these scarves – people should not enter the silkworm-incubation premises wearing gold or silver jewellery or a wristwatch, the scarves should never be folded with the pattern on the outside etc, etc.

Although these scarves used to be made throughout Azerbaijan, production is now centred on Sheki and Basgal. Basgal is also the home of the Kelagayi museum, the walls of which are decorated with some of the traditional motifs used on the scarves.

 Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

The scarf shown below was bought by the author in Khiva, Uzbekistan, from an Azerbaijani shop owner. It was made in the Sheki Ipek Kombinat named after Lenin, in Sheki. At one time this was one of the largest silk-weaving centres in the Soviet Union, employing 7,000 people at its peak. The factory closed after the collapse of the USSR in 1995. The twin towns of Sheki and Shamakhi have been silk-weaving centres since medieval times and in the early twentieth century there were 127 silk mills in the Sheki region, employing 3,500 people. The seller told me that scarves such as mine date to the 1970s, but I haven’t been able to verify that.

The patterns on the kelaghayi are produced using a resist technique. They are applied using stamps which were traditionally carved from pear or walnut wood, but were often also made of metal.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

These stamps are dipped in a mixture of paraffin, resin and solid oil, before being carefully applied to the surface of the silk cloth. Various natural dyes are used to colour the cloths, before the wax is removed with hot water.

Photo copyright of Christine Martens and reproduced with her kind permission.

Obviously the workload and time needed to produce such scarves is increased if several different colours are used. Kelaghayi with six or seven colours were perceived as the most valuable and desirable and are still being produced in Basgal today. Versions of traditional kelaghayi produced in China using synthetic fabric are now entering the market, providing stiff competition for the workshops who produce silk scarves in the time-honoured way.

Similar scarves seem to have been produced in other areas too. The author bought this one in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2001. It had been made in a factory in Chardzhou in the east of the country. The factory had closed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Many thanks to Christine Martens for allowing me to reproduce some of the photos she took in Basgal following the “Intersections in felt” Symposium in October 2018.

Some fabulous images, along with an interview with a workshop-owner which really gives a sense of the working conditions, can be seen in an article by Samra Sadraddinli on the Chai Khana website here.

More background information for this article comes from this piece by Emil Eyyabov for the Azerbaijan State News Agency, this article  by Valentina Reznikova for Region Plus, and finally this article by Afat Rustamayova and Ruslan Huseynov on irs-az.com.

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Video: Rare Archival Footage of Early Twentieth Century Tokyo

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

The video can be viewed here

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Exhibition: Fast Fashion. The Dark Side of Fashion

Exhibition dates: 12 October 2018 – 24 February 2019

According to the website of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Köln this “exhibition sheds light on the background of a globalised textile industry. It deals with the production mechanisms, economic and social aspects, but also with environmental issues. In the second part, “Slow Fashion”, the exhibition focuses on examples of more sustainable manufacturing techniques from different cultures around the world, often based on traditional knowledge and sometimes becoming popular again as deliberate countermovements.”

The Fast Fashion section of the exhibition was designed by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg in 2015 against the backdrop of the major fires in textile factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

OATG members David and Sue Richardson recently visited the exhibition at the invitation of Sonja Mohr, curator for Insular Southeast Asia, and give their impressions of it below.

This exhibition opens with mannequins dressed in couture clothing, positioned alongside film of catwalk shows – all very glamorous, until we see the conditions in which High Street versions of these clothes are made.

We learn of the impact of poor working conditions through images of the Rama Plaza tragedy in which a building collapsed in Bangladesh killing 900 people. Many of the clothes being made there were intended for the bottom end of the fashion market.

The worldwide impact of the demand for such products is brought home by a map showing how a pair of jeans might be made across many different countries, one process being completed in each, until they reach their final destination and are sold in Europe. However that isn’t the end of the story. When their owner has discarded those jeans, they often end up in Africa as part of the trade in used clothing.

In a similar way we learn through some strong images how slogan T-shirts, made in Africa for the US market, also end up as discarded fashion in the used clothing markets in Haiti and Africa.

 

The section on the impact of pesticides was also very strong, with the sad image of the shrinking Aral Sea in Central Asia.

The Slow Fashion section is compiled from the collections held by the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Köln:

To counteract all of this, the other part of the exhibition focuses on Slow Fashion, in which knowledge is passed down through the generations, artisans are valued, and the processes used to produce the textiles are often very time-consuming. This section has two strands – cloth that is produced mainly for the local market, and cloth which is being adapted for an international market.

There were several pieces from Thailand, including one from the early twentieth century, and a more recent piece woven in Sawai village, Isan Province, in this century.

As we are passionate about Indonesian textiles our eyes were immediately drawn to several pieces from Sumba. The first of these was from Kodi in West Sumba. It was a man’s hip wrapper or shoulder cloth known locally as a hanggi (hinggi in some parts of East Sumba). This was collected in 1900 and features the mamuli motif – metal mamuli are displayed right next to it. Hanggi are generally made as a matching pair and the other part was still on the loom when it was collected at the same date. This loom required many hours of conservation work by specialist Petra Czerwinske-Eger before it was ready to be exhibited.

Hanggi from Kodi, West Sumba, collected in 1900

The loom before restoration – image courtesy of Petra Czerwinske-Eger

The same loom after restoration

Next to this was a hinggi from East Sumba, featuring andung (skull trees) and horses, also collected in 1900. The final piece from Sumba was one we immediately recognised. It was from the collection of Wilhelmina de Jong and had been made by our good friend Freddy Hambuwali of Indigo Art in the last decade – but still using natural dyes. We had last seen it in the Striking Patterns exhibition at the Museum der Kulturen in Basle.

Hinggi from East Sumba made by Freddy Hambuwali (when previously displayed in Basle).

Cloths from the village of Nggela (the site of a recent devastating fire) in Flores were also on display, accompanied by a short film showing how they were made.

We had been asked by one of the curators, Sonja Mohr, to provide some quotations from weavers we know to illustrate the concept of Slow Fashion. We were delighted to see this one by our friend Theresia, the head of the Kapo Kale weaving group which has both Christian and Muslim members, displayed so prominently. She will be so proud when we take a photo of this to her when we lead a group there in May during our Tribal Weavings of the Lesser Sunda Islands Textile Tour.

 

Theresia (centre) with some of the members of her weaving group

In another part of the world the wearing of locally produced cloth has a political dimension. Faso dan Fani means “woven cloth from the homeland” in Burkino Faso. The former president, Thomas Sankara, promoted the wearing of clothing made from this handwoven cotton cloth and also prohibited textile imports in the 1980s. After his assassination in 1987 this nascent industry collapsed. Since a change of government in 2015 politicians have once more started to wear this cloth and it has become fashionable again. The BBC have produced a short report on this trend, which can be viewed here.  We are reminded of the words of Sankara: “Wearing Faso dan Fani is an economic act, a cultural and political challenge to imperialism”.

Men wearing Faso dan Fani

We were also drawn to the textiles produced by the Japanese company KUON, which means “eternity”, “permanence”. The company website describes how Boro means worn out or patched clothes. These have often been dyed with indigo. When clothing became worn and tatty, people mended it using the sashiko stitching technique. As they became more and more worn they were turned into floor mats and eventually into dusters. Nothing was wasted – a real contrast to the concept of Fast Fashion! “Instead of simply repairing the Boro, KUON creates new pattern from scratch, disassembles the textile into pieces, and reconstructs in order to turn it into modern fashion.” The company are working with women affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Textiles are being revitalised using sashiko and patching and the fabric is then used to make new garments – each imbued with a sense of history.

A sample of Boro fabric from the KUON website

A sample of sashiko stitching from the KUON website

This exhibition, which ends on 24 February,  is well worth a visit, particularly if you combine it with a visit to the museum’s permanent exhibition Man in his World.

 

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