Coming soon…. exhibitions and talks on Ainu, Peruvian, Indonesian, Tudor and Arabian textiles.

An exhibition co-curated by OATG member Walter Bruno Brix has just opened at one of my favourite museums – the Rauchenstrauch-Joest museum in Köln, Germany.

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, RJM 10699; Japan; Ostasien; Mantel attus; 1801/1900; rba_c023086

A Soul in Everything – Encounters with Ainu from Northern Japan can be seen from November 5, 2021 to February 20, 2022. It presents the cultures of the Ainu groups who “Only after the middle of the 20th century did a strong return to its traditions and a revitalization movement emerge, which led to its recognition as an indigenous group in 2008 and its legal implementation by the Japanese government in 2019. The Ainu are considered to be the indigenous people of Northern Japan who originally lived as hunter-gatherer communities mainly on the islands of Hokkaido and Sakhalin. From the middle of the 19th century they were colonized, relocated and exploited by Japan.” – RJM website.

This exhibition was hailed as a ‘must see’ by Thomas Murray, whose book Textiles of Japan has a major section on the Ainu.

Closer to home the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford also has a display focusing on the Ainu. A short film by Eiko Soga entitled Autumn Salmon is playing daily on the first floor balcony until the end of November. “In 2016, Eiko lived with an Ainu woman called Ms. Katsue Kaizawa and studied the making of Ainu kimono, embroidery and salmon-skin shoes. In Ainu culture, salmon traditionally served key economic, religious and spiritual roles. Today, it still plays an important role within Ainu communities but primarily to sustain their traditional values.” – PRM website.

A pair of salmon-skin shoes which date to around 1900 can be seen in a case next to the film installation. These waterproof boots were known as chepkeri and were made from up to six dried and stretched salmon skins stitched together.

Chancay Inca tunic, Peru 1000-1470. © The Trustees of the British Museum

On Thursday 11 November a major new exhibition, Peru a journey in time, opens at the British Museum and will run until 20 February 2022.  This exhibition has been organised in conjunction with the Museo de Arte de Lima, Peru.

The Chancay tunic shown above is one of the highlights of the exhibition. “The woven symbols on this tunic are painted in cream and brown tones and represent the diverse environments across the Andes. They have been arranged in bands, one showing feathers representing birds from the Amazon rainforest, and the other concentric circles possibly representing Andean lagoons or cochas. A running scroll design at the bottom depicts the moving waves of the Pacific Ocean”. – BM website.

An online introduction to this new exhibition, featuring curators Jago Cooper and Cecilia Pardo-Grau, will take place this Thursday at 17:30 GMT. This is a free event, but to do need to book to secure your place. I’m not sure how many textiles are featured in the exhibition, but will hopefully get a better idea then.

Saturday 13 November sees the next of the Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings hosted by the Textile Museum. Dr Lauren Mackay will talk about Woven Treasures From the East in the Royal Tudor Court.

“For the Tudors, the Islamic world of the 16th century was an endless source of fascination and delight, swathed in fine silks, bursting with spices and draped in luxurious and vibrant tapestries and carpets. Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey, began the Tudor love affair with Orientalism, and soon English society coveted Ottoman and Persian culture: Its art, dress, textiles and carpets became highly sought–after symbols of wealth and power.” – Textile Museum.

This virtual programme, which is co-sponsored by the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, begins at 12:00 EST, which is 17:00 GMT. There is no charge, but you do need to register for it.

This Sunday, 14 November, the Zay Initiative will hold an online symposium on the subject of Arab Costume Collections: Sustaining Legacies. This 2-hour event will be hosted by Ben Evans of Hali and there will be two panels; the first looking at The importance of Arab Dress and Culture and the second examining The role and relevance of heritage for contemporary brands. Speakers include Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, Richard Wilding, Shahira Mehrez and Marriam Mossalli.

This free webinar begins at 13:00 GMT and registration is essential.

On Tuesday 16 November OATG member Lesley Pullen will give a hybrid lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society. The subject of her talk is Patterned Splendour: Textiles depicted on Javanese sculpture 8th -15th century.

This free lecture begins at 18:30 GMT and the venue is 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD. If you wish to attend, either in person or via Zoom, please register by emailing Matty Bradley.

Lesley’s book on this subject was published earlier this year. “The equatorial climate of Java has precluded any textiles from this period surviving. Therefore this book argues the textiles represented on these sculptures offer a unique insight into the patterned splendour of the textiles in circulation during this period. This volume contributes to our knowledge of the textiles in circulation at that time by including the first comprehensive record of this body of sculpture, together with the textile patterns classified into a typology of styles within each chapter.” Patterned Splendour has a large number of detailed illustrations, which should provide an invaluable resource for the reader. Some of these illustrations, with detailed notes, can be seen on the excellent Art of the Ancestors website here.

Textiles from Indonesia, Palestine, Europe, Japan, Mexico and more….

This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.

Ritual cloth palepai with ship motif and trees of life, Kalianda, province Lampung, Southern Sumatra. Inv. no. 9709. Photo: Kathrin Leuenberger.

On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.

The fifteenth century ‘dancing ladies’ ceremonial cloth on loan to the ROM from the Textile Museum of Canada

On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.

One of the displays in the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.

Yemen, Bayt al-Faqih. Woman’s korta (dress) with embroidery, couched silver bands and white braided cotton (2018.37.67) © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.  Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.

Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.

Shatweh (married woman’s headdress adorned with coins. Bethlehem, Palestine. Early twentieth century. Oriental Institute A35640E 

An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem. 

A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.

Traditional embroidery today. © Ethnic Jewels Magazine.

The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.

Ensemble with two striped aprons. Romanian, Oltenia, 1925-45
This outfit belonged to Queen Marie of Romania who brought attention to her country’s regional dress by writing about it as well as wearing it.
Princess Ileana of Romania Collection, KSUM 1987.15.5 a-c

Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.

© Chloë Sayer

Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.

Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-

The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.