Rugs and textiles from Greece, Morocco, Iran and Japan.

A final reminder that the next OATG talk will be this Thursday, 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST, when Dr Francesca Leoni of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford will speak on the subject of Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Detail from a cushion cover. Crete 17th-18th century
Linen, cotton and silk EA2004.6

Dr Leoni gave a lecture on this topic at the weekend to a US textile group and I’ve heard lots of great feedback about it. OATG members should already have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details. Don’t forget – one of the many advantages of becoming a member of the OATG is that you have access to recordings of the lectures, so if you can’t attend for any reason you don’t miss out.

Bou Oumlil, 2015

In a blog last month I wrote about the Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series of discussions hosted online by the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto. In Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco  French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou was in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Sara and Mariam covered a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. For those who missed it a recording of this event has now been made available and can be viewed here. A full playlist of all of the talks in the Crafting Conversations series can be found here.

While on the subject of Morocco, Roger Pratt of the Hajji Baba Club in New York gave a presentation in June last year on Rugs and Textiles of Morocco. This was hosted by the George Washington Museum and Textile Museum as part of their regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. Presented in the form of a travelogue Roger journeyed “through a number of rarely seen private collections, highlighting Berber weavings, contemporary rugs, and historical silk embroideries and workshop production.” – GWM website. A recording of this talk is available here.

Aba, male robe, before 1877, Kashan, Iran. Museum no. 883-1877. Museum no. 883-1877. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A major new exhibition entitled Epic Iran is opening at the V & A in London on 29 May. “Exploring 5,000 years of art, design and culture, Epic Iran will shine a light on one of the greatest historic civilisations, its journey into the 21st century and its monumental artistic achievements, which remain unknown to many.” – V & A website. A short overview of the exhibition contents and themes is provided here. However to get a more comprehensive idea of what the exhibition contains I suggest reading this article from Asian Art Newspaper.

Carpet with poetry verses, 1550-1600, Iran. Silk warp and weft, knotted wool pile, areas brocaded with metal thread. 231 x 165 cm. V&A: T.402-1910. Bequeathed by George Salting

Sarah Piram, Curator of the Iranian collections at the V & A, will give an online talk to the OATG next month. This talk will give an overview of some major works, from early silk fragments showing roundels of animals, to Safavid carpets and contemporary craft tradition. Textiles and carpets will be showcased in different parts of the exhibition, and I’m sure one of the highlights will be the ‘Sanguszko’ carpet belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry – one of the greatest seventeenth century Persian carpets in private hands. Invitations to the talk, which will take place on 10 June at 18:30 BST, will go out to OATG members at the end of this week. Registration is essential, and will open to non-members a week after members. I will provide links and further details later on.

Camel chest band (detail), Qashqa’i people. Collection of Fred Mushkat

Staying on the subject of Iran, Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, recently gave a talk about the Weavings of Nomads in Iran as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation series. “Warp-faced bands, containers and covers are among the rarest and least studied of all weavings made by nomads in Iran…… In this illustrated talk, collector and researcher Fred Mushkat [provided] an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another.  ” – Textile Museum website. The talk was recorded and you can now watch it by clicking on this link.   You may also be interested in a blog I wrote in February on Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan, which gave links to several articles and books on this subject.

Photo courtesy: CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), Hong Kong

And finally something completely different! Aimèe Payton has informed me that a new exhibition, MAKING NUNO Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudō Reiko, will open on 17 May at Japan House London. This exhibition “showcases the innovative work of Japanese textile designer Sudō Reiko, who is renowned for pushing boundaries of textile production and championing new methods of sustainable manufacturing.” There is an interesting article about this artist in Design Week by Molly Long. Describing one of the installations she writes ”  Kibiso Crisscross, a collaborative project with the Tsuruoka Textile Makers Cooperative, showcases the process that the team developed to reuse discarded kibiso, the protective outer layer of silk cocoons. A machine that takes these tough remnants and creates yarns from them. The idea is to create “no waste and use everything”, according to the designer.”

If you are aware of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.

Hawaiian quilts, early textiles by the Nile, First Nations robes from Alaska, Miao and Greek textiles.

This blog will be much shorter than usual, but I’ve just heard of a few events taking place that may be of interest to subscribers.

Cissy Serrao and Patricia Gorelangton at Iolani Palace in Honolulu. © Josiah Patterson

The first of these is TOMORROW night, Thursday 6 May at 09:00 BST. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford will host an online conversation with Cissy Serrao, director of Poakalani & Company. This is a quilting school and guild in Hawai’i. Cissy’s family has created Hawaiian quilts for many generations. “In conversation with Jeremy Uden [Head of Conservation] and Misa Tamura [Senior Conservator], she shares her thoughts with us on the cultural significance and symbolism of quilting in Hawaiian culture, why the patterns and tradition are so important to keep alive, and how she teaches this exciting and beautiful art.” – Pitt Rivers website. Full details and registration for this free event here.

On Saturday 8 May the Fashion Institute of Technology and The Textile Society of America will jointly host a free online event on the subject of Early Fashion and Textiles by the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris. “This panel brings together scholars and practitioners who will introduce their studies of and encounters with ancient textiles, clothes, and fashion. Exploring practical textile and dress making techniques of the cultures along the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris rivers during the 3rd millennium BCE, they ask: How was fashion used to express cultural, societal, and personal identities?” Full details and registration for this event, which begins at 15:00 EDT (20:00 BST) here.

In my most recent blog I mentioned this exhibition which opens on Saturday in Juneau, Alaska.  “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website.

There will be two lectures on Saturday linked to this exhibition, with limited attendance allowed. The first is at 13:00 ADT, which is 22:00 BST, when Lani Hotch will talk about Klukwan’s Legacy of Weaving. The second is at 15:00 ADT, which is midnight in the UK and Steve Henrikson will talk about A History of Native Textiles on the Northern Northwest Coast. Full details and registration for those able to attend in person here. I’ve been in touch with the museum and they inform me that recordings of these lectures will be available online by around 14 May. I will provide a link to these as soon as I have it.

There will be a livestream dedication of of The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles (SWAY) exhibit this Friday 7 May at 17:00 ADT, which is 02:00 BST – so probably one for our international members or UK night owls!

Miao festival, Guizhou, China, 2008. © Minneapolis Institute of Art

One of the current exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Art ends on 23 May 2021. To Beautify and Protect: Miao Clothing and Jewelry from China  showcases examples drawn from the Institute’s large collection of more than 1,200 textiles and 450 pieces of jewellery made by Miao artisans. “Miao people consider textiles, clothing, and accessories as expressions of identity. This is especially true at communal festivals, where an individual might wear an elaborate, embroidered costume and intricately worked silver jewelry. In these settings, ceremonial clothing could indicate a wearer’s age and marital status, or mark important rites of passage. Motifs on these garments and silver jewelry can reveal Miao history and beliefs, while decorative techniques, patterning, and stitchwork distinguish one community from another. The silver material and designs also serve a protective function, promoting the health and safety of the wearer, while presenting a dazzling display that delights the eyes. ” MIA website.

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

Don’t forget that the next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of eighteenth and nineteenth century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

If you here of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.

From Indonesia to the Arctic, Greece to Iran, Russia to the Indus Valley and more!

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

There is just so much going on in the textile world at the moment, that this will therefore be quite a long blog,,,,,

OATG member Lesley Pullen is the author of a new book examining the way textiles were presented on eighth to fifteenth century Javanese sculptures. “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.

A new display was revealed at the Fashion and Textiles Gallery of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore on 5 April 2021. It is based around the theme Fashionable in Asia and a good overview of the themes covered and some of the textiles on show can be found here.

According to the museum’s website “Early fashion theorists excluded the non-Western world. They saw dress of “uncivilised” people outside of urban Europe as static and unchanging, hobbled by tradition. Seeking to challenge Eurocentric misconceptions, with the latest display in the Fashion and Textiles gallery, we re-centre on Southeast Asia, where indigenous fashions moved at their own pace and with their own standards – but were no less fashionable!”


Image courtesy Adriana Sanroman, From Birth to Death: The Silk Flower Industry in Mexico, Session 1A.

The 2020 Textile Society of America Symposium Hidden Stories/Human Lives had, of necessity, to be held online. The advantage of this virtual format is that the TSA were able to record many of the sessions. Those recordings have now been made available. The subjects are incredibly varied – the silk flower industry in Mexico, inscribed textiles from Egyptian burial grounds, the white Haku of Peru, Hmong dress in China and the ‘Mamluk’ quilt cover, to name just a few. There are over seventeen hours of recordings – enough to satisfy even the most devoted textilian! The easiest way to work out which parts may be of most interest to you is to go to the pdf of the full programme here. The programme is listed on pages 19-27, followed by the abstracts for each paper. Simply identify the talks of interest to you and which session they were part of. For example “Materials and Making of Ṭirāz Textiles” was the third paper in session 2A. This should help when deciding which recordings to watch first.

Next Thursday, 6 May 2021, Dr Moya Carey (Curator of Islamic Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin) will be the speaker for an online event hosted by the Hajji Baba Club of New York. The title of her presentation is Safavid Dynastic Vision: Shah Tahmasp’s Commission of the Ardabil Carpets. The pair of Ardabil carpets were woven for the Safavid dynastic shrine in northwestern Iran. Today they are celebrated as masterpieces of sixteenth-century design and technique,. One of the pair is in the V & A Museum and the other is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Remembered together, the pair offer a rich context for Safavid Shah Tahmasp’s visionary intentions, for himself and for his dynasty’s sacred tomb complex in Ardabil, northwestern Iran. This talk examines Iran’s political conditions in the year 946H (1539-40, the date woven into each carpet), and the likely dynastic significance of the two hanging lamps that form each carpet’s central axis.” – Hajji Baba website. The talk begins at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. To attend the meeting please compete the RSVP here.

One of the ceremonial robes which will be displayed during the exhibition

On 8 May 2021 a new exhibition entitled The Spirit Wraps Around You: Northern Northwest Coast Native Textiles opens at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, Alaska. “This exhibit traces the history of the sacred textiles known today as “Ravens Tail” and “Chilkat” robes. Two dozen robes will carry the story of Native weaving among the Tsimshian, Haida, and Tlingit of Alaska and British Columbia, representing both ancient and modern ceremonial robes made by Alaska Natives and First Nations. Woven from the plush white fur of mountain goats, these robes were seen by early Euroamerican visitors to the northern Northwest Coast when they contacted First Nations and Alaska Native people. Their use was confined to sacred ceremonies, where dancers wore them to display the crests of their clans. Robes were also used as diplomatic gifts to other clans and tribes. In the 1900s, only a few weavers carried these unique tradition into the 21st century.” – museum website. The website mentions a couple of lectures. I have checked with the museum and there will be limited attendance with online registration opening soon. The good news is that they also informed me the lectures will be recorded. More information when I have it!

Cushion Cover, Crete 17th-18th century. Linen, cotton and silk. EA2004.6

The next OATG talk will take place on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 18:30 BST. The speaker will be Dr Francesca Leoni, Assistant Keeper and Curator of Islamic Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The subject will be Drawing with Silk: Greek Island Embroideries in the Ashmolean Museum. This talk will explore the visual richness and technical sophistication of 18th- and 19th century Greek embroideries, as well as their debt to the many artistic traditions that flourished around the Mediterranean. It is based on the exhibition Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700 – 1900 AD, which Dr Leoni curated. An online interactive version of the exhibition is available here.

Dr Leoni has also written a very interesting article for HALI, explaining how a discovery in the Ashmolean Museum’s archives threw fresh light on an important area of British textile collecting – the acquisition of Greek island embroideries – and led to a new exhibition and catalogue.

OATG members should now have received their invitation to this talk, but still need to register for it. It is also open to non-members for a small donation. Click here for more details.

Valance. Nineteenth century, Olonetskaya province. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 22).

On Saturday 15 May 2021 Andrea Rusnock will give an online talk on Russian Folk Embroidery, hosted by the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. Andrea is a Professor of Art History and will be discussing “Russian embroidery at the end of the Imperial period, when middle-class women increasingly created their own needlework, aided by a proliferation in pattern books, and, at the same time, there was a renewed interest in folk embroidery.” This talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST, and you can register for it here.

The Chintz: Cotton in Bloom exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London is due to open on 18 May 2021 subject to government guidelines. This exhibition has been organised by the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, where a version of it was on display in 2017. “

The complicated technical craftsmanship required to fix bright dyes to cotton, devised across centuries and using complex chemical formulae, meant that for many years Chintz was a closely guarded secret, or preserve of the elite. However, by the 18th century chintz had become more widely accessible. The lightweight, washable, gaily coloured and boldly patterned cottons eventually became a sensation throughout England and across Europe. These developments resulted in the intricate, colourful flowers of chintz fabric being cherished and preserved by generations.

Chintz: Cotton in Bloom showcases some 150 examples of this treasured textile, originating from all around the world; from mittens to wall hangings and from extravagant 18th-century sun hats to stylish mourning dresses.” – FIT website. For more details and booking please click here. You may also enjoy reading this short blog about chintz by Emma Sweeney.

© TRC Leiden

The buteh/boteh motif often appears on chintz, so I thought it was worth sharing the link to this talk by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Many thanks to Cheri Hunter of the TMA/SC for this information. Gillian recently did a Zoom lecture for the Fowler Textile Council, examining the global history of the paisley pattern. The recording of this talk can be viewed here. If you want to know more about this motif it is also well worth visiting the website of the TRC Leiden, which has an excellent online exhibition on the subject.

Stone statue of the Priest-King discovered in Mohenjodaro. He is believed to be wearing resist-printed ajrak cloth.

Those with an interest in early textiles will want to sign up for this talk, Cotton & Colour: A Deep History of Indus Valley Textiles, hosted by the Royal Ontario Museum on 18 May 2021 at 16:00 EDT, which is 21:00 BST. From the earliest evidence of cotton (7,000 BCE) to the importance of fibre arts in the emergence of early urban centres, ROM botanist Deborah Metsger and archaeologist J. Mark Kenoyer will explore the rich and diverse history of textiles in the early settlements of the Indian subcontinent. Click here for more details and to register.

Young woman’s outer parka, Kalaallit, Greenland – before 1860s. © British Museum

The British Museum exhibition Arctic: Culture and Climate has now ended, but the good news is that the museum have now made a virtual tour of it available. You can take your own route, or go to specific sections – the parka above is from the ‘weather proofing’ section. Clicking on the lower case ‘i’ gives additional information. Highly recommended!

Finally, readers will know from my previous blogs of the devastating impact Cyclone Seroja had on the tiny eastern Indonesian island of Savu. I know some of you contributed to the appeal for help, and thought you would like to see that the first load of roofing material has now arrived. This had to be transported ashore by small boats as the jetty is still blocked by a capsized ferry.  If you would like to help please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

More reopenings!

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the video.

Many museums are either now open once again, or are preparing to reopen soon. There will obviously be some changes to the visitor experience. In many cases tickets have to be booked in advance and one-way routes have been marked out. For example the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford reopened this week and everyone, including members, has to book their ticket in advance. This should lead to a better experience for all visitors.

The British Museum will be reopening on 27 August. To begin with only a selection of galleries will be opening, with more to be added later. Click here for the full list. Visitors will need to book a timed slot and follow the one-way route marked out.

The V&A in London has also partially reopened, with more galleries to be added to the list in the coming weeks. Please check their website for the new opening hours. Most exciting is the fact that their fantastic exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk will reopen on 27 August!

Standing courtesan, colour print from woodblocks, Katsukawa Shunsen, 1804-18, Japan. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

 

Parr (1893–1969); cotton or polyester cotton blend; screen printed. © Dorset Fine Arts

Further afield the Textile Museum of Canada opens again to the public on 19 August. Their current exhibition is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxane Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth. Last December I blogged about this exhibition, and a video has now been added to the museum’s website. For those (most of us) who can’t get to the museum this gives us a flavour of the textiles on display.

Last month I blogged about the major exhibition of chintz at the Royal Ontario Museum which had been postponed due to the pandemic. This will now open on 12 September. The museum website has lots of interesting background information and videos, including one about a rare book of Indian chintz patterns recorded by a Japanese cloth manufacturer which was published in 1785. Best of all is the video featuring OATG member Sarah Fee (the curator of this exhibition) in conversation with Anjli Patel examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” This gives us a chance to see several of the textiles from the exhibition in close-up.

 

I was recently checking some of the Asian textile links on our WordPress site and noticed the Harris Museum in Preston, UK was listed. I checked out their website to see what collections they held, and became fascinated by the story of John Forbes Watson. In 1866 he put together an 18 volume set of fabric sample books entitled The Textile Manufactures of India. This was published by the India Office of the British Government. Forbes Watson was Reporter on the Products of India at the India Museum in London. As such he was responsible for identifying and cataloguing Indian products for the Secretary of State for India. “Forbes Watson’s great skill was as an organiser and cataloguer of information and objects. He re-organised the India Museum’s collections and published on a variety of subjects, including Indian tobacco, tea cultivation, and cotton. He even tried to catalogue the population of India in a photographic series called The Peoples of India (8 vols, 1868-75).” – Harris Museum website.

John Forbes Watson 1827-1892

Although he had worked in India for several years as a physician in the Bombay Medical Service, he did not return to India to collect the samples used in these books. Instead – textile lovers and curators look away now – he cut out sections from fabrics held in the stores of the India Museum and used them to create 20 sets of the 18 volume books. As you can imagine this involved hundreds of samples. The India Museum closed in 1879 and much of its contents were sent to the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A.

It’s important to realise that the fabrics chosen were not intended to fully represent the wide variety of textiles made in the region. Forbes Watson’s focus was on those fabrics which could be useful to British industry, more specifically to show manufacturers what they could copy. According to him “The 700 specimens … show what the people of India affect and deem suitable in the way of textile fabrics, and if the supply of these is to come from Britain, they must be imitated there. What is wanted, and what it is to be copied to meet that want, is thus accessible for study”.

 

Sample no 24 listed as a turban from fine cotton made in Jeypoor in Rajpootana.

 

A design registered by a British manufacturer which is clearly a copy of the sample shown above. ©Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.

The Harris Museum website has a lot of fascinating background to these volumes and has now made all 700 textile samples in these books available to explore digitally for the first time. It is possible to just browse through each volume, or you can search under different categories. The title of the volumes is actually misleading as it only mentions India but they do contain some textiles from further afield such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Nepal. I highly recommend taking a look.

A few days after discovering that website 2 different friends shared an article about these volumes from an Indian perspective. Written by Kaamya Sharma for The Hindu, we learn how copies of these books were sent to many British manufacturing locations and “As a result, cheap, mass-produced, British replicas of these samples inundated the Indian market within a decade. These were print imitations of intricate weaves whose technique had been developed and perfected by Indian weavers over several centuries. The cheaper prices of British textiles had a predictably devastating impact on Indian handlooms.” Forbes Watson was clearly a great admirer of Indian textiles and his books of samples are invaluable to textile historians, but we also need to acknowledge the devastating impact their publication had on the very textiles he so admired.

 

Moving to another area of Asia, I found this video by the Tracing Patterns Foundation on banana fibre cloths from Mindanao fascinating. This time the speaker is Craig Diamond, who has a passion for these T’nalak cloths woven by the Tboli people. The technique used is warp ikat and the colours are obtained using natural dyes. Craig explained that black is seen as the background, red as an embellishment, and white as the primary pattern. This was most helpful and something not every presenter would have thought of. The cloths have several uses, both for ceremonies and as a form of currency. I was amazed to learn that some are 35 feet in length!

With my interest piqued I started to look for more information on this textile tradition and found this article on the Narra Studio website provided a lot of background on how textiles are seen as a form of storytelling.

We hope OATG members enjoyed the special Lockdown Newsletter with a variety of interesting articles which was sent out last month. Please don’t forget to email our editor Gavin Strachan by the end of August if you have ideas for the next newsletter. These are being produced in addition to our usual Asian Textiles journal in recognition of the fact that we are currently not able to provide our usual programme of events. Don’t forget that all 76 back issues of our journals are available to search through and view online for members, with the first 62 also being available to non-members.

Newsflash!

Another exciting treat will also soon be arriving in your inboxes. Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono have produced an excellent video for us on Minangkabau Looms and Textiles. This will be in a password-protected area of our website and all members will receive the password in the coming days.

 

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A veritable cornucopia of worldwide textile events!

Later next month a new exhibition entitled Unbound: Visionary Women Collecting Textiles opens at Two Temple Place in London. This exhibition “celebrates seven pioneering women who saw beyond the purely functional, to reveal the extraordinary artistic, social and cultural importance of textiles.” Two Temple Place website. 

This is a very collaborative project, curated by June Hill and Lotte Crawford and involving no less than seven museums and art galleries from different areas of the country. It’s interesting that they are looking at the role of women as collectors, not as makers of textiles.

Embroidered japangi or cloak from Albania

The female collectors discussed include Edith Durham, who first visited the Balkans in 1900. As well as documenting the craft traditions of the area she also became involved with local politics, helping in hospitals and with refugees and campaigning. This blog about her recalls how she came into conflict with the Foreign office who marked her card thus: Durham, Miss M.E.: Inadvisability of corresponding with……

Louisa at the Khyber Pass

Louisa Pesel was the first President of the Embroiderers Guild and in addition to her own stunning designs for Winchester Cathedral she collected textiles from many places including Morocco, Turkestan, Syria and China. Many of these were donated to the University of Leeds. An excellent source of information about her is this blog by Colin Neville.

The other collectors the exhibition features are Olive Matthews, Enid Marx, Muriel Rose, Jennifer Harris and Nima Poovaya-Smith.

“The exhibition looks at how these collections continue to influence us today and asks why textiles still have to fight for their place amongst the more established visual arts” – a question which I often ask myself too.

In many ways the focus of this exhibition reminds me of one held at the Pitt Rivers Museum earlier this year called Intrepid Women. See my earlier blog on this subject.

Details
25 January – 19 April 2020
Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD
Admission free

 

 

Also opening late next month at The Met Fifth Avenue is Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara which focusses on the area today encompassed by Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but some textiles are also included. Click here for more details.

Details
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York

 

The next talk in the programme of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society is by Zara Fleming on the subject of Bhutanese Textiles: Ritualistic and Everyday textiles of Bhutan. Zara will explain how textiles are woven into everyday life and are used as clothing, currency and gifts. They are also used to signify status and are a vital component of Bhutanese festivals, dances and Buddhist rituals.

Details
22 January 2020 at 19:00
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W1K 1D8

For further details go to the ORTS website

 

Ngatu (decorated bark cloth) with spitfire plane motif c1940s. © Kitmin Lee

Koloa: Women, Art, and Technology is an exhibition which opened recently in Hong Kong. It is presented by Para Site in conjunction with Tunakaimanu Fielakepa who is the “foremost knowledge-holder of ‘koloa‘ or customary women’s arts in Tonga”. This exhibition was previously on show in Tonga earlier in 2019. It “features a rich array of Tongan art practices, focused upon the main categories constituting koloa: ngatu or bark cloth making and fine weaving such as ta’ovala garments and ceremonial mats, as well as kafa or woven rope. The presentation includes prized, heirloom pieces as well as newly produced examples specially commissioned for the exhibition.” Para Site website. Additional works by three women artists – Tanya Edwards, Nikau Hindin and Vaimaila Urale – are also included to showcase aesthetic lineages in the Pacific.

A mixed design Tongan kupesi which was made before the 1930s. Courtesy of Lady Tunakaimanu Fielakepa

Details
7 December 2019 – 23 February 2020.
G/F & 22/F, Wing Wah Ind. Building, 677 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong.

 

Three-layered lined kimono

There are only a couple of weeks left to see the exhibition in Heidelberg called Good Wishes in Silk: Children’s Kimono from the Nakano Collection. Kazuko Nakano has compiled a collection of almost a thousand objects that provide insights into the colourful and symbolic art of kimono design from the Edo period (1603-1868) to the present day.

A selection of around 80 children’s kimonos is now presented in Germany for the first time. Some of these examples are rather sophisticated and are clearly intended to be worn on special occasions, while others are more simple everyday wear. “They are genuine works of art, with a great variety of decorative motifs, and can be perceived as a kind of embroidered wish list with which the parents equip their children for their future lives.”

Details
27 October 2019 – 12 January 2020
Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg, Hauptstrasse 97, 69117 Heidelberg

 

Kaparamip with red cotton fabric border © Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection at The Minneapolis Institute of Art

The January programme from the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMASC) is a talk by Thomas Murray – a well-respected researcher, collector, dealer and author of several books, the latest being Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection.

This talk, entitled Traditional Textiles of Japan, will explore Japan’s rich tradition of textiles, from firemen’s ceremonial robes and austere rural workwear to colourful, delicately-patterned cotton kimono. “The traditional clothing and fabrics featured in this lecture were made and used in the islands of the Japanese archipelago between the late 18th and the mid-20th century. The Thomas Murray collection includes daily dress, workwear, and festival garb and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement, which saw that modernisation would leave behind traditional art forms such as the handmade textiles used by country people, farmers, and fishermen. The talk will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics, often indigo-dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu, along with garments of the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fibre, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin to the north, and the brilliantly coloured cotton kimono of Okinawa to the far south.” – Thomas Murray.

Details
Saturday 25 January 2020 10:00am
Luther Hall, St Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd., Los Angeles

For further information and to reserve a place please email info@tmasc.org

 

 

A very engaging review of Murray’s book appeared in the Nov-Dec 2019 issue of Arts of Asia, along with several stunning illustrations. This gave a huge amount of background into how the book came into being and really conveyed a sense of the passion for Japanese culture behind it. Those who don’t have access to Arts of Asia should take a look at The fabrics that reveal the ‘other’ Japan written for BBC Future by Andrea Marechal Watson. The images contained in her article should certainly whet your appetite to take a further look at the book from which they are drawn. For further information about the Ainu see my blog from January 2019.

 

Outer kimono for a young woman (uchikake), 1800 – 30, probably Kyoto, Japan. © Image Courtesy of the Joshibi University of Art and Design Art Museum, 2204-36

I don’t usually blog about events far in advance, but the exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk at the V&A in London which opens in February is sure to be very popular – in fact the members’ preview day has already sold out. It is being curated by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, who also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book.

Details
Opens 29 February 2020
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London

 

Parr (1893–1969); cotton or polyester cotton blend; screen printed. © Dorset Fine Arts

The current exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxanne Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth.

Kate Taylor has written an interesting article on this exhibition for The Globe and Mail. In it she explains that as “the Canadian government forced a people living on the land into permanent settlements, the Inuit began to need cash. The art projects…… were initially introduced by government agents. The idea was that the skills used to carve stone, incise bone and sew clothing could be adapted to produce handicrafts for southern markets. But carving and printmaking were just two possibilities: This show offers a wide selection of rarely seen textiles, startlingly modernist and highly colourful designs created in the 1950s and 60s.”

A full colour catalogue will be available in 2020.

Details
7 December 2019 – 30 August 2020
Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 2H5.

 

John Ang will give a talk on The Influence of Foreign Fashion Trends on Malay Dress to the Textile Enthusiasts Group, which is linked to the Friends of the Museums (Singapore). He will discuss the origins and hybrid nature of Malay clothing. John stresses that “Malay dress is not static but always changing. Rather than seeing particular forms of clothing as Malay dress, he will demonstrate that what really constitutes Malay dress is the manner in which it amalgamated and adapted different fashion styles”.

Details
9 January 2020 at 10:00am
Activity Room, Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore

Contact the Textile Enthusiasts Group for further details and to register.

 

Kain panjang with Broken Dagger motif. © Go Tik Swan

Saint Louis Art Museum has a new exhibition, curated by Philip Hu, showcasing a selection of batik textiles from the island of Java dating from the mid-19th to the late 20th century. They include They include pieces “made for royal and aristocratic clientele, ceremonial use, and everyday fabrics worn by men and women.”

The video below gives you some idea of just how much painstaking work is required to complete a piece of batik.

 

Batik of Java: A Centuries Old Tradition; Courtesy of Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture

Details
13 December 2019 – 7 June 2020
Gallery 100, Saint Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri
Admission free

 

Detail of a Qarajeh rug. © Tschebull Antique Carpets.

Next month Raoul “Mike” Tschebull will give a talk at the Hajji Baba Club, New York, on his new book Qarajeh to Quba: Rugs and Flatweaves from East Azarbayjan and the Transcaucasus. “Qarajeh…… is a small, isolated community at the end of a gravel road in eastern Azarbayjan, in northwest Iran. Although some limited weaving still goes on there, this famous weaving village is best known for its striking 19th century kennereh on wool foundations and its beautifully coloured cotton-foundation export rugs and carpets which were woven beginning in about 1900.” Tschebull Antique Carpets website.

Front cover of the book.

The book is published by Hali and showcases 70 pile carpets and flatweaves from his own collection, the majority of which have never previously been published. The images are by the leading textile photographer Don Tuttle.

Details
Tuesday 21 January 2020
The Coffee House Club, Sixth Floor, 20 West 44th St, Manhattan, NY

Contact the Hajji Baba Club for further details.

Imperial dragon insignia roundel with a five-clawed dragon. © David Rosier

A reminder that a series of Arts Society study days will take place at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from January to March. These are open to the public as well as members of the Arts Society and are likely to be very popular, hence the advance notice. Subjects include The Visual Art of Power and Rank at the Chinese Imperial Court (David Rosier) and Japanese History, Art and Culture (Suzanne Perrin). Click here for full details.

Finally I hope to see many of you at the Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM on Saturday 18 January at the Ashmolean Museum Education Centre. As usual the official business will be followed by the ever-popular Show and Tell session. Full details will be sent out to members via Eventbrite in January but in the meantime please make a note of the date!

 

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Events: Upcoming textile events

Several new talks and exhibitions coming soon….

Portrait of John Frederick Lewis. The cloth he is wearing features in the exhibition along with this portrait.

A new exhibition Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced western art opened yesterday at the British Museum. It has been organised in conjunction with  the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, with the whole exhibition moving there in June 2020.

“The show takes a deeper look at the art movement of ‘Orientalism’ – specifically the way in which North Africa and the Middle East were represented as lands of beauty and intrigue, especially in European and North American art. Often blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, Orientalist art reached its heyday in the mid-1800s, as Europeans and North Americans were looking overseas to fundamentally learn more about other cultures, but its popularity had faded by the 1940s with the decline of the British Empire.” British Museum website.

Julia Tugwell, co-curator Middle East, has written an excellent blog on the subject here.

Location: Room 35, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG. 10 October 2019 – 26 January 2020.

 

Dr Fiona Kerlogue will give a lecture to the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) in London on 16 October on the subject of Malay Gold Thread Embroidery from Jambi on Sumatra. Focussing on a collection at the Horniman Museum in London Dr Kerlogue will “explore the historical evidence for the influence of trade connections and the colonial presence on the materials and style of gold thread embroidery in Malay Sumatra, and explain the contexts in which the embroidered pieces were used.” ORTS website.

Location: St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL 18:00

 

Andrea Aranow will be lecturing on Japanese Textiles in Philadelphia on 20 October. She will be looking at how patterned kimono cloth is produced from a variety of fibres including cotton silk and bast fibres. With over 200 examples from her collection available to view this should be a very enlightening session. Full details can be found here.

Location: Rikumo, 1216 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 14:00-15:30

On Saturday 26 October Dr Elena Phipps will give a presentation to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) entitled Sacred Surfaces: Carpets, Coverings and Mesas in the Colonial Andes. 

“Textiles formed the surfaces of Colonial life in the Andes, and especially those associated with ritual and faith relating to the sacred realms of Christian as well as indigenous religious contexts. Carpets—woven of knotted pile or flatwoven tapestry– were not in themselves a form used in the region prior to the Spanish arrival. But these were introduced very early on in the 16th century by the Spanish who brought with them examples produced and influenced by Hispano-mooresque and Middle Eastern traditions. Andean weavers adapted to the form and techniques of their production, creating remarkable examples that manifest the complex interchange of the period.” TMA/SC Newsletter

Location: Luther Hall, Lower Level St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd. Los Angeles. 26 October 09:30 refreshments, 10:00 programme. Open to all with no reservations required.

Back in the UK Stefano Ionescu will deliver the annual May Beattie lecture at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford on 30 October. The title of the lecture is Anatolian Rugs in Transylvanian Churches: In the Footsteps of May Hamilton Beattie, and it is co-sponsored by Hali.

Location: Headley Lecture Theatre, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH 17;00-18:00 followed by a reception. Please note – this talk is free but booking by 23 October is essential.

An exciting new exhibition has opened recently at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Entitled East Jazz it presents “more than 30 unique Central Asian robes and fabrics from the collection of Alexander Klyachin and more than two dozen canvases of post-war abstract painting, collected by Swiss collector Jean Claude Gandyur. Having expanded and supplemented the exposition with works from the collections of the Pushkin Museum to them. A.S. Pushkin and the Paris Pompidou Center – Museum of Modern Art – Center for Industrial Design, exhibition curators will talk about the interaction of eastern and western cultures.”

Location: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Ulitsa Volkhonka, 12, Moscow, Russia, 119019. 01 October – 15 November 2019

Looking ahead, next year the V&A will have a major exhibition on Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk tickets for which have now gone on sale. “This exhibition will present the kimono as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion, revealing the sartorial, aesthetic and social significance of the garment from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world.” (V&A website). Full details can be found here.

Location: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Opens 29 February 2020.

 

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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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Event: Kimonos for Foreigners – issues of cross-cultural appropriation and appreciation of the kimonos made for the western market

 

Event date: Tuesday 2 October 2018, 16:15 – 18:00.

In the late nineteenth century, whilst Japanese goods were becoming more prevalent throughout Europe and America, kimonos, considered as “the heart of Japanese culture,” were, too, widely available to shoppers in the West. “Kimonos for Foreigners” were kimonos designed specifically for the western wearer to enjoy as a tea gown, dressing gown, or as a costume for the theatre performance or fancy balls. This talk by Allie Yamaguchi will trace the ways in which these export kimonos were very different in design and shape from the original kimono while introducing some of the surviving “Kimonos for Foreigners.”

The talk will be preceded by a viewing of related material from the Ashmolean Museum collection selected by the OATG chairman Aimée Payton and the curator for Japanese Art at the Ashmolean, Oxford, Dr Clare Pollard.

Location: Ashmolean Museum Jameel Centre Study Room 1 (viewing) & Education Centre (Talk)

Click here for more details and how to book.

Event: The Importance of Gifts – Burmese Art and the Vessantara Story

 

Event date: 12 June 2018 13:00-14:00, Oxford UK

Stories of the Buddha’s many lives have long been essential in Burmese art, and occupying pride of place is the tale of Vessantara’s generosity. This talk by Dr Alexandra Green of the British Museum explores these narrative representations and the role they play more broadly in Burmese religious rituals.  This talk is linked to the current exhibition on The Tale of Prince Vessantara, showing in Gallery 29 until September 2018

For further information visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum

Event: Gender Twists in the Weaving, Embroidery and Structure of Shidong Miao Festival Costume – Talk by Iain Stephens

Event date: Saturday 14 October 2017, 2:15–4pm

Talk by Iain Stephens followed by a show and tell session – you are welcome to bring your own Shidong Miao pieces!

This talk will explore the seemingly endless creativity of the Shidong Miao employed on festival jackets. It will share insights into the sexuality of weaving and embroidery as well as essential pattern hierarchies.

Iain Stephens is a currently a master upholsterer, and previously a lecturer of biochemistry and English and tutor of Biblical Hebrew. Iain is an avid collector of Xhosa beadwork, Chinese ethnic minority costume and Taiwanese budaixi puppets. He presently lives on a narrowboat in Oxford.

Before the talk, a viewing at the Eastern Art Study room will display Miao textiles from the Ashmolean collection.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Center Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and the Education Centre (for the presentation)

Time: 2.15–3pm (viewing) and 3.10pm (presentation)

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.