A selection of upcoming textile events

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A new exhibition opened a couple of weeks ago at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. Entitled Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities it shows batik as a shared southeast Asian cultural heritage. It features over 100 textiles from overseas as well as from local lenders and of course the ACM collection.

This article from The Straits Times is well worth reading for background to the exhibition.

Cotton batik tulis sarong bukitan of daisies with racing green kepala and badan in salmon pink with latticework isen isen filling.
Java, Pekalongan, 1930s – 1960s © ACM

The London-based Muslin Trust works to protect, preserve and promote Bangladeshi heritage fabrics. One of the most important among these is jamdani, which was used to make saris and stoles. It is so light that it has been described as woven from air. For several years they have been involved in a project called Bringing Jamdani to England. Part of this involved interviewing women who arrived in England in the 1960s and 1970s. “Their sense of self and belonging were expressed through the ritual of wearing a Jamdani sari; to reconnect with the culture they left behind”.

The V&A collection includes a jamdani stole, which was purchased at the Great Exhibition of 1851. This stole has never before been on display. This short video features extracts from the BBC2 series Secrets of the Museum, focussing on this stole. We learn about the history of the jamdani trade, and watch as 171 years of dirt are removed from this precious weaving before it is finally revealed to a group of Bangladeshi ladies from the Muslin Trust.

In complete contrast the new exhibition at the V&A showcases Africa Fashion.

Kente cloth from Ghana, made 1900-1949. These cloths were traditionally woven by men using a small double-heddle handloom.

“Starting with the African independence and liberation years from the mid-late 1950s – 1994 that sparked a radical political and social reordering across the continent, the African Cultural Renaissance section looks at the long period of unbounded creativity……The Politics and Poetics of Cloth considers the importance of cloth in many African countries, and how the making and wearing of indigenous cloths in the moment of independence became a strategic political act…..The first generation of African designers to gain attention throughout the continent and globally can be seen in the Vanguard section.” – Museum website.

Nelson Mandela commemorative cloth made in 1991.

The exhibition is now open and runs until April 2023.

The next OATG event will take place on Saturday 16 July, when Yulduz Gaybullaeva will discuss Uzbek headdresses as an integral part of heritage. Dr Gaybullaeva’s thesis was on The history of Uzbek women’s clothes of 19th-20th centuries, and her presentation will include skullcaps, shawls and paranjas from museum collections in Uzbekistan.

This is an online event and as it will begin at 15:30 BST we hope that many of our international members will be able to join us. It is free for OATG members and there is a small fee for non-members. Click here for more information and to register.

 Uzbek bash orau headdresses. ©Yulduz Gaybullaeva

Also taking place on Saturday 16 June is a talk by Alberto Boralevi as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning series. The subject he will be addressing is What is a Jewish Carpet?

“Alberto Boralevi began his research on rugs and carpets with Jewish features or Hebrew inscriptions in the 1980s, when they were mostly overlooked both by carpet scholars and specialists in Jewish art. There are several difficulties for considering Jewish carpets as a specific group, since fundamental differences in origin, age, design and technique can be found among them. Boralevi defines Jewish carpets as any carpet or rug with a Jewish design, Hebrew inscriptions or any other feature that could prove that it was woven by Jews or commissioned by a Jew or for a Jewish purpose.” Museum website.

Mamluk Torah curtain (parokhet), Egypt, c. 1500-1550. Museo della Padova Ebraica, Padua.

This online talk will begin at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST and you can find out more about it and register here.

Exhibition: Art of the Zo – Textiles from Myanmar, India and Bangladesh

Philadelphia Museum of Art - Art of the Zo

Exhibition dates: 11 November 2015 – 20 March 2016

For readers based in the US, there’s still nearly a month left to see this stunning-looking show in Philadelphia.

This exhibition offers a look at beautiful woven textiles of the Zo people of Myanmar, India and Bangladesh. It focuses on traditional weavings worn for daily life and ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, funerals and feasts of merit. The Zo consider weaving to be the highest form of art. They believe their textiles confer status to the weaver and document his or her status in this life and the afterlife. ‘Art of the Zo’ presents how these woven treasures are made and worn, and features twentieth-century examples from specific locality and cultural divisions.

A talented Zo weaver is prized by her community for her skills. Using the most basic of looms, she can create textiles that range from unpatterned indigo-dyed cloth and simple, colourful stripes to complex weaves that could be mistaken for embroidery. Although most Zo have adopted Burmese and Western attire, some embrace traditional weaving techniques in an effort to preserve their culture. This exhibition draws from the Philadelphia Museum’s collection of Zo textiles and loans from Barbara and David Fraser, authors of Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh (2005).

In addition to tunics, wrap skirts, mantles, loincloths, capes and blankets, the exhibition includes a loom with a partially woven cloth next to a finished example from the museum’s collection. A video presentation, photographic details of selected works, and graphics of specific weave structures further demonstrate the virtuosic skill of Zo weavers.

For more information, visit the website of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA.