Upcoming textile events – exhibitions, online lectures and symposia

 

We have had some very encouraging feedback on the video that Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono made exclusively available for OATG members until 1 October. Our next Lockdown Newsletter is well under way, but our editor Gavin Strachan is always keen for new material for both the Newsletter and the Journal. If you have any ideas for an article or perhaps a short piece about a favourite textile please email him directly.

 

Woman’s hat or ládjogahpir, Sámi, Norway. Wool, horn, cotton and silk, pre-1919. © British Museum

The British Museum has now reopened and their major exhibition entitled Arctic culture and climate will start on 22 October and run until 21 February 2021. This looks fascinating and I’m sure we will hear more of it shortly from our chair Helen Wolfe as she has been closely involved with this exhibition in her position as Textiles Collection Manager. I was interested to learn more about the hat depicted above. Apparently use of these hats declined around 1870 because “missionaries, who interpreted the horn as representing the devil, considered them sinful” (BM website).

The Pitt Rivers Museum has in its collection a portrait dated circa 1873 of a Saami woman wearing one of these hats, which Arthur Evans described as like “Minerva’s helmet, exquisitely graceful”.

Man’s snow-spectacles. Reindeer skin, metal, glass beads, uranium beads. Dolgan, Russia, before 1879. © British Museum

There are several excellent relevant blogs on the British Museum website. My favourite of these was 10 things you need to live in the Arctic  , which has some wonderful images of textiles. Tickets are not yet available, but I will ensure members are informed as soon as they are.

 

Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger

The Met Fifth Avenue has now also reopened, giving visitors a final opportunity to see the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara exhibition which ends on 26 October 2020.  The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but there are also about 30 textiles including some very rare ancient indigo examples that were preserved in the Tellem Caves in Mali (information from Elena Phipps). Do scroll down the page to the images of the exhibition objects where you are able to click on each one to bring up the full details of the item.

The Textile Society of America holds a biennial symposium, which this year was due to take place in Boston. Obviously that could not happen, so a virtual symposium has been organised instead. This is actually a great opportunity for many of our UK members who would not otherwise have been able to attend. Even better, you do not need to be a member of the TSA to register for these events – though obviously if you enjoy them you may well wish to consider joining. The theme of the symposium is Hidden Stories/Human Lives. It takes place from 15-17 October 2020 and registration is now open. Full Symposium registration gives you access to twelve concurrent sessions, keynote and plenary sessions, and film sessions. There are a range of rates, including a heavily discounted one for students, making this extremely good value. Click here for full details of how to register, and here for full details of the programme.

There are 12 concurrent sessions, featuring a range of speakers from across the globe. Topics are very diverse with the textile traditions of the Andes, Mexico, Africa, Japan, India, Cambodia and China among those covered.

 

Dr Sam Bowker with the Syme Panels, photograph by Kylie Esler (2015)

As part of their response to Covid, the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art at the California Lutheran University hosted a series of online lectures. These have now all been made available online. This one by Sam Bowker in particular caught my eye. Sam is an expert on the textile art of ‘khayamiya’, Egyptian appliqués produced by the tentmakers of Cairo. This hour-long presentation “brings together the stories of the tentmakers and their extraordinary tents – from the huge tent pavilions, or suradiq, of the streets of Egypt, to the souvenirs of the First World War and textile artworks celebrated by quilters around the world. It traces the origins and aesthetics of the khayamiya textiles that enlivened the ceremonial tents of the Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties, exploring the ways in which they challenged conventions under new patrons and technologies, inspired the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and continue to preserve a legacy of skilled handcraft in an age of relentless mass production. ” (WRG website). You can access the video through following this link. The list of the full series of lectures can be viewed here.

 

Chinese textile to protect children against “dangerous forces”. © USC Pacific Asia Museum

The USC Pacific Asia Museum will be hosting an online event looking at Protective Textiles in the USC PAM Collection. The curator, Dr Rebecca Hall, will “explore textiles made to help children survive against dangerous forces in China; jackets constructed to keep a fireman safe in Japan; and an undershirt inscribed with symbols to keep its wearer safe in Myanmar. Click here for more details of how to register for this event which takes place on Tuesday 22 September at 20:00 BST.

 

Sample of cloth with Japan-inspired decoration, Europe, mid-20th century. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden. TRC 2010.0493

Finally I would like to suggest another useful resource for members. ClothRoads have a monthly blog of interesting textile events, written by my friend Marilyn Murphy. Sometimes, inevitably, we both list the same exhibition, but often there are differences. In her most recent blog Marilyn includes an online exhibition of Russian quilts and another on Macedonian costume. She also provides links to an online exhibition at the Textile Research Centre in Leiden entitled Out of Asia. I saw this exhibition last year when I attended the ICAS conference and am sure members will enjoy this virtual viewing of it. I recommend signing up to the ClothRoads blog to get their monthly guide (there is an option to subscribe in the top left corner of your browser).

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Event: Pop-Up Palaces – A journey through 1000 years of Egypt’s ceremonial tent-making tradition

 

Event date: Wednesday 14 November 2018, 18:30-20:30

In one of medieval Cairo’s last remaining covered streets is a community of tentmakers whose work has transformed the Egyptian landscape at times of celebration and festivity. For at least a millennium, these craftsmen have created magnificent handstitched cotton pavilions of a thousand colours which have entertained kings and country folk alike, awed enemies, and brought powerful sultans to tears.

Discover the stories of this fascinating craft through the voices of its craftsmen and patrons, past and present. Get to handle some of the treasures of this remarkable textile tradition, and immerse yourself in a little-known treasure-trove of Islamic art.

Seif El Rashidi is a historian of Islamic art who worked in historic Cairo for a decade, where he was first captivated by the tentmakers, and their splendid textile creations. This talk and textile handling session is the result of several years of research into the tent making tradition, leading to his newly published book The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft, (with Sam Bowker). 

For more details and booking click here

Location: Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Rd, London, W14 8LZ

 

Article: Alive with artisans – Cairo’s al-Darb al-Ahmar district – a photo essay

 

 

“Whatever manufactured items there are in the world,” wrote the Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi in 1671, “the poor of Cairo get hold of them, set them out and trade in them.” Nearly 350 years later, this tradition lives on in al-Darb al-Ahmar. This neighbourhood of 100,000 people, south-east of central Cairo, is said to be home to a thousand workshops. The place teems with artisans crafting everything from tents, books, boxes and brass lanterns to glass bowls and silk carpets.

The Street of the Tentmakers captures this commercial spirit. Built in 1650 as an arcade, this covered street is a succession of workrooms whose interiors are lined with decorative textiles. From his cubic cavity in the Ottoman-era wall, a weaver called Hasan says that al-khayyamiya, the craft of tentmaking, goes back to the time of the pharaohs. Some of today’s weavers are descended from the families who would produce the kiswa, the fabric that covered the great stone at Mecca, as well as tents, cloths and saddles for those setting out on pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site.

This article gives an excellent overview of this district of Cairo with its weavers, dyers, bookbinders, carpet makers, glass blowers and lantern makers, explaining how many of the buildings have been restored with the help of the Aga Khan Development Network.

To read the full article visit the website of the Guardian

A free exhibition of photographs entitled The artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar: life and work in historic Cairo is also taking place from 23 March – 24 April at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

For more information visit their website here