Event: International Convention of Asia Scholars (and more) in Leiden

This July a series of textile-related events will take place in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars runs from 16-19 July 2019. Participants from over 60 countries, covering a multitude of disciplines, are expected to attend. Registration details for ICAS can be found here. Please note there is a significant discount for early registration and this ends on 15 March 2019.

As part of this Convention the Tracing Patterns Foundation are organising several Textile Panels around the subject Fibre, Loom and technique. Fifteen researchers will present their findings on a variety of subjects. These include our founder Ruth Barnes on Early Weft Ikats found in Sumatran Textiles and OATG member Chris Buckley on The Origin of Chinese Drawlooms. Itie van Hout, whose book on Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum was recently reviewed in Asian Textiles will speak about Twill Weaving in Kalimantan and Sandra Niessen will give a presentation on the Bulang of the Batak people – which Pamela Cross spoke of with such passion at our recent Show and Tell.

Although several of the talks are on Indonesian textiles, other areas covered include the Philippines, Egypt, Laos, China, India and Africa.

From 13-19 July the Textile Research Centre (also in Leiden) is organising a special Asia Week on the theme of East-West connections. This will include an exhibition, workshops and lectures. The exhibition, entitled Out of Asia: 2000 years of fascination with Eastern textiles, aims to show “how economics and trade have played an essential role in the movement and use of textiles” and will present a range of textiles, from Indian block-printed textiles from the thirteenth century to regional Dutch textiles from the early twentieth century.

Back of a woman’s blouse from the Dutch island of Marken, with a panel with a chintz-style decoration with peacocks and buteh, 1937. © Textile Research Centre

The workshops will include Indigo Printing and Dyeing with Georg Stark (read my earlier blog on him here), Analysing Ancient Textile Fragments with Affordable Equipment, and Embroidery from Afghanistan.

Full details of the talks and workshops, along with registration details, can be found here – please note spaces are limited.

Obviously a visit to Leiden would not be complete without spending time in the Museum Volkenkunde, where you are greeted by a huge totem pole as you enter the museum. Its collection is vast and it seeks to convey through universal themes that “despite cultural differences, we are all essentially the same”.

Part of the Indonesia Gallery display at the Museum Volkenkunde

A short train ride (around 40 minutes) will take you to Amsterdam where you can visit the Tropenmuseum.

It’s easy to travel to Leiden from many parts of the UK – just fly to Amsterdam (Schipol) and get the train from there (15 minutes), or take the Eurostar to Amsterdam. See you in Leiden!

 

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Feature: Bronze Drums and their Motifs

© David Richardson

Dong-son drums and the motifs found on them have fascinated several OATG members. Chris Buckley has conducted a phylogenetic analysis of warp-ikat motifs, including a comparison of the geometric figures found on mainland and island Southeast Asia textiles with those found on Dong-son drums. He found little or no overlap. In particular, the hook and rhomb motifs characteristic of Southeast Asian weaving that are often claimed to be Dong-son were not identified on Dong-son bronzes.

For further information on the spurious link to the Dong-son culture see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson here. They show the differences between the sophisticated motifs found on the Heger type-1 Dong-son drums found in Eastern Indonesia and the anthropomorphic figures found in local weavings. They have also written on the anthropomorphic figures found on moko drums here.

Being welcomed to a village on Alor by Mama Agus Fanmalai of Suku Marang. The function of this clan is to connect the people with their ancestors. © David Richardson.

Hourglass-shaped bronze drums called mokos are still in use today on the island of Alor in the Indonesian archipelago for ritual celebrations and as part of the marriage exchange. Ownership of certain types of moko conveys social status. The majority of them probably came from north-east Java. In 1916 the government conducted a registration of the mokos on Alor and at that time they numbered over two thousand. This number is probably conservative as many people would have hidden their mokos to avoid registering them.

They are also occasionally found on sale in the local market. These drums come in a variety of different sizes and were probably brought to Alor by Makassarese and Chinese merchants. In the past they were used as  a medium of exchange – just like a currency.

A moko drum for sale on the bazaar. © David Richardson

Indeed the provincial museum in Kalabahi, the capital of Alor is called the Museum of a Thousand Moko – however we have never counted to see if there really are 1000! This museum also has a fine display of textiles, including some made of barkcloth, and weaving equipment. Their collection of baskets is also strong, and ceramics include a VOC plate.  

Leaflet from the excellent Museum of 1000 Moko

On Wednesday 20 February 2019 at 17:15 Anna Karlström, a researcher in heritage studies at the department of art history/conservation, Uppsala University Campus Gotland, will give a seminar on bronze drums at SOAS, London. Below is the information on this seminar, provided by the SOAS website.

“Bronze drums were produced and used within animist traditions, in a pre-Buddhist era almost three thousand years ago. Dong Son culture, bronze age, early civilisation and sophisticated art production are concepts that most scholars within Southeast Asian archaeology and art history immediately think of when bronze drums enter the academic discussion. The drums have been, and still are, examined primarily as prehistoric artefacts or pieces of art and categorised according to established typologies. Archaeologists and art historians are looking into distribution patterns of the drums through which trade, exchange and cultural contacts can be traced, as well as production methods, techniques and iconography. Little attention has been given the fact that these artefacts constitute a living heritage, and that they are still being produced and used in various ways for different purposes all over Southeast Asia. In some contexts the drums are still parts of animist traditions, in others they have been incorporated into Buddhist traditions and religious practices, linked to cultural heritage politics, identity and nationalism. In this presentation, the transformation of bronze drums as heritage is examined through a case study from Vietnam, but also related to other examples from mainland Southeast Asia.”

This event is free, but registration is required.

Location: SOAS Russell Square: College Buildings Room 4429

 

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Event: Textile events in San Francisco

Event dates: 7-10 February 2019

San Francisco is the place to be for textile lovers this weekend!

First there is the 33rd annual San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show – the biggest and best of its kind in North America. It showcases art from Tribal Africa, Asia, Australia, Oceania and the Americas, so there is sure to be something to appeal to every taste. This takes place at the Fort Mason Center and more information can be found on their website.

During the Show there will be two special exhibitions. The first is devoted to Fiji and is entitled “Fiji – Art and Life in the Pacific“. This will preview several pieces of Fijian art which will feature in a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the autumn. Click here for full details, and images of some of these extraordinary works of art.

Salei Maasai Warriors with Kanga Flags, Tanzania. Copyright Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher

The second special exhibition is from a very different part of the world – Africa. Entitled “African Twilight: Vanishing Rituals & Ceremonies”  this exhibition of the stunning photography of Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher celebrates the artistry, diversity, and creativity of the continent. More information on the exhibit and talks by the photographers can be found here.

On Saturday 9 February at 15:30 Thomas Murray will be giving a lecture and signing copies of his new bookTextiles of Japan“, recently published by Prestel. This richly illustrated book on the Thomas Murray collection is divided into three main sections: Ainu, Mingei and Okinawa. The collection is very strong in Ainu, including examples from Siberia. Garments made from salmon skin, wild banana, elm bark and nettle fibre all feature in this amazing collection. More details here.

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

Also on Saturday 9 February at 10:00 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. This will be held in the de Young museum, Golden Gate Park. Chris will present evidence to support his belief that characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland and not Taiwan. See my earlier blog for more details and a link to a fascinating paper on this subject by Chris Buckley and Eric Boudot.

Fragment (flower carpet), 2nd half of the 17th century. Caucasus, Azerbaijan. © Museum für Islamische Kunst der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. Photograph by Johannes Kramer

Later the same day the de Young museum will also be the venue for another lecture, this time by Anna Beselin, on the subject of “Knots, Art, and History: Shifting Perspectives and Perceptions within the Berlin Carpet Collection”. According to the website of the de Young museum “The carpet collection at the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum of Islamic Art), Berlin, is one of the oldest and most important such collections in Europe. For decades, the unique examples in these holdings were a major attraction for carpet lovers worldwide. But how can we ensure that interest in this art form continues among general audiences as well as the next generation of collectors? The Berlin museum faces this challenge and opportunity to communicate new understandings about individual pieces and offer new approaches to a diverse audience. Aiming to reach a wider public uninitiated to the particular appeal of important carpets, this talk will introduce you to a fascinating variety of individual histories within the collection’s highlights.” Click here for more details.

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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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Exhibition: A World of Looms – Weaving Technology and Textile Arts in China and Beyond

Exhibition dates: 30 May – 15 September 2018, Hangzhou, China

This is the first exhibition in China to present the rich cultural heritage of looms and weaving technologies from around the world. It celebrates the marches of textile innovations in not only China, but also in a broader context of textile traditions over vast geographical areas. The exhibition will be divided into three galleries – China, Eurasia, Americas and Africa – each featuring a representative selection of looms. These range from recently excavated archaeological findings, through to Jacquard looms and multi-shaft looms.

Conference: 31 May 2018

A one-day conference runs concurrently with the exhibition A World of Looms and features many distinguished textile scholars including OATG member Chris Buckley. The presentations are very diverse and cover loom technology from China, Japan, Laos, Indonesia, Iran, Africa, and the Andes. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended.

For more information on both the exhibition and the conference click here

Event: Chris Buckley Talks about Patterns in Silk – The Marvellous Innovations of Tai Weavers

Event date: Tuesday 9 May 2017, 6–8 pm

This talk will discuss the ingenious patterning systems that Tai weavers use, and will show how their influence has been felt from imperial Chinese silk workshops in the east to the development of computing in the west. It will be illustrated with outstanding Tai textiles from China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Chris Buckley was educated at Balliol and Wolfson Colleges in Oxford. He has spent the last two decades living in Asia, and now lives in Oxfordshire. He is the co-author of The Roots of Asian Weaving (Oxbow Books, 2015) with Eric Boudot.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members.

For more information, and to register for your place, visit the Eventbrite page.

Event: Chris Buckley Talks about the Evolution of an Ancient Technology

Chris Buckley - Evolution of an Ancient Technology

Event date: Tuesday 16 February 2016, 4pm

This talk by OATG member, Chris Buckley, will discuss two studies of contemporary East Asian weaving cultures: one is a micro-level study of how weaving culture is transmitted and sustained, the other a macro-level study of technologies and techniques used across the region. The talk will compare the two and show how macro-level patterns arise from micro-level processes, and discuss the wider implications, particularly for how technology evolves in traditional societies.

Much of what we call ‘culture’ is ephemeral. For example, it is unlikely that many of us could recall in detail the conversations we had with colleagues and family a month ago, let alone a year ago. We may have skills that have been hard-won, such as driving a car or playing a musical instrument, but few of us will play any role in passing those skills on to another generation. If we forget something important we pay it no heed, since we can probably find it again in a book, a document or an email.

With these things in mind, it is striking how pre-literate societies, possessing few of the tools that we have to hand, have managed to create and maintain cultural traditions that have lasted millenia. This includes craft traditions, of which weaving is one example. The loom designs and techniques involved with these traditions are amongst the most complex devices created in pre-modern times. How is this feat accomplished?

Chris will look at this question and others using examples from weaving traditions in Asia. Many of these traditions are very old, but are still active today (albeit under threat). In particular he will share new data from two studies, one semi-quantitiative, ‘micro’ study of how weaving traditions are passed between generations, and one ‘macro’ study of weaving technologies (looms) and techniques across the East Asia region. The macro study is probably the largest purpose-built database on material culture in general (and traditional technology in particular) assembled to date. Viewed together, the studies contain important insights into the processes by which cultural traditions are maintained, and the consequences of these processes. This includes phenomena that have been predicted, but never previously observed ‘in the field’.

Please feel free to pass this invitation along to other interested people. The UCL seminar series is open to the public (and free of charge).

This talk will take place in Room 209, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PY.

For more information, visit the website of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London.