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.
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”.
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.
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).
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!
Further afield theTextile Museum of Canadaopens 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.
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.
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.
For subscribers who usually read this blog in their email, may I suggest that instead you access it on our WordPress site by clicking on the blue title. This should ensure you don’t have any problems watching the videos and reading the PDF documents in this blog.
Subscribers can look forward to the next edition of our Asian Textiles Journal landing on their doorsteps in the near future. This issue includes a substantial article by Nick Fielding on the Reverend Dr Henry Lansdell, one of the great Victorian collectors who collected thousands of objects from Central and Northern Asia as well as India and America. The article contains several photographs of textiles held in the reserve collection of the British Museum, located by our Chair, Helen Wolfe. Other features focus on Double warp weaving in Poland (Fiona Kerlogue), Ottoman saddles and saddle cloths, a Chinese child’s tiger hat (Felicity Wood), the OATG tapestry weaving clinic (Jen Gurd) and our Show and Tell from January.
Members can access pdf versions of all past issues by using the password on the back page of the Journal. Non-members can access issues from 1995 to 2017 by clicking here This is a really great resource with articles by many leading scholars and academics.
Several museums that have been unable to open physically have produced virtual tours of their exhibitions. I blogged about this exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada last December, but thought it was worth repeating as a video has now been added. It is entitledPrinted 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.”
The British Museum has a new series of blogs in the style of historical travel guides. I really enjoyed this guide to 19th century Edo (Tokyo) by Alfred Haft, JTI Project Curator for Japanese Collections. He discusses the best time to visit, how to get there, getting around (sedan chairs can be rented), things to see and do, where to stay and even what to eat. Visitors are reminded that they must bow to every samurai they encounter – they are easily recognised by the two swords that they wear. The blog has lots of excellent woodblocks and paintings so do take a look.
The Textile Research Centre in Leiden reopened on 2 June, obviously subject to some Covid restrictions. Their current exhibition is on the subject of American Quilts and several are featured in this article on the Selvedge website, including one with a rather heartbreaking back story.
‘Safety First Veil, a Flu Preventive’, WWD, October 23rd, 1918.
While checking the details on the TRC website this blog by Loren G. Mealey caught my eye. In it she looks at the different types of face coverings that were used during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. I was amazed to hear that people poked holes in their masks so that they could smoke – hopefully the fabric was flame-retardant! One of the punishments for breaking the masking rules was to have your name printed in the newspaper…..
On Sunday 14 June the British-Uzbek Society will host a Zoom talk by Marinika Babanazarova, the former curator of the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, Qaraqalpaqstan, which many OATG members will be familiar with through the work of Sheila Paine and David and Sue Richardson. This museum is full of fantastic avant-garde paintings, as well as a remarkable collection of textiles and jewellery. This 55 minute talk will take place at 15:00 GMT and costs £5. For more information click here or email Rosa at this address. The number of places are limited so don’t delay!
OATG member Chris Buckley has put together another fascinating short video, filmed and edited by Sandra Sardjono. This one focusses on a blue and white Kerek batik from East Java. Chris looks at the similarities of the technique and materials used with those of mainland Southeast Asia, in particular Chinese blue and white ceramics with marine designs as a possible source of design inspiration. He also examines indigo paste resist in China and the wax resist techniques used by the Hmong in Vietnam.
The Indonesian Heritage Society have supported “Meet the Makers” for many years. This event usually takes place near Jakarta and brings artisans from all over the archipelago together. Keen to continue to spread the word about these artists the Society have put together a set of 10 talks on a variety of subjects. Each webinar will be available for a donation of 5 USD, which can be paid using PayPal. These donations will be used to directly support the craftspeople. The full list of talks and further information is given in the PDF above.
The first talk takes place on 18 June and features Joanna Barrkman, Senior Curator of Southeast Asian and Pacific Arts at the Fowler Museum and Yovita Meta, Director of Tafean Pah – a non-profit organisation which serves 150 weavers in 10 villages. See the PDF above for full details.
Finally, OATG members David and Sue Richardson have added another section to their Asian Textile Studies website. This examines the textiles of the Klon people of the island of Alor in eastern Indonesia, giving information on their history, language, culture and of course their textiles. There are some wonderful images of Klon beadwork as you can see from the image above.
The next OATG event – A visit to the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition at the V&A and talk by the curator Anna Jackson – was supposed to take place next week and has obviously had to be cancelled due to the current situation.
However all is not lost! The V&A have produced a series of 5 short films through which Anna guides viewers through the exhibition. Each episode is beautifully filmed and the pace is just right. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about these fascinating textiles and their history. As the V&A point out kimono are sometimes “perceived as traditional, timeless and unchanging” but this exhibition “counters this conception, presenting the garment as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion.” I highly recommend watching these films in the correct order to gain a better understanding of this evolution.
The Japan Society in New York was due to hold an exhibition entitled Boro Textiles: Sustainable Aesthetics this Spring, the main focus of which was over 50 pieces from the collection of the late Chuzaboro Tanaka. These pieces were previously shown at the Amuse Museum in Tokyo and more background can be found here.
Once again they have turned to the medium of film to ensure that the results of all of the hard work that went into putting this exhibition together can be shared widely. A 5 part video tour narrated by Yukie Kamiya and Assistant Curator Tiffany Lambert guides us through the exhibition. I loved the way the pieces were hung and the section in the first video explaining how and why this method was chosen.
Finally, moving away from Japanese textiles, OATG member Dr Chris Buckley has been busy putting together a series of short films focussing on looms and textiles. Many of you will be aware that Chris is an expert on loom technology. The first of this series looks at a particular Indian saree and the loom technology with which it was produced. We look forward to seeing the rest of the series….
Hope you enjoy watching these and may your isolation keep you safe.
Last month’s AGM heralded big changes for the OATG. Our chair Aimée Payton stood down and Helen Wolfe from the British Museum was elected to the position. Also standing down after many years of service was our webmaster Pamela Cross. Pamela developed the original OATG website from scratch and was responsible for the huge task of ensuring all of the back copies of Asian Textiles were available on it. Over the past few months she has been working with Aimée and Felicitas from our Events team to develop a new website, which was unveiled at the meeting. Please do click here to have a look at it. As you can see our Events page is starting to fill up with a great selection of exhibitions and talks. In fact our first event – a Show and Tell of Manuscript Textiles and an Introduction to the Buddhism exhibition at the British Library – is already fully booked!
Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger
Just opened 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 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.
30 January – 10 May 2020
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
If you plan your visit judiciously you could also attend the first of a new Turkish Centennial lecture series on 7 February. The subject will be Impressions of Ottoman Visual Culture and Art in Europe, 1453-1699. The speaker is Professor Nurhan Atasoy from the Turkish Cultural Foundation. According to the Met website her talk will explore “the rich cross-cultural exchanges between the Ottomans and their European neighbours. Discover the factors that led to the flowering of vibrant and sophisticated artistic production throughout the vast Ottoman Empire in the centuries following the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, and learn how Europe became hungry for visual and artistic representations of their eastern neighbours.” Professor Atasoy has written and contributed to over 100 books on Ottoman and Islamic art.
7 February 2020, 17:00 – 18:00
Bonnie J. Sacerdote Lecture Hall, Uris Center for Education
The Met Fifth Avenue, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York
Coming soon to the Turner Contemporary in Margate is an exhibition entitled We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South. It has been curated by Hannah Collins and Paul Goodwin and “is the first exhibition of its kind in the UK and reveals a little-known history shaped by the Civil Rights period in the 1950s and 60s. It will bring together sculptural assemblages, paintings and quilts by more than 20 African American artists from Alabama and surrounding states.” – Turner Contemporary website.
Writing for artnet news, Caroline Elbaor elaborates further “A series of quilts sourced from the isolated Alabama enclave of Boykin will also make their UK debut, following a critically lauded presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002. Boykin, formerly known as Gee’s Bend, is largely populated by descendents (sic) of people enslaved on the Pettway plantation. The distinctive quilts, typically patched together from a variety of materials, including blue jeans or cornmeal sacks, have taken on a hallowed significance as symbols of resistance and survival.”
Mark Brown’s articlefor The Guardian on these distinctive quilts is also well worth a read.
7 February – 3 May 2020
Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate, Kent, CT9 1HG
There will also be a preview on Thursday 6 February when the exhibition will be opened by Bonnie Greer MBE
On 11 February OATG member Chris Buckley will be giving a talk to the Hajji Baba Club of New York on Tibetan Rugs: Ancient Problems, Innovative Solutions. Chris will explain how Tibetan rug making traditions evolved as well as examining some unique knotting methods. Having run a carpet weaving workshop in Lhasa for several years he is extremely knowledgeable on this subject. He will give the same talk to members of the International Hajji Baba Society in Washington on 9 February – see below.
9 February 2020
International Hajji Baba Society
Basement of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 4900 Connecticut Avenue, NW
The next event in the programme of the Oriental Rug and Textile Society is a talk by Markus Voigt, HALI contributing editor, on the subject of Carpets from the Tarim Basin and Tibet: and possible connections thereof. “At a casual glance Tibetan rugs might be mistaken for those from Xinjiang / Uyguristan (Eastern Turkistan). The talk will examine how two neighbouring but very disparate cultures came to have commercial crossover in rugs prior to Chinese conquest of Tibet.” – ORTS website.
19 February 2020 at 19:00
The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London, W1K 1D8
Mantle border, Peru, Nazca culture, early Intermediate Period (2nd–8th century). Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-0093. Photo by Bruce M. White.
This month sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC called Delight in Discovery: The Global Collections of Lloyd Cotsen. Over 4000 pieces from the Cotsen Collection were donated to the Textile Museum in 2018 and this new exhibition brings together some of the global treasures he collected over a lifetime. You can read more about Lloyd Cotsen and his collecting in this blog from last year.
22 February – 5 July 2020
The Textile Museum, 701 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052
Over in San Francisco Itie van Hout will be giving a talk on the Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum. Itie was the former Curator of Textiles at the Tropenmuseum, which houses nearly 12,000 textiles from across Indonesia, collected over a period of 160 years. The majority of these were taken to the Netherlands when Indonesia was a Dutch colony known as the Netherlands East Indies. She has written extensively on Indonesian textiles. For further details visit the website of the Textile Arts Council.
22 February 2020, 10:00am
Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA 94118
Indonesian textiles are also the subject of another exhibition which has recently undergone a complete change in Bangkok. A Royal Treasure: The Javanese Batik Collection of King Chulalongkorn of Siam opened in November 2018. However this month all of the textiles are being replaced with different examples from the substantial Royal collection. This will also happen again in September, giving visitors the opportunity to see a far greater selection of these batik textiles. “Among the highlights of the latest acquisitions are a few pieces that have never been displayed before, namely, the Mikado pattern from Yogyakarta which reflects the Japanese influence in the various Japanese fans portrayed through the batik printing technique, as well as the blangkon headdress painted with gold known as batik prada, assumed to come from Cirebon, West Java. It was used only on special occasions by male members of the royal family. Only one piece has been found in the entire royal collection.” Sawasdee magazine. For more images and information please click here.
1 November 2018 – 31 May 2021
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, Ratsadakhorn-bhibhathana Building, The Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200 Thailand
The National Museum has recently opened a small textile gallery and is jJust a short distance away from the Grand Palace so you could easily combine a visit to the two collections. Michael Backman has written a short blog about this gallery with some close-ups of a few of the textiles. He says that “Included are pha lai yang textiles – printed cotton fabrics that show thep phanom deity figures, worn as a lower garment by members of the royal family. There is a shawl known as a pha sphak that is of silk woven with gold thread and embellished with fluorescent beetle wings.”
The National Museum Bangkok, Na Phrthat Rd., Phra Borommaharachawang subdistrict, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok
Back in the UK a temporary textile exhibition has been curated at the Milton Keynes Museum. Called A Sense of Place and Time, this is an exhibition of textile art set within the history of textiles. Ethnic textiles are on show alongside contemporary examples by Art2Stitch. There will be a changing section on communication through textiles featuring examples from other cultures.
23 November 2019 – 26 April 2020
The New Gallery, Milton Keynes Museum, McConnell Drive, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5EL
Please note this museum is staffed by volunteers and has limited opening times.
Many members have been looking forward to the V&A’s new blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk which finally opens in London on 29 February. It is being curated by Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian Department, who also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book (see my December blog). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she says her aim in this exhibition is to “overturn the idea of the kimono as static, atrophied object and show it as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion”. She also discusses the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the exhibition.
In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna Jackson talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly.
The exhibition will be in three sections. “It begins by unpicking the social significance and heritage of the kimono in 17th century Japan, moving to consider the kimono and its position across a more international agenda, finishing with the progressive transformation of its comtemporary (sic) identity.” Scarlett Baker, LOVE magazine.
29 February – 21 June 2020
Gallery 39 and North Court, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
The OATG have planned a visit to this exhibition, which will include a talk by Anna Jackson, for 26 May. Booking for the limited number of places available will open for members in mid-April via Eventbrite.
While at the V&A you should also take a look at the posters in this small exhibition entitled Manners and Modernity: Ukiyo-e and etiquette on the Seibu Railway. These posters convey how to be a well-behaved commuter through humorous messages.
They will be on display in Room 45 of the Toshiba Gallery until 22 March 2020.
Conserving Pumpie the elephant
Those who cannot get to the V&A will be interested to know that a new 6 part documentary filmed behind the scenes begins next week on BBC 2. The series is called Secrets of the Museum and looks at the work of the curators and conservators as they handle a wide variety of different objects, ranging from Queen Victoria’s coronet to a stuffed toy elephant! Henry Wong has written a fascinating piece about this series for design week, including an interview with Alastair Pegg (the director of programmes at Blast! Films) who concludes that “It reveals what’s behind the closed doors — there’s an industriousness that visitors don’t see. That’s the pleasure of this series.”
Secrets of the Museum
6 February BBC 2 at 2100
Finally, I was fascinated to read of this work by a team from Leeds Museums and Galleries and researchers from various disciplines to recreate the voice of an Egyptian priest called Nesyamun who lived around 1100 BC. The mummified remains of Nesyamun were scanned at the Leeds General Infirmary and a 3D model of his throat was reproduced using a 3D printer. A full and very interesting account of the project is given here in layman’s terms, but if you want to read the scientific paper then click here.
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.
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!
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 onmokodrumshere.
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.
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.”
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 book “Textiles 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.
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.
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.
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