Savu, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, female pioneers and more…..

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Last month many members (and non-members) enjoyed a talk by Geneviève Duggan about weaving on the Indonesian island of Savu. Dr Duggan showed how women are the keepers of history in the form of oral genealogies, and how this information can help us to date their textiles.

© Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

She looked at historical written reports – starting with those of Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks in 1770 – in comparison to oral tradition. She also explained the binary structure of society on Savu and how men and women complement each other in their roles. She focused on the structure of the maternal line, and how weavers are able to exercise power via the gift of the textiles they produce. This was all accompanied by an excellent slide presentation.

Illustration of a chief’s house on Savu by Sydney Parkinson, who travelled there with James Cook in 1770

Dr Duggan ended her talk with a presentation on the need for a Weavers House, and explained how she was raising funds for this. Sadly in the last week Cyclone Seroja devastated large parts of eastern Indonesia, including the island of Savu and the weaving village with which Geneviève mainly works. Many houses were severely damaged and in some cases totally destroyed. The local government is hoping to get electricity working again in the village in August – yes that’s right – in August! This short video shows the current situation. It was very jerky so I have slowed it down to make it more watchable.

Their immediate needs are a generator, a couple of chainsaws, 1000 sheets of corrugated roofing and nails to secure them. If you would like to help with this please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

A recording of Dr Duggan’s talk is now available for members on the OATG website. Just scroll down to that talk and click on the link, then use the current password. This password can be found in the recent edition of Asian Textiles. If any member needs a reminder of it please contact one of the committee.

Recordings of all talks are now being added to the website so that members can view them at their leisure. This is yet another good reason to join the OATG. It doesn’t even matter if you are in a different time zone, you can still get to enjoy the lectures. In addition members receive our excellent journal Asian Studies three times per year.

Woman’s costume from Hama, Syria. © Iwatate Folk Textile Museum

A new exhibition has opened at the Iwatate Folk Textile Museum in Tokyo, entitled Textiles from Syria and its Neighboring Countries. Click through the images to see several lovely textiles from this area. This exhibition closes on 10 July 2021.

The current issue of Textiles Asia. © Bonnie Corwin

Those with a particular interest in the textiles of Syria should read the article Reflections on Late Ottoman Robes from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection by Sandra S Williams in the current issue of Textiles Asia. The woman’s coat which graces the front cover dates to the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and was gifted to the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles by the Reisbords. Textiles Asia is published and edited by OATG member Bonnie Corwin. This particular issue also has a lengthy article on Uyghur Feltmaking in Xinjiang by Christine Martens.

I’m really looking forward to an online talk next Wednesday, 21 April, hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is “There Were No Women”: The Pitt Rivers Museum and Britain’s first female anthropologists. The speaker, Frances Larson, is the author of a new book entitled Undreamed Shores – The hidden heroines of British anthropology. This is essentially a “group portrait of five anthropologists all linked by Oxford University’s diploma in anthropology, and by the Pitt Rivers Museum, in the years before, during and after the First World War.” – Boyd Tonkin. The women discussed in this book, and their areas of research, are Beatrice Blackwood (New Guinea), Katherine Routledge (Easter Island), Maria Czaplicka (Siberia), Barbara Freire-Marreco (New Mexico and Arizona) and Winifred Blackman (Egypt). An excellent review of Larson’s book by Boyd Tonkin appeared on The Arts Desk website last month and really inspired me to order it immediately. The talk takes place at 17:00 BST and you can register for it here.

Maria Czaplicka © Pitt Rivers Museum

For those interested in learning more about Maria Czaplicka and her work in Siberia I recommend this article and podcast from the Women in Oxford’s History series. “The First World War has often been presented as a period of stagnation in anthropology. However, for Maria it was a time of opportunity – she was made lecturer in ethnology for three years between 1916 and 1919, becoming the first appointed female lecturer in Oxford.” – Jaanika Vider.

Summer kimono for a woman, 1680-1705. Image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

Don’t forget the next OATG talk takes place on Thursday 22 April when Anna Jackson of the V&A will give a presentation about their recent kimono exhibition. Click here to register.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. © Ola Seif

Seif El Rashidi, Director of the Barakat Trust, recently gave a talk on the subject From Craft To Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local and Global Changes. He is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (AUC Press, 2018). This conversation with Dr Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) and Dr Heba Mostafa (University of Toronto) explored “the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling centre.” The good news is that if you missed this talk, which took place at the end of March, the  Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative have now made a full recording of it available here

Bou Oumlil, 2015

That event was part of their Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series. The next event in the series is entitled Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco and will take place on Saturday 24 April at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 BST. French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou will be in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This conversation will be co-hosted by the series organizer, Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic World, Royal Ontario Museum. Sara and Mariam will cover a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.

Arctic batik exhibition, Egyptian appliqué and Palestinian embroidery.

A new exhibition opens later this week in Berne, Switzerland. The Museum Cerny will be showing a collection of batiks, created in the 1970s by Inuit artists from Nunavik in the far north of Quebec, Canada. I was really surprised to hear of this use of a textile tradition, that I associate with Asia and Africa, by indigenous artists in Canada.

©Museum Cerny

Apparently in 1973 the artist Chinkok Tan, who was born in Malaysia, held workshops at Great Whale River and introduced local artists to this technique. The pieces created then show real confidence, but sadly the production of more batik pieces never took off due to a lack of materials. The exhibition will run until 26 September 2021. An interesting article by the museum co-director Martin Schultz, with more images of these striking batiks, can be found here.

Caribou, 1973, Annie Mikpigak. ©Museum Cerny

The Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto have just opened the registration for another event in their series Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. © Ola Seif

Seif El Rashidi, Director of the Barakat Trust, will speak on the subject From Craft To Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local and Global Changes. He is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (AUC Press, 2018). This conversation with Dr Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) and Dr Heba Mostafa (University of Toronto) “explores the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling centre.” – website. This free event takes place on Saturday 27 March at 11:00 EST, which is 15:00 in the UK. Full details and registration here.

Recordings of previous conversations in this series are available here. I particularly enjoyed the one by Omar Nasser-Khoury on Embroidery from Palestine. Omar is one of the co-authors of Seventeen Embroidery Techniques from Palestine.

Please note:- This event is part of an eight-part monthly series entitled “Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future,” an initiative of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative (IAMCC), Toronto, Canada. For more information on the series and the IAMCC, please visit their website. This event will be held via Zoom. If you have any questions or want to be added to the IAMCC mailing list please email Dr Fahmida Suleman of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Books: Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia – The Fabric of Life

 

Books on textiles or carpets are often organised by geographical region and therefore styles, types of dyes or knots. Fahmida Suleman, curator for the Modern Middle East at the British Museum, has upended that tradition to show the links between the objects and their purpose.

“I’m looking at the social history, how these textiles relate to a person and their everyday life,” she said in an interview. “It’s not just what you wear but what surrounds you. It includes amulets you carry with you, prayer rugs and contemporary works of art that people use to convey a message about the politics of their time.”

Suleman’s new book, “The Fabric of Life: Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia,” is therefore organised by themes: childhood; marriage and ceremony; status and identity; religion and belief; house and homestead; politics and conflict.

The book, published by Thames & Hudson in collaboration with the British Museum, has lavish photographs of more than 200 pieces. These are among 3,000 held by the museum.

To read the full review visit the website of The Arab Weekly

The book is available from The British Museum website here

Event: OATG Visit to ‘Life and Sole – Footwear from the Islamic World’ at the British Museum

British Museum - Life and Sole, Footwear from the Islamic World (talks)

Event date: 27 April 2016, 1:30–2:30pm

Last chance to reserve a place! There are still 10 spaces left for this OATG event next week.

Join the OATG for a privileged tour of this wonderful exhibition of around 25 pairs of shoes, slippers, sandals, clogs and boots from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia, shown together for the first time, with curator Fahmida Suleman and conservator Barbara Wills.

Meet at the British Museum at 1.20pm inside the entrance of the John Addis Gallery of the Islamic World (Room 34). Tour to begin at 1.30pm.

OATG members free, non-members £3. Coat check available at the museum for £1.50 per item. The exhibition is free and continues until 15 May 2016.

Please RVSP to the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com) so that they have an idea of numbers attending in advance.

Event: Visit to ‘Life and Sole – Footwear from the Islamic World’ at the British Museum, with Curator Fahmida Suleman and Conservator Barbara Wills

British Museum - Life and Sole, Footwear from the Islamic World

Men’s leather shoes embroidered with gold thread. Pakistan, 1900–1930s. As1987,06.2.a-b. Copyright British Museum.

Event date: Wednesday 27 April 2016, 1.30–2.30pm

Join us for a privileged tour of this wonderful exhibition of around 25 pairs of shoes, slippers, sandals, clogs and boots from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia, that are being shown together for the first time.

Fahmida Suleman is Phyllis Bishop curator for the Modern Middle East and is responsible for the museum’s outstanding collection of ethnographic objects and textiles from the Middle East and Central Asia. She also has historic links with Oxford having obtained her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Islamic Art and Archaeology from the University of Oxford.

Barbara Wills is Conservator of Organic Artefacts and worked on items displayed in this exhibition. Barbara works on a wide range of organic materials and specialises in the conservation of leather, basketry materials and Ancient Egyptian objects.

Meet at 1.20pm inside the entrance of the John Addis Gallery of the Islamic World (Room 34), British Museum. Tour to begin at 1.30pm. There will be time to visit other exhibits and the café afterwards.

OATG members free, non-members £3. Coat check available at the museum for £1.50 per item. The exhibition is free and continues until 15 May 2016.

Please RVSP to oatg.events@gmail.com so we have an idea of numbers attending in advance.