Focus on Savu

 

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Savu is an island in eastern Indonesia which OATG members David and Sue Richardson have returned to many times since their first visit in 1991. It’s not hard to understand why, when you see the beautiful scenery and of course the wonderful textiles created by the skilled weavers there.

Savu dancers in 1991. © David Richardson.

But this isn’t the only OATG link to Savu. In 2004/5 the Horniman Museum held an exhibition about the culture of Savu entitled Woven Blossoms, organised by OATG member Fiona Kerlogue (who was at that time their curator of Asian Collections) in conjunction with French anthropologist Geneviève Duggan. Several members of the Savunese community accompanied Geneviève to London to take part in a series of events and workshops built around this exhibition. Ten years later David and Sue were able to take some of Fiona’s photos back to Savu, where the exhibition participants were delighted to show them to their friends and family.

Sue Richardson and Geneviève Duggan giving photos from the Horniman exhibition to the local community. Looking over Geneviève’s shoulder is Ina Koro, a very experienced weaver who demonstrated her skills in London.

 

Being welcomed by members of the community

The community that Geneviève works most closely with is in the Mesara district and has 28 active weavers. In Savu society women belong to one of two origin groups (moieties) – the Greater Blossom and the Lesser Blossom. Each of these groups has particular textile motifs associated with it.

The diamond-shaped wo kelaku motif is typical of the hubi ae moiety

The serpent-shaped èi ledo motif is typical of the hubi iki moiety

This is a piring (plate) motif on an ei worapi sarong. This type of sarong can be worn by members of either moiety

As is common in this area of Indonesia the two dyes most frequently used are indigo and morinda.

A locally produced dyepot. For more background on these see My favourite: dye pot in Asian Textiles no. 70, 2018.

After binding the threads to form the pattern, then dyeing them (often several times) the threads need to be untied before they can be put on the loom.

Removing the bindings

Here, as in much of southeast Asia, the textiles are woven on a backstrap loom. Sometimes handspun cotton is used, and sometimes machine spun.

One of the most positive developments in this village is that young girls are also learning to produce textiles. In so many communities weaving seems to be the preserve of the older generation and it is so heartening to see these traditions carried on. The young weaver pictured below was 12 years old at the time the photo was taken. She did the binding and weaving for the indigo sash that she is wearing.

A young Savunese weaver

The island is extremely dry and the local people have to rely on the juice of the lontar palm for sustenance. The fresh juice is very thirst-quenching, but they can also distill this into a very powerful drink! The lontar palm is also the source of the delicious palm sugar and of course the leaves are used in making the roofs for the traditional houses, making baskets, and so much more.

Climbing a lontar palm tree to collect the juice. The basket hanging from the man’s belt is also made from lontar palm.

However lontar palm is not enough, especially as over the last few years Savu has sadly undergone several periods of serious drought. This year has been especially difficult with the added problems of Covid 19 and Asian Swine Flu. To raise funds for the weavers Geneviève will be speaking about the ikats of Savu on a webinar this Thursday. Joining her will be Ice Tede Dara, a teacher and the secretary of the local weaving group.

Ice Tede Dara, photographed in her village with a beautiful sarong

Just to whet your appetite here is a short video of just some of the gorgeous textiles woven on Savu! The textiles with the fringes are men’s blankets known locally as hi’i.

 

Geneviève has spent several decades studying Savu and has published a great deal on this subject. She spends months there each year, staying in the village and is fluent in Savunese. I highly recommend setting some time aside on Thursday to watch this webinar by a real expert in this area!

 

 

 

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Events: Upcoming textile events

Several new talks and exhibitions coming soon….

Portrait of John Frederick Lewis. The cloth he is wearing features in the exhibition along with this portrait.

A new exhibition Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced western art opened yesterday at the British Museum. It has been organised in conjunction with  the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, with the whole exhibition moving there in June 2020.

“The show takes a deeper look at the art movement of ‘Orientalism’ – specifically the way in which North Africa and the Middle East were represented as lands of beauty and intrigue, especially in European and North American art. Often blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, Orientalist art reached its heyday in the mid-1800s, as Europeans and North Americans were looking overseas to fundamentally learn more about other cultures, but its popularity had faded by the 1940s with the decline of the British Empire.” British Museum website.

Julia Tugwell, co-curator Middle East, has written an excellent blog on the subject here.

Location: Room 35, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG. 10 October 2019 – 26 January 2020.

 

Dr Fiona Kerlogue will give a lecture to the Oriental Rug and Textile Society (ORTS) in London on 16 October on the subject of Malay Gold Thread Embroidery from Jambi on Sumatra. Focussing on a collection at the Horniman Museum in London Dr Kerlogue will “explore the historical evidence for the influence of trade connections and the colonial presence on the materials and style of gold thread embroidery in Malay Sumatra, and explain the contexts in which the embroidered pieces were used.” ORTS website.

Location: St James Piccadilly Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL 18:00

 

Andrea Aranow will be lecturing on Japanese Textiles in Philadelphia on 20 October. She will be looking at how patterned kimono cloth is produced from a variety of fibres including cotton silk and bast fibres. With over 200 examples from her collection available to view this should be a very enlightening session. Full details can be found here.

Location: Rikumo, 1216 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 14:00-15:30

On Saturday 26 October Dr Elena Phipps will give a presentation to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) entitled Sacred Surfaces: Carpets, Coverings and Mesas in the Colonial Andes. 

“Textiles formed the surfaces of Colonial life in the Andes, and especially those associated with ritual and faith relating to the sacred realms of Christian as well as indigenous religious contexts. Carpets—woven of knotted pile or flatwoven tapestry– were not in themselves a form used in the region prior to the Spanish arrival. But these were introduced very early on in the 16th century by the Spanish who brought with them examples produced and influenced by Hispano-mooresque and Middle Eastern traditions. Andean weavers adapted to the form and techniques of their production, creating remarkable examples that manifest the complex interchange of the period.” TMA/SC Newsletter

Location: Luther Hall, Lower Level St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd. Los Angeles. 26 October 09:30 refreshments, 10:00 programme. Open to all with no reservations required.

Back in the UK Stefano Ionescu will deliver the annual May Beattie lecture at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford on 30 October. The title of the lecture is Anatolian Rugs in Transylvanian Churches: In the Footsteps of May Hamilton Beattie, and it is co-sponsored by Hali.

Location: Headley Lecture Theatre, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH 17;00-18:00 followed by a reception. Please note – this talk is free but booking by 23 October is essential.

An exciting new exhibition has opened recently at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Entitled East Jazz it presents “more than 30 unique Central Asian robes and fabrics from the collection of Alexander Klyachin and more than two dozen canvases of post-war abstract painting, collected by Swiss collector Jean Claude Gandyur. Having expanded and supplemented the exposition with works from the collections of the Pushkin Museum to them. A.S. Pushkin and the Paris Pompidou Center – Museum of Modern Art – Center for Industrial Design, exhibition curators will talk about the interaction of eastern and western cultures.”

Location: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Ulitsa Volkhonka, 12, Moscow, Russia, 119019. 01 October – 15 November 2019

Looking ahead, next year the V&A will have a major exhibition on Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk tickets for which have now gone on sale. “This exhibition will present the kimono as a dynamic and constantly evolving icon of fashion, revealing the sartorial, aesthetic and social significance of the garment from the 1660s to the present day, both in Japan and the rest of the world.” (V&A website). Full details can be found here.

Location: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL. Opens 29 February 2020.

 

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