Exhibition: Joli! A Fancy Masquerade from Sierra Leone

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Exhibition dates: 11 December 2016 – 16 July 2017

This exhibition features a rare group of eleven headdresses worn in Joli masquerades held in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in the 1970s. Joli headdresses are among the most unusual, complex and elaborate masquerade configurations we know from sub-Saharan Africa, and they reflect the blending of cultural influences and peoples in the dynamic port city of Freetown. The headdresses in this exhibition were performed to mark the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan. Crafted by Joli Society members, each headdress started with an elaborate armature made of bent and twisted wire, which was padded with polyurethane foam and then covered with textiles, brocades, velvets, netting, Christmas tinsel, fringe, lace and mirrors to create a ‘fancy’ superstructure in a recognisable shape, such as a mosque, an elephant, a biplane or the water spirit Mami Wata. Lastly, a painted wooden face mask or several face masks were attached to the structure, which was worn on top of the head of the fully dressed performer. The exhibition explains the history of Joli and the various threads of influence that led to this fantastic urban masquerade popular for only a brief period in the 1970s.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

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Exhibition: The Spun Universe – Wixárika (Huichol) Yarn Paintings

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Exhibition dates: 14 August – 4 December 2016

The Wixárika people, commonly referred to as the Huichol, traditionally reside in Western Mexico. Since the 1960s, Wixárika artists have garnered international acclaim for their paintings (nierakate) composed of colourful yarn attached to wooden boards with beeswax. Inspired by mythology and shamanic visions associated with the use of the hallucinogenic ‘divine cactus’, peyote (Lophophora williamsii), the paintings are thickly populated with images of sacred animals, humanoid ancestral figures, holy plants and important ritual objects.

Highlighted in this exhibition at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, are early works by Ramón Medina Silva, a Wixárika artist who played a major role in the global popularization of nierakate. A master at translat­ing belief and ritual into stunningly arranged strands of spun fibre, Silva’s yarn paintings pulse with vivid depictions of the Wixárika cosmos.

For more information, please visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

Exhibition: The Box Project – Uncommon Threads

box-project-uncommon-threadsExhibition dates: 11 September 2016 – 15 January 2017

This dazzling exhibition, currently on display in Los Angeles, features commissions by three dozen acclaimed international artists including Richard Tuttle, Cynthia Schira, Helena Hernmarck, James Bassler, Gyöngy Laky, Gerhardt Knodel, Sherri Smith, N. Dash, Lewis Knauss, Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Kiyomi Iwata, Nancy Koenigsberg and John Garrett. It showcases these skilled artists’ ingenious use – and often expansive definitions –  of fibre, while exploring the collector/artist relationship.

The commissioned works come from the Lloyd Cotsen Collection.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

Exhibitions: Art of the Austronesians – The Legacy of Indo-Pacific Voyaging

Exhibition dates: 24 April – 28 August 2016

Art of the Austronesians, on show at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, explores the history and development of the arts and cultures of the Austronesian-speaking peoples – from their prehistoric origins in what is now Taiwan to their successive seafaring migrations over millennia throughout the Philippines, Indonesia, the Pacific and beyond. The first major exhibition in the United States to examine the visual arts of the entire Austronesian world comparatively in a single project, it features a number of important pieces from the Fowler’s collection. Additional works borrowed from private California-based collections, many on view to the public for the first time, contribute to the remarkable breadth of the installation.

Most of the featured artworks date from the last two hundred years and therefore reflect a variety of accumulated influences. Visitors may, nevertheless, trace their development through time as the Austronesian world expanded, and discern among them repeated themes suggesting a common heritage. With nearly 200 works on view, the exhibition offers visitors a rare glimpse into the cultures of the descendants of these voyaging peoples through their visual arts.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

Textile Tidbits: Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia

Textile Tidbit - Weavers' Stories from Island Southeast Asia

This Textile Tidbit comes from OATG member and web manager, Pamela Cross.

A while ago, I was pointed in the direction of a series of eight fascinating videos on the website of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. The second interview with a weaver from Timor Leste was particularly recommended to me and I thoroughly agreed. It is very moving with great filming and English subtitles, and gives a real connection to the meaning of a textile. The film on Ndona, Flores is also excellent. It shows the tying of ikat, the dyeing and weaving … and so much more. I found the films to be quite compulsive!

The press release on the exhibition (curated by Roy Hamilton, the Fowler Museum’s curator of Asian and Pacific collections) to which the videos relate, says:

‘In Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, weavers and batik artists speak for themselves in videos produced at eight sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and East Timor. What motivates women to create new patterns? How do they adjust to changing social and economic situations?

‘A panoply of human emotions and experiences – determination, longing, dream inspiration, theft, war and more – emerge from the stories of these remarkable women. In one video, for example, a weaver in Tutuala, at the far eastern tip of Timor, describes how she designed a cloth pattern by copying the skin of a snake. She recounts that this “snake cloth”, now served by the snake spirit, became an object of such power that when one was stolen during a militia rampage in 1999, the snake destroyed all the coconut trees in Baucau in revenge. Another weaver tells of learning weaving patterns from her deceased mother, an expert weaver, when her mother visits her in dreams.

‘These seven- to ten-minute oral histories include interesting footage of daily life with extended families and the interplay of generations, detailed looks at weaving and dyeing techniques, and unique celebrations, such as a wedding in a sultan’s palace. Textiles created by the featured weavers and batik makers accompany each video.’

Particularly interesting is the fact that the last video is all about Lang Dulay, a famous weaver from Mindanao in the Philippines, who died earlier this year. You can read more about her in a thread on Pamela’s forum, Tribal Textiles.