A new exhibition opened this week at the Textile Museum in Washington. The subject is Prayer and Transcendenceand it runs until 1 July 2023.
“In the Muslim faith, carpets create physically and spiritually “clean” spaces during the daily ritual of prayer. Drawn from five collections, this exhibition introduces the purpose and iconography of classical prayer rugs from across the Islamic world, as well as design comparisons from the Jewish tradition.” Museum website
The examples on show come from several different collections and date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. A gallery guide can be accessed here, and a two-day colloquium will be held in late March – more details to follow.
A wonderful selection of Ukrainian textiles is on show virtually on the ICOM website. They have brought together pieces from museums in France, Poland, Serbia, Canada and Hungary. The link to the Ukrainian Folklore Society page isn’t working, but you can access it by clicking on the Royal Ontario Museum section, then clicking Next Collection.
The next OATG event takes place this Thursday 23 February 2023, when Dr Alex Green of the British Museum will give a presentation on Honouring the Buddha: Trade textiles and Burmese wall paintings.
The production of art in Burma is primarily related to the generation of merit, and objects made in homage of the Buddha were necessarily objects of beauty. For example, upon entering a temple the viewer is enveloped in a richly textured environment, comprising architectural spaces, sculptures, and mural paintings. The Burmese murals were explicitly produced in order to create a sacred space as beautiful as the heavens that was worthy to commemorate the Buddha and house Buddha images. To do so, artists and donors incorporated the imagery and patterning of luxury textiles into the wall paintings, demonstrating a strong conceptual overlap between these two art forms. This presentation considers the ways in which luxury trade textiles impacted the production of wall paintings in Burma, focussing upon the 17th to 19th centuries.
This event begins at 18:30 GMT and as usual is free for OATG members, with a small fee for non-members. More details and how to register can be found here.
The de Young Museum in San Francisco will host a free online lecture on the subject of Persian Carpets and Women’s Creative Work next Wednesday 1 March at 1700 PT, which is 1am in the UK, so sadly just for the nightowls. In this talk Minoo Moallem will link the history of technology, women’s creative labour, and textile art. This is the link to the talk.
This conversation will address how museum curators and educators have worked closely with local communities to understand the practice of religion in everyday life. This Zoom event begins at 11:00 PT, 14:00 ET, 19:00 GMT. For more details and registration for this free event click here.
The Museum of East Asian Art in Bath is celebrating International Womens’ Day on Wednesday 8 March with a free online talk by Mary Ginsberg, who has curated their current exhibition Revolution, Propaganda, Art: Printmaking in Modern China. The title of her talk is Women in Modern Chinese Prints: Stylish Beauties and Revolutionary Warriors.
“Before the establishment of the PRC, women were much more commonly presented as glamourous, urban beauties. In the 1950s, artists transformed these women into model socialist workers. Until the end of the 1970s, almost all art had political content, and images of women conformed to propaganda requirements. Since the Cultural Revolution, women are shown as individuals, rather than types. This talk will survey Chinese women in 20th century graphics, including advertisements, popular prints and posters.” Museum website
Thursday 9 March sees the opening of an exciting new exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Ikat: A Compelling World of Cloth runs until 29 May 2023 and showcases over one hundred examples of textiles from across the globe using the ikat technique. These include hangings and coats from Uzbekistan, kimono from Japan, ponchos from Bolivia and several textiles from across Indonesia.
Apologies to those who missed these blogs – I have been travelling in India for several weeks and just didn’t have the time to blog. Hopefully I can manage a couple before Christmas!
A new exhibition opened yesterday at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles. Visualizing Devotion: Jain Embroidered Shrine Hangings runs until 26 March 2023 and features devotional textiles from the collection of Ronald and Maxine Linde. These cloths are known as chhoda and tend to be of velvet or sateen, heavily embroidered with religious themes using gold or silver thread.
Textile lovers able to visit Paris in the next few months are in for a real treat!
Tuesday 22 November 2022 sees the opening of the Kimono exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly. This exhibition of nearly 200 kimonos was designed by the V&A in London, and will run until 28 May 2023.
“At the beginning of the Edo era (1603-1868), it became the traditional garment par excellence, worn by all Japanese, regardless of social status or gender. A golden age that saw the extraordinary development of its production and the birh of a fashion culture, thanks to the infatuation of the entertainment world. Celebrities and trendsetters of the time – kabuki actors in particular – became the first Japanese fashion icons.
Although it timidly reached European shores at the end of the 17th century, it was in the 1850s, with the opening of Japan to foreign trade, that the kimono was exported to the West, fascinated by its exotic character. The enthusiasm generated by its shape and fabrics profoundly and radically transformed fashion on the continent a few decades later. ” – museum website
On Wednesday 23 November the Louvre is host to The Splendours of Uzbekistan’s Oases, which runs until 6 March 2023. It has been jointly organised with the Art and Culture Development Foundation of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
“A large selection of these masterworks will leave Uzbekistan for the first time and undergo special conservation treatment for the exhibition, including monumental wall paintings from the Ambassadors’ Hall in Samarkand and its surroundings, the pages of one of the oldest monumental Korans from the early days of Islam from Katta Langar, in Sogdiana, and other treasures in gold from Bactria (Dalverzin Tepe), silver, silk, and fine ceramics. The exhibition also showcases several masterpieces from the famous 16th-century miniature paintings of the School of Bukhara.” – museum website
The same day sees the opening of another exhibition dedicated to Uzbekistan, this time at the Arab World Institute. On the roads of Samarkand: Wonders of silk and gold has also been organised with the help of the same Foundation and will run until 4 June 2023.
“Sumptuous chapan coats and gold-embroidered accessories from the Emir’s court, painted wooden saddles, silver horse harnesses set with turquoises, precious Suzanis embroidered hangings, carpets, silk ikats, jewellery and costumes from the nomadic culture as well as about fifteen orientalist paintiings” will all be on display.
Good news! Some museums are now reopening. Among these is the Östasiatiska Museet in Stockholm.
Their current exhibition, which runs until 15 August 2021, is entitled Boro – The Art of Necessity. On show will be a unique collection of boro objects loaned from the Amuse Museum in Tokyo, as well as newly produced works by Swedish artists. “Ripped, worn, patched and lovingly mended. Boro textiles tell us about the art of surviving on scarce resources in a harsh place. In northern Japan, the winters are cold and the population has historically been poor. Here, among farmers and fishermen, a distinctive female craft was developed in which nothing went to waste.” – museum website.
I like the fact that the textiles have been displayed in such a way that the viewer can see all sides clearly.
Another new exhibition opens in London on Granary Square, King’s Cross on 8 April 2021. This outdoor photography exhibition is called The Silk Road: A Living History . Over 160 images are used to document a journey along this historic trade route undertaken by the photographer in 2019.
“The exhibition’s linear design creates a physical route for the viewer offering them the chance to travel by proxy…… The show aims to celebrate the diversity of cultural expressions found along the Silk Road, highlight examples of how historical practices, rituals and customs live on today, and also reveal some of the connections between what appear at first glance to be very different cultures. It also seeks to engender interest and understanding between distant cultures and challenge perceptions of less well known and understood parts of the world. Photographs from Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, China and elsewhere will feature in the show. Visitors will be able to access additional content including videos and music via QR codes on each panel of the exhibition.” – Christopher Wilton-Steer. The exhibition runs until 16 June 2021.
Registrations are now open for non-members for the OATG’s next exciting talk (£3 donation) which will take place on Thursday 22 April 2021 at 18:30 BST, which should also work out for our many members in the US. The speaker will be Anna Jackson, Keeper of the Asian department at the V&A and curator of their blockbuster exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk. In this talk Anna will take us on a fascinating journey from the sophisticated culture of seventeenth century Kyoto to the contemporary catwalk and reveal some of the stories behind the exhibition.
Anna also wrote the introduction to Thomas Murray’s book Textiles of Japan (see my blog of December 2019). In an interview with Jess Cartner-Morley for The Guardian she said her aim in this exhibition was 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 discussed the history of the kimono, and cultural appropriation. This is well worth a read to whet your appetite for the talk. In another interview for LOVE magazine Anna talks about the difficulty of acquiring some of the pieces, their fragility, and the challenges in displaying them correctly. The exhibition was 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.
This is certain to be a very popular talk so I strongly suggest you register for it as soon as possible via this link. If you are enjoying our programme of talks why not consider becoming a member?
Those with a serious interest in kimono will be delighted to hear of not one, but two more exhibitions dedicated to that topic, both at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts. The first of these is an online exhibition entitled Kimono Couture: The Beauty of Chiso. This exhibition is organised by the Worcester Art Museum in partnership with Chiso, a 465-year-old kimono design and production house based in Kyoto, Japan. I highly recommend spending some time ‘visiting’ this exhibition. It is divided into eleven parts, covering topics such as design, symbolism and decorative techniques. Clicking on each part will bring up much more information and a video.
The second exhibition opened on 6 February 2021 and will end on 2 May 2021. It is entitled The Kimono in Print: 300 Years of Japanese Design and looks at the kimono as a source of design and inspiration through seventy prints. “Print artists from 17th to 20th -century Japan documented ever-evolving trends in fashion, popularized certain styles of dress, and even designed kimonos. The works begin with early prints from the late 17th century, when a more complex and sophisticated attitude towards clothing first appeared, as seen in the lavish prints of the floating world’s celebrity kabuki actors and courtesans. Modern design books and prints from the early 20th century, inspired by or made for kimono, demonstrate how the boundaries between print and textile fashion and design became more fluid.” – museum website. Monika Bincsik of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will give an online talk entitled Kimono Fashion in Kyoto at 18:00 EDT on Thursday 15 April. That works well for our US members, but UK members should note that this starts at 23:00 BST!
An interesting article by Karla Klein Albertson giving the background to these two exhibitions appeared in Antiques and the Arts Weekly. Another very detailed article just looking at the prints appeared in Asian Art newspaper.
In my most recent blog I wrote about an event on 7 April hosted by Selvedge, which has a panel of speakers looking at the subject of African wax prints. They have now added the extraordinary quilt artist Bisa Butler to the list of speakers for that event. Click here for full details and how to book. A reminder that two events linked to the upcoming Chintz exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum take place online on 8th and 9th April – see my previous blog for full details.
Next Thursday, 8 April 2021 the Fowler Museum will host a conversation with artist Meghann O’Brien and textile scholar Elena Phipps about Indigenous knowledge and creative practice. “Meghann O’Brien is a Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw artist whose Chilkat textiles are based on the knowledge and artistic practices of her ancestors. Her projects engage specialized techniques of basketry and weaving, and use mountain goat wool, cedar bark, and other earthly materials to connect to the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. With these materials, she explores issues related to Indigenous fashion and couture, reframing the past and applying it to present-day life. ” – Fowler Museum.
This event takes place at 11:00 PDT , which is 19:00 in the UK. It is free, but you do need to register for it. There is also an interesting article in Mountain Life Media, which gives more background into how Meghann began weaving and the creation of her Sky Blanket. The short video shows how the blanket moves when worn.
On Saturday 10 April Cheri Hunter, the dynamic President of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California, will be the speaker at their next event. Her topic will be the Textiles, Costumes & Pile Trappings of the Eastern Grasslands of Tibet. Cheri’s background is in film editing in Hollywood and she certainly brings that artistic eye to her photography. She has written many articles with photo-spreads for Hali. This illustrated talk “will emphasize both the local and imported textiles, costumes and pile horse trappings in use throughout the Kham and Amdo grasslands, as well as in shaman rituals and horse competitions, where all of the participants, including the horses, are dressed in their finest…… Please note that this program is a cultural travelogue rather than a scholarly program, with an emphasis on the textiles, costumes and horse trappings worn in festivals.” – Cheri Hunter. The talk takes place at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 in the UK. More details and registration here.
The Andean Textile Arts organisation will be hosting a talk on 13 April entitled Renewing Value in Southern Bolivia’s Textiles. The speaker will be Kevin Healy, who will introduce the audience to Antropologos del Surandino (ASUR). “ASUR is a Bolivian cultural foundation that has pioneered efforts to revitalize the Andean textile traditions in southern Bolivia. Since the late 1980s, ASUR has developed community-based programs that provide a way for the region’s rural indigenous weavers to continue creating and producing their beautiful Andean designs. Kevin will discuss how ASUR ’s work has provided a commercial outlet for the weavers in the capital city of Sucre, while also establishing a textile museum visited by multitudes of Bolivian schoolchildren and national and foreign tourists.” – ATA. The talk begins at 19:00 EDT, which is midnight in the UK – one for the night owls!
Next, one for the carpet lovers. On Thursday 15 April the New York-based Hajji Baba Club will host Alberto Boralevi who will talk about Stefano Bardini and the International Carpet Trade at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Bardini was an Italian antiques dealer based in Florence who handled many historical carpets, building up relationships with prominent collectors and museums. Twenty-two such carpets are housed in the Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence. The Bardini archives have a collection of over six thousand original negatives which show most of the objects which passed through his hands. To register for this talk, which takes place at 11:00 EDT (16:00 BST), please contact Elisabeth Parker, Vice-President of the Hajji Baba Club, using this form.
On Saturday 24 April Fred Mushkat, author of Weavings of Nomads in Iran: Warp-faced Bands and Related Textiles, will talk about the Weavings of Nomads in Iran as part of the Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation series. “Warp-faced bands, containers and covers are among the rarest and least studied of all weavings made by nomads in Iran…… In this illustrated talk, collector and researcher Fred Mushkat will provide an introduction to these weavings, focusing on different warp-faced structures, how and why these structures were used, which nomads made them and how to distinguish one nomadic group’s work from another. Mushkat will also explore design repertoire, function and the importance of these textiles to the women who made them. ” – Textile Museum website. The talk takes place at 11:00 EDT which is 16:00 BST and you can register for it here. You may also be interested in a blog I wrote in February on Nomads and their culture in Iran and Kazakhstan, which gave links to several articles and books on this subject.
It was a pleasure to see so many members take part in our recent AGM, and even more so that several of our overseas members were able to present textiles from their collections at the Show and Tell.
February certainly looks like being a busy month with lots of online talks and exhibitions. I’m listing them here in date order, as sadly several of them take place on the same date.
On 20 February there are no less than three online talks that I am aware of! The first of these is hosted by the Textile Museum, with Lawrence Kearney looking at American Coverlets for Rug Lovers. “In this virtual talk, carpet and textile dealer Lawrence Kearney will explore the varied art form of American wool coverlets from 1780 to 1830.
Woollen coverlets from the early 19th century are one of the great American art forms. They are often beautiful, plentiful and affordable. They were made, primarily, by itinerant weavers who travelled throughout New England and the Midwest from c. 1810 through the 1840s. After introducing the four main types of coverlets — over-shot, double-weave, winter-and-summer, and Jacquard-loomed (“figured and fancy”) — Kearney will explore the pleasures these 200-year-old woollen textiles can hold for rug lovers.” Textile Museum website.
Space for this session is limited so you are encouraged to register early.
Next is a Zoom Panel presented by WARP (Weave A Real Peace). This will take place at 1300 EST, which is 1800 in the UK. The panel will consist of Gunjan Jain, who “made a conscious switch from working for fast fashion industries to slow, sustainable fashion and set up Vriksh, a design studio that collaborates with handloom weavers in Odisha and other states in India. Uddipana Goswami …. a feminist peace researcher turned peace entrepreneur who promotes eco-conscious traditional/indigenous crafts from India’s conflict-ravaged Northeast periphery, and Maren Beck, [who with] her husband Joshua founded Above the Fray: Traditional Hill Tribe Art in 2007 in order to document, support, and introduce to the world the incredible traditional textiles arts and cultures of Laos and Vietnam.” Maren and Joshua are the co-authors of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos. This talk is free, but registration is essential!
If rugs are more your thing then the talk hosted by the New England Rug Society might be for you. This also takes place at 1300 EST on 20 February, when Alberto Levi will speak on Rugs of the Golden Triangle. “While in Tibet in the early ’90s, hunting, in his words, “for the next Seljuk animal carpet,” Alberto Levi “stumbled across an entirely different kind of animal.” In time, what seemed to be a casual encounter yielded a distinct group of carpets, which Alberto labels “Tibetan Golden Triangle.” Far from being Tibetan, this elusive family of rugs, most of them fragmentary, appears to originate from a triangular region defined at its extremes by eastern Anatolia, the southern Caucasus, and Northwest Persia. How and why these rugs ended up in Tibet is yet another part of the mystery that Alberto will investigate in his talk. ” NERS Newsletter. NERS members will automatically receive a link. Non-members wishing to attend should email committee member Jean Hoffman to receive theirs.
On Monday 22 February the Fowler Museum will host one of its regular Lunch and Learn sessions. Joanna Barrkman, the Fowler’s Senior Curator of Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts, will explore embroidered Jain temple and shrine hangings that offer insights into the religious beliefs and imagery of the Jain faith. This short talk will take place at 1430 PST which is 2230 GMT. Click here to register for this free event.
Don’t forget that the following day, Saturday 27 February, the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California will host an online talk by Alan Kennedy entitled Kesa: ‘Patchwork’ Buddhist Monks’ Robes in Japan, From Austere to Luxurious. This will take place at 10am Pacific time which is 1800 in the UK. “Kesa is the Japanese word for the traditional patchwork garment worn by Buddhist monks and nuns. These garments are among the earliest documented articles of clothing in Japan, based on inventory records dating to the 8th century. The history of kesa in Japan is of significance for both sacred and secular reasons. They served as a vehicle for both the transmission of Buddhism and of luxury textiles to Japan from the Asian mainland. Kesa that have been preserved in Japan are made of a wide variety of materials, ranging from monochrome bast fibre to sumptuous imported gold brocades. ….. This talk will survey kesa from its earliest history to modern times.” TMA/SC. Registration for this talk is available here.
A new exhibition opened this week at Kent State University Museum, which will run until 19 December 2021. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website.
The Shelburne Museum in Vermont was the first to exhibit quilts as works of art. Most of the pieces in their collection were produced in New England in the nineteenth century. They recently launched a new online exhibition entitled Pattern and Purpose: American Quilts, which features high-quality images of a selection of their quilts, along with detailed background information on each one. There is also an excellent video in which Katie Wood Kirchhoff previews the exhibition and explains more about the history of the collection and about certain specific quilts. The catalogue of quilt patterns produced by the Ladies Art Company certainly made me smile.
The Russian Museum of Ethnography has a new mini-exhibition which will run until 28 February. The subject is Glass Decor in the Traditional Costume of the Peoples of the Baltic and Barents Regions. The exhibition showcases textiles which are adorned using different types of glass decorations and were made in the second half of the eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The quality of the images is very good, and there is a toggle at the top of the page to change the language to English.
The ethnographic collection of the Gapar Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts is highlighted in this article in Voices on Central Asia. In it Mira Djangaraсheva, the ex-director of the museum, Aigul Mambetkazieva, the chief conservator, and Chinara Daniyarova, a conservator, tell the story of the museum and describe some of its exhibits. The collection currently consists of over 18,000 items, including embroidered wall panels, felts, a fantastic pair of embroidered leather riding trousers and much, much more. Do take a look!
OATG member Sarah Fee, Senior Curator, Global Fashion and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum has informed us of the decision to extend the deadline for the IARTS Textiles of India grant until 15 May 2021. This biennial grant of $15,000 CAD “can be used anywhere in the world by anyone in the world toward a project that enhances knowledge about Indian textiles, dress, or costume”. The scope really is very broad, and can include research, fieldwork and creative work. Please click here for full details of how to apply.
Don’t forget the February issue of Asian Textiles will be out later this month. Our next online talk will be on 20 March when Genevieve Duggan will speak on People without history in eastern Indonesia, powerful or powerless? This will focus on the island of Savu, where Genevieve has conducted research over several decades. More details in my next blog!
Dressed with Distinction: Garments from Ottoman Syria features a a rare selection of Syrian textiles from the collection of David and Elizabeth Reisbord, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“The exhibition features examples of Arab and Ottoman attire dating from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries and celebrates the talents of weavers and tailors in urban centres like Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs where a sophisticated range of dyeing, weaving, and decorative techniques earned the region international renown for its textile production. Men and women living in these cities were famous for wearing brightly coloured clothing worked in silk glittering with gold and silver thread. After World War I (and the end of 400 years of Ottoman rule), Syrians privileged Western attire, leading to an eventual decline in handwoven garment production. More recently, unrest and conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean have virtually eradicated any remnants of these textile traditions and skills. Thus, this exhibition documents the heritage of iconic Arab and Ottoman garments and the importance of fashion as a marker of cultural knowledge.” – Fowler Museum Press Release.
This exhibition was curated by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, the Director of the Textile Research centre in Leiden, and includes examples of clothing worn by both urban and nomadic people. The techniques used include ikat, tapestry weave, brocade and embroidery. These clothes reflected status as well as religious adherence.
For more information and some great textile images go to the website of the Fowler Museum.
On Saturday 27 April Dr Vogelsang-Eastwood will be giving a lecture at the Fowler Museum on Syrian Garments. This will be followed by a book signing and reception. This event is free but registration is required.
In another part of the globe the exhibition Love from Damascus: The art of devotion in Islam, currently showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia, will be closing on 30 April 2019.
This exhibition, curated by James Bennett, explores the divine and worldly aspects of devotion expressed in the arts of Islam over one thousand years. The objects on show include richly decorated gold-illuminated manuscripts and paintings, ceramics, silverware and textiles from the Middle East, India and Indonesia. Among the highlights are richly decorated manuscripts, including Al-Qur’an, from the Turkish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery’s own unique copy of Mathnavi by the great medieval Sufi poet.
Kanga by Kawira Mwirichia in support of the LGBT community. Translation: “This world is not strong enough to stand my colours”.
Event date: Saturday 8 December 2018, 11:00 to 12:00
Kangas are printed cotton fabrics worn by women in East Africa since the 18th century. Kangas are characterised by a distinctive three-element design: a decorative border; a central panel with recurring motifs; and an inscription. The designs embrace motifs from a global range of decorative traditions, with inscriptions including traditional Swahili proverbs, political slogans, and public information messages.
In this talk, John Ryle discusses kangas and the online archive Textiles That Talk: an open-access collection of high resolution images and metadata—a live catalogue raisonée of kangas. Textiles that Talk can be explored here. It’s a fascinating archive and well worth a look at the excellent images.
Kanga by Mama Art. Translation: “Obama the choice of God”
John Ryle is Legrand Ramsey Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, New York. He is cofounder of the Rift Valley Institute, a research and public information organisation working in Eastern and Central Africa since 2001, and was Executive Director of the Institute until 2017.
Location: The Fowler Museum at UCLA, 308 Charles E Young Dr N, Los Angeles
‘How to Make the Universe Right’ presents a large selection of rare religious scrolls, ceremonial clothing and ritual objects of the Yao, Tày, Sán Dìu, Cao Lan, Sán Chay, Nùng and other populations of northern Vietnam and southern China. Each group has their own traditions of educating and initiating priests and shamans, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds and between the community and deities, in order to make the universe right through healing, balancing the forces of nature, and communicating with ancestors. The Yao’s practices are most prominently associated with Daoism, a religious and philosophical tradition of Chinese origin, while for the other peoples, Daoist beliefs are combined with aspects of Buddhism, Tantrism and Confucianism.
The works of art in the exhibition, most of which date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provide the material foundation for the regional manifestations of religious practices. Examples in the exhibition include vibrantly coloured and intricately embroidered ritual robes and headdresses worn by priests, and a spectacular set of eighteen scrolls of elaborately painted deities, made for those engaged in the higher levels of initiation. The exhibition also features a display evoking the shrines constructed for ceremonies, a film on contemporary religious practices in the region, and a selection of scrolls highlighting their recent conservation and what this has revealed.
All of the works on view are part of the Barry and Jill Kitnick Collection generously donated by the Kitnicks to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2015.
For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.
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.
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 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.