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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News: Focus on mud dyeing

Event date: 15 June 2019 at 14:00.

 

Following on from yesterday’s blog we now have the details of the second dyeing talk and demonstration.

“Amami Oshima is an island in the Ryūkyū archipelago, southern Japan. It is renowned for Oshima tsumugi, a kimono cloth dyed by dorozome (mud-dyeing), an ancient technique that gives a unique black colour to textiles. The dyeing workshop KANAI KOUGEI specializes in dorozome for Oshima tsumugi. Alongside their own products dyed using plant materials sourced from Amami’s unique natural environment, KANAI KOUGEI also dye fashion and interior objects for international contemporary designers. This is a rare opportunity to see the process of Dorozome by Japanese practitioners using actual materials from Amami Oshima in the UK.

This talk and workshop are initiated by designer and anthropologist Charlotte Linton, University of Oxford, who has invited Yukihito Kanai (vice-president/dyer) and Akiyo Shidama (maker/dyer) from KANAI KOUGEI to present with her a lecture about Amamian traditional textiles.

Following the talk, there will be a tour of the Dye Garden with Wesley Shaw, the Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum.

Workshop
In addition, a small number of participants will be able to dye a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) using dorozome materials brought from Amami. Due to limited materials and supervision, the workshop numbers are necessarily small. Lecture attendees are welcome to stay and watch the workshop.

Please note that this event is only suitable for children over 16.”

This event at the Horniman Museum in London is free and open to the public, but booking is necessary. For further details of the event visit the website of the Japan Society and follow this link to book. Please note spaces are very limited so early booking is essential!

 

A selection of mud-dyed textiles. Photo by Kentaro Takahashi for The New York Times

An excellent article by Martin Fackler on the economic issues facing the kimono producers of Amami Oshima appeared in The New York Times in 2015. He describes how 20,000 people were once employed in this profession, but that number has now shrank to 500. His article ends with the following words from Yukihito Kanai – one of the presenters of the Horniman event:  

“We need to become more like artisans in Europe or artists in New York,” said the younger Mr. Kanai, 35, who said he is one of the few “young successors” in the island’s kimono industry. “Even traditions have to evolve.”

The production of a kimono on the island of Amami Oshima is so meticulous that a single mistake could squander the efforts of every artisan in the process. The BBC series Handmade in Japan tracked the year-long transformation of the island’s famous mud-dyed silk into an exquisite garment. Although the full-length programmes are no longer available online, short video clips still are. These cover the various people involved in making a kimono – the starcher, the designer, the binder, the mud-dyer, the weaver, the inspector and the tailor. They can be viewed on the BBC website under the title Mud, Sweat and Fears.

For more information on mud dyeing (more correctly mud-mordanting as it is the tannin which produces the dye) see the work of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on their Asian Textile Studies website. David and Sue have also documented the process of mud-dyeing used by the last practitioner of this craft on the Indonesian island of Sumba and will be adding this to their website in the near future. In the meantime here are a few photos to whet your appetite!

 

 

 

 

 

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Events :- Textile events in the UK and USA

There are a wide range of textile-related events happening over the next couple of weeks; here are just a few of them.

 

Photo: TMA/SC

At 10:00am on 1 June Shiv Sikri will give a presentation entitled Hidden in Plain Sight: Irregularities and Variations in Oriental Rug Designs to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. Their invitation state that ” Irregularities and variations in oriental rugs have been ‘explained away’ in an ad hoc, case by case basis here in the west, far from the places they were woven and without any explanations from those that wove them. These explanations include notions of individual variations, mistakes, or indeed change of weavers. However, many such irregularities can be seen to be quite specific and articulate. This raises the possibility, one that should be given appropriate weight, that these are traditional practices and may signify something more than individual improvisations. By comparing many examples, we hope to persuade old timers and new enthusiasts to look at oriental weaving traditions anew, one that is coherent over several millennia and across a broad geography, and one that consciously incorporates specific variations.”

Location:

St. Bede’s Episcopal Church

3590 Grand View Blvd. Los Angeles

As their website is currently undergoing renovation you will need to visit their Facebook page for further details.

 

A silk screen featuring Su embroidery

The Bowers Museum at Santa Ana is the location for what should be a fascinating talk on Haute Couture Techniques and Fashion Embroidery with Maxwell Barr. Topics covered will include Haute Couture construction techniques, Goldwork hand embroidery embellishment – particularly the history and art of Su embroidery – and the work of Royal Court embroiderers up to the present. Su embroidery comes from Suzhou in Jiansu province and is one of the four main types of Chinese embroidery. Very fine silk threads are used, with the strands being split several times to make the threads even thinner. Read more about the history and development of this embroidery here.

Maxwell Barr

Maxwell is an authority on period costume and this article gives an insight into his painstaking on recreating some of them.

Location: Bowers Museum, 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706

To book this event please click here.

 

A beautifully produced video with English subtitles showing the mud-dyeing process.

Please note that for reasons I have yet to understand the video may not work if you are reading the email version of this blog. However if you click the blue title link and read the blog online, it will then work.

Finally in Oxford Charlotte Linton will be running a mud dyeing event at Wolfson College on Thursday 13th June. Specialists from the Kanai Kougei dyeing workshop on the island of Amami Oshima will be involved in a presentation on traditional Amami textiles. There will also be an opportunity for a small number of people to participate in a workshop to dye a furoshiki wrapping cloth using mud dyeing materials and a technique known as dorozome. Although the number able to participate will be necessarily restricted, tall lecture attendees are welcome to watch the process.

Please note that this particular event is ONLY OPEN to members of Oxford University. For more information contact the organiser charlotte.linton@anthro.ox.ac.uk

Although this event is restricted to members of the University, there will be a second event a few days later at the Horniman Museum in London which will be open to the public. This will be on Saturday 15th June, but no details are yet available – I will post more as soon as the information becomes available.

 

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