Exhibition: Fibres of Life – Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago

Exhibition dates: 15 September – 25 November 2017

The University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG), University of Hong Kong, is pleased to announce Fibres of Life: IKAT Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago. With the exhibition and the publication of Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago, UMAG offers a comprehensive overview of the profusion of ikat styles found across the Indonesian archipelago, accompanied by the first detailed reference book on the subject.

Looking at OATG member Peter Ten Hoopen’s Pusaka Collection from a scholarly point of view, it is worth acknowledging how it illustrates the concept of ‘unity in diversity’, which the young state of Indonesia chose as its motto upon independence. Here, the interwovenness of styles from neighbouring island regions matter, as do their marked individuality and idiosyncrasies. Moreover, it allows for the study not just of the people’s finery, but also of their daily attire, which is lamentably absent in most collections.

An ironic illustration of the effect of this collecting method comes from Ili Mandiri on Flores. As its dark red bridewealth sarongs have been prized and venerated by the local population, this is what most sophisticated collections have aimed to obtain. The simple but lovely indigo sarongs for everyday use have been almost entirely ignored by collectors; hence, they nearly always end up worn to shreds and very few survive – rarer now than the precious and respected, hence eagerly collected, bridewealth sarongs.

What knowledge is conserved about ikat textiles and their use in the Indonesian archipelago consists primarily of the records of missionary and scientific fieldwork, predominantly compiled by non-Indonesians. The coverage is thin – many weaving regions are covered by only one or two sources, and several regions have never been studied in any detail. Much traditional knowledge is being lost, especially in the more remote island regions in the Indonesian archipelago, which require concerted effort if any trace of their culture is to survive. UMAG hopes to contribute to the broader project by means of this exhibition and publication, which show ikat culture through a close reading of examples from over fifty weaving regions and a brief introduction to the conditions, beliefs and customs of the various peoples who have created and used them. The Pusaka Collection reveals the stylistic spectrum of the archipelago’s ikat, while also showing remarkable correspondences rooted in time or sculpted by inter-island cultural exchanges. It is rich in superb and rare ikat textiles, many with few known cognates and some of them probably unique.

For more information, visit the website of the University Museum and Art Gallery, University of Hong Kong.

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Exhibition: Chintz – Cotton in Bloom

Exhibition dates: 11 March – 10 September 2017

The Museum of Friesland in Leeuwarden presents a major exhibition of its extensive and well-preserved collection of chintz: the shiny, floral, hand-painted cotton from India that conquered sixteenth-century Europe. The beautiful patterns feel familiar while at the same time convey a special story. Objects displayed range from skirts, jackets, sun hats and regional clothing to wall hangings and blankets. The exhibition Chintz  Cotton in Bloom takes the visitor on a journey from India to Hindeloopen, Indonesia and Japan.

Chintz  Cotton in Bloom shows the wide variety of colourful floral patterns on skirts and jackets, as well as huge wapenpalempores (bedspreads larger than 3.5 x 2.5 metres with a coat of arms). The regional clothing demonstrates how the chintz was cherished and preserved. The visitor discovers the special techniques of this craft and how chintz played an important role in the world in the seventeenth century. In addition, the exhibition shows that chintz still inspires new initiatives in the field of handicrafts. Together with the Textiel Factorij, the Museum of Friesland presents contemporary works by Dutch artists and designers made with Indian craftsmen.

For more information, visit the website of the Fries Museum, Netherlands.

Exhibition: Textiles from Sumba, Indonesia

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Exhibition dates: this is an online exhibition, available to view indefinitely

A special exhibition of textiles from Sumba, curated by HALI contributing editor Thomas Murray and drawing from his extensive collection, is available to view online. It begins:

“The island of Sumba may be found on a map between Bali and New Guinea but it exists in its own world, far apart from those antipodal lands. Divided east and west by language and environmental conditions, the west tends to be more wet and green and the east, dryer.

Sumbanese religion, Marapu, recognizes that a dualistic symmetry exists in the universe, that of male and female, hot and cold, sun and moon, cloth and metal. Here there are good and bad spirits hovering nearby, needing ritual offerings on a regular basis. The ancestors must most especially be cared for.

Sumba is thus home to one of the strongest animistic tribal societies found in Indonesia, perhaps most famous for its notorious custom of cutting off the heads of enemies and placing them on the branches of a designated tree, the pohon andung, at the entrance of the village. Such trees represented the Tree of Life as well as serving to remind viewers of the power of the raja.

Sumba has a rich megalithic heritage, featuring giant stone tomb memorials. Sumbanese houses, particularly the customary houses found in royal villages, known as rumah adat, are understood to be cosmic diagrams, with the underworld of the animals below, the mid-level for human habitation and the high roof being the realm of the ancestors. This is also the place where the pusaka heirloom treasures are stored, to be closer to the departed souls; precious gold jewelry and fabulously rare and beautiful textiles were kept just under the peak of the roof on both sides of the island. But the art of weaving and dyeing achieved greatest heights in the east, with ikat textiles adding bright colors to the dusty brown background of this, the dry side of the island.”

To view the exhibition, visit Thomas Murray’s website.

Exhibition: Striking Patterns – Global Traces in Local Ikat Fashion Design

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Exhibition dates: 21 October 2016 – 26 March 2017

In eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste people wear hand-woven, decorative ikat cloths as a mark of prestige and to flaunt their taste for fashion at festive events. Ikat is a form of art in which the yarn is tied and dyed – the Indonesian term ‘ikat’ means ‘to tie’ – before weaving. Woven into the patterns are myths, rituals, recent historical events, imported motifs as well as new fashion trends. Ever since they began producing ikat, weavers have incorporated foreign influences. Relying on old pieces from the museum’s exceptional collections as well as new cloths, including contemporary interpretations by Ito Joyoatmojo and Susi Kramer, the exhibition Striking Patterns: Global Traces in Local Ikat Fashion illuminates the development of the tradition, illustrating how these highly skilled weavers have already long been part of the process of globalization.

Become enthralled by beautiful shoulder cloths, hip wraps and sarongs! This exhibition unfolds a sea of flowers. In particular, the Indian eight-pointed flower features in almost endless variations, accompanied by a rain of European roses. Animals populate the cloths, just as tourists do. We also find Catholic motifs in the shape of crucifixes and angels, while synthetic yarns and bright
colours lend some of the exhibits a radiant touch of modern fashion.

This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, published in German and English.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Switzerland.

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

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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.