This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.
On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.
On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.
Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.
Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.
An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem.
A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.
The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.
Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. 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. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.
Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.
Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-
The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.