Textile events coming shortly….

Many OATG members will know of Karun Thakar’s amazing collection of textiles, from Asafo flags to embroidered shawls from the Punjab and much, much more. On Wednesday 20 April the Textile Museum in Washington DC will host an online conversation between Karun and curator Lee Talbot. The museum’s current exhibition, Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design, features textiles from Karun’s collection alongside some from the museum.

Courtesy of Karun Collection

“After outlining some of the challenges in planning a large-scale exhibition during the pandemic, they will take a closer look at some textiles currently on view, discussing aspects of their acquisition, research and conservation. Additional topics will include Thakar’s collecting in other areas, as well as the recently established Karun Thakar Fund at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which offers scholarships for early career researchers and practitioners in the field of Asian and African textiles.” – Museum website

Choga embroidered with figurative scenes (detail), Kashmir, c. 1830. Karun Thakar Collection, London.

This free Zoom event starts at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST. You can find out more and register for it here. Discover more about the Karun Thakar Fund on the website of the V&A here.

A short video overview of the exhibition, presented by Lori Kartchner, Curator of Education at the Textile Museum is now available to view here.

Video of exhibition

A reminder that the next OATG event takes place on Thursday 21 April when we will have a presentation by Victoria Vorreiter on Hmong Threads of Life: Traditional Hmong Textiles of the Golden Triangle. Victoria is a violinist and music teacher who began documenting the ceremonies and music of indigenous people several decades ago. She moved to Thailand 17 years ago and now spends her time trekking to remote villages in Laos, Myanmar, China and Thailand. Her photographs are incredible – just take a look at her website!

Victoria’s online presentation begins at 13:00 BST. It’s an afternoon event as she is based in Chiang Mai in Thailand. It will of course be recorded and the recording will later be made available to members. Non-members are welcome to attend for a small fee. More details and registration here.

In 2016 Victoria wrote a long, beautifully illustrated article for our OATG journal Asian Textiles, which you can read here.

Members may also be interested to learn more about an exhibition currently on at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. Hidden Complexities: Unfolding Miao Women’s Textile Skills runs until January 2023.

“Since the 16th century CE, the manifold textile varieties in the South-Western Chinese mountain regions has received unwavering interest from all over China – texts, drawings and, much later, political posters and photography have all engaged with Miao clothing.

This exhibition attempts to unlock the complexity of the textile knowledge and skill of Miao women’s work through an examination of Karola Kauffmann’s collection. It highlights questions about the proximity or distance of the self-presentation and representation of ethnic diversity in the context of social change and cultural-political tensions.” – Museum website

Indigo dyed cotton jacket. The back is decorated with silk felt appliqués, themselves embroidered with coloured silk. Such jackets characterise a Miao group living in Baibei village in the southeast of Guizhou province. The style is called the “hundred-bird style”. EMZ inv. no. 33523. Photograph: Kathrin Leuenberger 2021, Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich.

I particularly enjoyed reading this insight into how the exhibition is laid out and could really imagine myself entering the ‘indigo box’.

Thomas Murray recently gave a very well-received lecture for the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. His subject was Archetypes, Aesthetics and Agency: Adat Textiles of Early Indonesian Cultures.

“Indonesian textiles are known to convey messages across time and space by means of an archetypal iconography that includes human figures, trees, boats, reptiles, birds and geometric patterns. These encoded images follow ancestral traditions and customary laws known as adat; cloth becomes sacred through a combination of fine spinning, dying, and weaving that creates a sense of aesthetic wonder……. This lecture will follow the themes presented in the newly published book, Textiles of Indonesia, and will focus on some of the finest cloths to come out of the archipelago, presenting each object with impeccable photographs.” – Thomas Murray

The TMA/SC have arranged for two Zoom presentations for those living further afield who missed out on this lecture. The first is intended for participants living in Southeast Asia and Australasia and starts at 19:00 PDT on Friday 22 April. As an example this is 09:00 on Saturday morning for those in Jakarta and Bangkok. Register here.

The second is timed for those in Europe and the Middle East. It will take place on Saturday 23 April at 10:00 PDT, which is 18:00 BST. You can register for it here.

Please ensure you register for the programme that best suits your time zone. Thomas Murray will be live at both Zoom presentations for the Q&A sessions.

Next an event that those in the UK won’t want to miss! It’s the Textile Society’s annual Antique and Vintage Textile Fair in Manchester next Sunday 24 April. This is always such an eclectic mix, with textiles from around the world and across several centuries. It’s always very busy and the car park fills fast so get there early!

Full details and ticket booking via this link.

On Wednesday 27 April the Textile Museum in DC will host a virtual programme linked to their current exhibition Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design. Textile specialist Rosemary Crill (ex V&A) will discuss Abstract Patterns in Indian Textiles.

Sari (detail), Patan, Gujarat, 19th century. The Textile Museum Collection 6.63. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1931.

“The abstract and geometric patterns of Indian textiles are as varied as the innumerable techniques used to produce them, encompassing woven, surface and embellished cloths of all kinds. Geometric structures form the basis of all cloth with intersecting warps and wefts, and as such stripes and checks are found in the oldest textiles known from South Asia.” 

This event takes place at 12:00 EDT, which is 17:00 BST . You can find out more and register for it here.

Don’t forget to let me know if you are aware of textile-related events that could be shared!

More textile events in January

Our friends at the Oriental Rug and Textile Society of Great Britain (ORTS) begin their 2022 programme at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday 19 January with a lecture by Dr Steven Cohen. The subject of his talk is Indian carpets of the Deccan and the South.

“The problem with Deccani carpets is that their characteristic features rarely conform to a single set of clear, unwavering guide-lines. Visually and structurally, some Deccani carpets more closely resemble their Persian counterparts. Others are woven with materials and structures consistent with those of standard North Indian carpets. This extremely confusing situation is only now becoming slightly less opaque by the recognition, during the last few years, of small but significant Deccani stylistic, structural, and aesthetic characteristics (admittedly only minor features) which are beginning to allow us to tentatively assign a “Deccani” provenance to carpets whose origins would otherwise remain unresolved.” – ORTS website

This lecture will take place in person at the University Women’s Club in Mayfair and is free for ORTS members and £7 for non-members. The talk will take place simultaneously by Zoom. If you wish to attend online please contact the Membership Secretary Dimity Spiller.

On Thursday 20 January 2022 the Folk Arts Center of New England will host an online talk by Dr Ron Wixman on the subject of Balkan Costumes.

“In Balkan Romania and in Macedonia women considered their handwork and the making of their festive clothing to be marks of their personal value; by far the most heavily embroidered women’s costumes in Europe are found in these two regions. Girls and women grew or raised the materials necessary to make clothing – flax for linen, cotton, wool for fibers and embroidery thread – while men raised the sheep for sheepskin jackets and bodices.

In this presentation, Ron will explain the role of women and clothing-making in the Balkans and why and how they have developed these elaborately decorated and embroidered festive and bridal costumes, and will discuss how the fibers (linen, cotton, wool, silk) were made, spun, woven/felted, and then decorated with embroidery.” – FAC website.

The talk will take place at 19:00 EST, which unfortunately is midnight GMT. More information and a link to register can be found here.

Woman’s shirt or tunic, Swat Valley, Pakistan, late 19th/early 20th century, Karun Thakar Collection, London

I’m sure lots of our members in the US are eagerly awaiting the opening on Saturday 22 January of the new exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC featuring textiles from the Karun Thakar collection. Entitled Indian Textiles – 1000 years of art and design this exhibition will showcase some stunning pieces, including an eighteenth century palampore from the Coromandel coast and a fifteenth century narrative cloth from Gujarat.

“The Indian subcontinent is home to some of the world’s most ancient and illustrious textile traditions. Over the centuries, Indian textile artists have developed an enduring design vocabulary – from simply woven stripes to floral motifs to complex narrative scenes. Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design presents a stunning array of fabrics patterned with India’s most distinctive designs: abstract, floral and figurative.” – TM website 

This exhibition runs from 22 January to 6 June 2022.

Although our UK members won’t be able to go to the exhibition they can do the next best thing and buy the book! The exhibition catalogue is published by Hali Publications and includes essays by several authors including Rosemary Crill and Steven Cohen. The focus on textile ornament rather than date, region, usage, or technique provides new perspective and scholarship on this ancient artistic tradition. The book also highlights the tradition’s remarkable diversity, with objects ranging from folk embroideries to Mughal courtly weavings, and from early textiles traded to Egypt and Southeast Asia to eighteenth century chintzes exported to Europe.

Can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

As one great exhibition opens, another one closes. The Gold of the Great Steppe exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge ends on 30 January, so if you want to see it do hurry!

The next Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation morning takes place online on Saturday 29 January and the subject for this session is Restoring Rugs and Carpets.

“Rug restoration employs a range of sewing and weaving techniques that can be used to stabilize and conserve damaged structure or, if necessary, completely re-weave and replace missing fabric. The best repairs match materials, weave structure and color undetectably, restoring both value and function to a rug.” – Textile Museum. The speaker, Robert Mann, has been restoring rugs since 1978 and will discuss the various techniques used.

Click here for more details and to register for this programme. It begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT.

Double-soled engagement footwear from Japan. The two soles were bound together as a symbol of matrimonial harmony. Late nineteenth century. BSM collection.

Finally, I found this online exhibition about the history of wedding shoes at the Bata Shoe Museum fascinating. It discusses popular customs around marriage footwear, including hiding

New events

There are so many events coming up that I will be uploading two blogs this week.

©Minjee Kim.

On Thursday 4 November the Korean Cultural Society of Boston will host one of their regular programmes on Korean heritage. The speaker this week will be Dr Minjee Kim and the subject is Han-bok: Dress of Korean Identity. This talk “will shed light on the inception of the term “hanbok” and the composition of the ensembles for men and women, and its constant transformation in the context of modern Korean fashion history. Then it will overview contemporary hanbok ensembles for new-born babies, children, young and middle age adults, as well as weddings, burials, and funerals.” – KCSB website.

For more information click here and to register click here.

Please note that this online event takes place at 19:30 EDT, which is 23:30 GMT – fine for our many North American members but only for night owls in the UK.

Next make a note in your diaries that the proceedings of the 2021 Keimyung International Conference on the Silk Road and Central Asia will be available online from Friday 5 November. The subject of this conference is Textiles From The Silk Road: Origin, Transmission And Exchange. Nine speakers from around the world will present on a wide range of topics including Liao Women’s Dress, Animal Materials in Nomadic Costumes, Silk and Cotton Textiles in Ancient India and Central Asian Textile Motifs in Late Sasanian Art.

Brief summaries of each of the presentations can now be read here, but the videos themselves will not be uploaded until 5 November.

Saturday 6 November is a very busy day for textile lovers!

The Phoebe Hearst Museum will host a Zoom presentation on Asafo flags – these are militia insignia of the Fante states along the southern coast of Ghana. This Zoom event will feature Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford and Karun Thakar in conversation. They will “place Asafo flags within the wider context of global textile arts and reveal how the flags’ seemingly simple patterns can be ‘read’ to reveal aspects of the communities who made them, and the performances in which they played a part.”  – ETC website

To register for this event, which is co-sponsored by the Phoebe Hearst Museum and Tracing Patterns Foundation, click here. It starts at 10:00 PT, which is 17:00 GMT.

A great video of these flags in use, which really brings them to life, and a short talk by Gus Casely-Hayford can be viewed here.

I have blogged about these flags from Karun Thakar’s collection before, when some were exhibited at the Brunei Gallery in London. Over 250 of his flags now form an online exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.

Before viewing the flags, I would highly recommend reading the excellent short article Proverbs on Parade by Duncan Clarke, written to accompany it. In it he explains that the Asafo were military associations and that the flags are appliqué- and embroidery-decorated cloth banners, which were produced by local specialists.

“Asafo flags are paraded through the fishing villages and towns of the Fante region in a vibrant tradition that depicts a cast of characters blending local mythology with European heraldry. Kings and queens interact with soldiers and musicians, dragons and gryphons, elephants and leopards, whales and sharks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.” – Duncan Clarke.

“Two men stand by a large boiling pot on a fire; one has his hand in the bubbling liquid, telling a rival company ‘it boils but it doesn’t burn’, asserting that the rival company makes a big show but is not actually dangerous.” Text by Duncan Clarke. ©Karun Collection.

Clarke goes on to explain how certain images could only be used by specific groups, and that the use of an image from another group could have dire consequences. He also gives the meaning behind some of these images – many of which are linked to proverbs.

Also taking place on Saturday 6 November is the Rienzi Symposium hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This virtual event explores their current exhibition Hidden Hands: Invisible Workers in Industrial England, which is on show until 2 January 2022. This virtual symposium runs from 10:00-15:00 CDT, which is 15:00-20:00 GMT, and you can see the schedule and register here.

As if that’s not enough historian and author John Vollmer will be giving a virtual presentation for the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art the same day, linked to their current exhibition Weaving Splendor: Treasures of Asian Textiles which I have already blogged about. His talk is entitled Why are Textiles Masterpieces? Asian Textiles in Weaving Splendor and takes place at 13:00 CDT, which is 18:00 GMT.

You can register for this free talk here.

The following day, Sunday 7 November Brian Morehouse will be giving a webinar for the New England Rug Society on the subject Yastiks: A Comparative Study of the Designs of Published and Unpublished Examples. Brian is the author of Yastiks: Cushion Covers and Storage Bags of Anatolia and this talk will explore the changing visual language over time within certain yastik groups. The talk will take place at 13:00 ET, which is 17:00 GMT and you can register for it here.

On Tuesday 9 November the Hajji Baba Club of New York will hold their next meeting online via Zoom. The presenter will be Melinda Watt of the Textile Department, Art Institute of Chicago and her subject will be The Blueberry Pie Carpet: A Morris Carpet at Home in Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago has one large and important carpet made by Morris & Co. for the Glessner House, which is located in the historic Prairie District neighbourhood of the city. …. This talk will explore the decoration of the Glessner House, centred on the large entry hall carpet, and focused on the influence of historical and Middle Eastern textiles manifested in the carpet and Morris’ work.

Melinda Watt’s first exhibition at the Institute will open on 18 December and is entitled Morris and Company: The Business of Beauty.

This talk will begin at 18:00 EDT, which is 22:00 GMT. Full details and registration are available here.

Image: Xunka Tulan (Navenchauc, San Lorenzo Zinacantán, Chiapas, Mexico); Wedding huipil, commissioned late 1970s; cotton, feathers; Fowler Museum at UCLA, X91.546; Gift of Mrs. Gene Stuart

On Wednesday 10 November the Fowler Museum has organised another in its Curator’s Choice series. Elena Phipps, author of several books on the textile traditions of the Andean people, and Hector M. Meneses Lozano, Director of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca in Mexico, will discuss Feather Embellishments in Mexican Huipiles.

“The program will briefly trace the history of the huipil and highlight some of its special features. Lozano will share some examples from the extensive collection of the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, alongside a few special pieces from the Fowler Museum. The discussion will then focus on a unique group of huipiles woven with spun downy bird feathers.” – Fowler Museum. 

This programme begins at 11:00 PST, which is 19:00 GMT. More details and registration here.

©Victoria Vorreiter.

Gavin Strachan kindly sent me information about this Songs of Memory Journal, written by Victoria Vorreiter, who specialises in documenting spirit intermediaries. There are some remarkable photographs of various ceremonies. Those with a particular interest in the Hmong will enjoy reading her beautifully illustrated article Bridging the Realms of Mortals and Deities. Hmong Spirit Intermediaries and their Numinous Powers.

OATG members may recall that Victoria wrote a long article for our Asian Textiles journal in 2016, which is now available for non-members to read online.

Finally an advance notice of the next OATG meeting. This will be an online presentation by Luz van Overbeeke entitled Japanese Ornamental Textiles Through a Dealer’s Eyes. Luz specialises in ornamental textiles of the Meiji era and will discuss some of the most memorable textiles she has found over the years.

This talk will take place on Thursday 18 November at 18:30 GMT and is free for OATG members. There is a small (£3) charge for non-members. Full details and registration here.

Andean textiles, Seminole Indian culture, Shoes in the Age of Enlightenment

Andean textile expert Elena Phipps will be giving a lecture on the subject of Weaving Silver: Brilliance and sheen in Andean colonial textile traditions on Tuesday 27 July at 16:05 BST. This is part of an international, inter-disciplinary conference entitled The Matter of Silver: Substance, Surface, Shimmer, Trauma, which will take place over three consecutive afternoons. Each free session can be booked separately. For more information and registration details please click here.

© Elena Phipps

A new exhibit has opened at Elliott Museum, Stuart, Florida, dedicated to the life and culture of the Seminole Indians. Entitled Seminole People of Florida – Survival and Success it “will focus on the rich material culture that the Seminoles created and sustained during the late 19th and 20th centuries. From isolation in the mid-1800s to the establishment of two sovereign tribes that oversee modern, successful businesses, the Seminole people have experienced an extraordinary journey.” – Knowhere article. The exhibition will run until 4 October 2021.

© Elliott Museum

A new scholarship supporting the study of Asian and African textiles and dress has been established by Karun Thakar, in collaboration with the V&A. Awards of up to £10,000 are available for those studying these subjects both in the UK and internationally. Click here for more details.

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is now open again. They are running a series of virtual tours this summer. This Sunday, 25 July, at 11am Eastern time (16:00 BST) the tour will focus on Footwear in the Age of Enlightenment. It will look at how clothing codified the distinctions between people, and how “a close examination of 18th century footwear reveals a great deal about the power dynamics of the period.” – museum website. More information about the exhibition can be found here. You can register for the online tour here.

Selected textile events in July

A new exhibition entitled Baghs – Abstract Gardens opened at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London today Tuesday 13 July 2021. This exhibition showcases excellent examples of baghs and phulkaris from the Karun Thakar collection. These were domestic embroidered shawls from pre-partition Punjab, which were mainly done by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim women. There was also an export market for them in the nineteenth century. Bookings for this free exhibition, which runs until 25 September 2021, are available through this link.

Part of the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery

OATG members in the UK should now be receiving their hard copy of our journal Asian Textiles. It takes a little longer to reach our overseas members, but for those who can’t wait a pdf will soon be available on our website in the password-protected area.

This is a particularly eclectic edition, with articles on Alfred Steinmann and the Ship Motif (Gaspard de Marval and Georges Breguet), Multaka-Oxford and the Jenny Balfour Paul pieces at the Pitt Rivers (Thandiwe Wilson), Textiles from the Yemen (Angela Thompson), Finnish ryijy rugs (Igor Honkanen and Gavin Strachan) and much more. We are now using a different printing company and I think the illustrations really shine through.

Another publication that you may find of interest is The Journal of Dress History, produced by The Association of Dress Historians. This Association “supports and promotes the study and professional practice of the history of dress, textiles, and accessories of all cultures and regions of the world, from before classical antiquity to the present day.” Each edition of the journal contains lengthy scholarly articles, along with numerous book and exhibition reviews. They can be accessed completely free of charge here. My only criticism would be that it would be good to have an index of the articles too. EDIT – I have since been informed that three separates indices are in fact available – one covers the articles, one the book reviews and one the exhibition reviews. lick the relevant link in the blue box on the right on this page. Apologies for not spotting this earlier!

Detail, Yūzen Pattern Dyeing on Silk, a Textile Design and Color Sample for Girls’
Kimono, Early Showa period, circa 1926–1945, © The Private Collection of Keiko
Okamoto, Tokyo, Japan

On Saturday 17 July 2021 the George Washington Textile Museum will be hosting one of its regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions. In Silk Stories docent Pamela Kaplan will introduce her project looking at the history of silk production in India and around the world. “The project documents the changing lives of silk farmers and textile producers through photographs, videos, interviews and more.” – Textile Museum website. This virtual event takes place at 11:00 EDT, which is 16:00 BST. It is free, but registration is required.

© Pamela Kaplan

Don’t forget the next OATG event is our talk by Walter Bruno Brix of the German Textile Museum at 18:30 BST on Thursday 22 July 2021. Walter will be talking to us about the museum’s current exhibition Dragons Woven With Golden Threads. This exhibition of around 120 pieces has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix, and contains textiles from the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) to the People’s Republic of China (1949). “Special objects include fragments of an imperial robe from the eighteenth century, a robe with dragon medallions for a noble lady in slit tapestry, two oversized robes for statues of gods, an imperial shroud, a large fragment of a palace carpet made of silk velvet”- museum website. This Zoom talk is also open to non-members for a small (£3) donation. Please click here to register, but hurry as there are not many spaces remaining!

A new exhibition will open on 23 July 2021 at The Russian Museum of Ethnography in St Petersburg. The exhibition is entitled In Harmony with Red: Turkmens and will run until 23 January 2022. It examines the dominance of the colour red in their textiles, carpets, horse and camel decorations, how it was used in ritual items and as part of decorative designs. Click here for more details and several more examples of the exhibits.

Fragment of a Yomud yurt band, nineteenth century. © REM

On Thursday 29 July 2021 the Textile Museum have another film discussion in their regular Fashion on Film series. This time the film in question is Threads – an award-winning documentary by Cathy Stevulak looking at the late Surayia Rahman and her role in transforming traditional kantha embroidery from “patchworks of old clothing to articles of fashion”. When you sign up for this event you will receive a link to watch the 32 minute documentary at your leisure, as well as instructions for joining the program for a group discussion. As the discussion is at 18:00 EDT (23:00 BST) it may be too late for our UK members, but that doesn’t preclude you from watching the documentary.

If you would like to learn more about the story behind this documentary I suggest you visit the ClothRoads website where they have an interesting blog on how it was made, beginning with the maker hearing about “a woman with grey hair who does remarkable embroidery work”.

© Cathy Stevulak

If you are aware of interesting textile-related talks and exhibitions that could be added to this blog please do let me know! I can be contacted here.

Textiles from Morocco, China, Ghana and Central Asia

Regular readers may remember that in my previous blog I wrote about the Textiles on the Move online conference, explaining that videos of the full proceedings were now available to view. They will only be available until tomorrow, 15 November 2020, so if you still haven’t seen them you need to act fast!

The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.

Click here for more information and to access all of the videos .

Last October the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London hosted a very successful exhibition of African textiles from the renowned collector Karun Thakar. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a group of Asafo flags from Ghana. Now over 250 of these flags form an online exhibition, in which the flags have been divided into three groups by age – 19th century to early 1900s, 1920s to 1957, and 1957 to the 1970s.

Before viewing the flags, I would highly recommend reading the excellent short article Proverbs on Parade by Duncan Clarke, written to accompany it. In it he explains that the Asafo were military associations and that the flags are appliqué- and embroidery-decorated cloth banners, which were produced by local specialists.

“Asafo flags are paraded through the fishing villages and towns of the Fante region in a vibrant tradition that depicts a cast of characters blending local mythology with European heraldry. Kings and queens interact with soldiers and musicians, dragons and gryphons, elephants and leopards, whales and sharks, ships, trains and aeroplanes.” – Duncan Clarke.

A flag being displayed. ©Karun Collection

Clarke goes on to explain how certain images could only be used by specific groups, and that the use of an image from another group could have dire consequences. He also gives the meaning behind some of these images – many of which are linked to proverbs.

Having read the article I had a better understanding of and appreciation of the flags in the exhibition. You can see a high quality enlargement of each flag by clicking on the relevant image.

“Two men stand by a large boiling pot on a fire; one has his hand in the bubbling liquid, telling a rival company ‘it boils but it doesn’t burn’, asserting that the rival company makes a big show but is not actually dangerous.” Text by Duncan Clarke. ©Karun Collection. 

Now to two exhibitions on a very different theme. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is showcasing Chinese textiles in the exhibition Fashion Revolution: Chinese dress from late Qing to 1976. We might not be able to travel at the moment, but thankfully a virtual online tour is available. Clicking the arrow in the bottom left of the screen will give you a very quick overview. I then found it easiest to press the View Floor Plan button (just along from the arrow). If you then point to a circle it will bring up information about that particular textile.

Silk robe 1890-1905 with chrysanthemums and longevity characters. ©Dante Singaland

The Textile Museum in Krefeld, Germany, has a new exhibition entitled Drachen aus Goldenen Fäden – Dragons from Golden Threads. This exhibition has been curated by Walter Bruno Brix and contains some very special pieces, including the priest’s robe shown below. More information on some of the extraordinary pieces, as well as additional images, can be found in this article by Petra Diederichs for RP Online.

Ceremonial robe belonging to a high-ranking Daoist priest circa 1803. Photo by Thomas Lammertz

An 18 minute video of the exhibition has also been produced. Even if you don’t speak German it is well worth watching as it is a visual treat!

The Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh has a new exhibition from the collection of Bert Flint, a Dutchman who moved to the city in 1957. He collected textiles, jewellery and other beautiful items from across North Africa, the Shara and the Sahel. He also has a small museum in the heart of the old part of the city.

Our recent online lecture by Sarah Fee was a great success, and we have received lots of positive responses to it. The talk was recorded and will be available for members to view shortly in a password-protected area of our website. A notification of the password will be sent to members.

Our next online lecture will be by journalist and author Nick Fielding, a long-standing member of the OATG. The subject of Nick’s talk is Travellers in the Great Steppe – Nomads and their Textiles. Nick is a very engaging speaker with a wealth of knowledge in this area and this should be a fascinating talk.

The cover of Nick’s new book Travellers in the Great Steppe: from the Papal Envoys to the Russian Revolution.

This talk is scheduled for 10 December. As usual, it is free for OATG members, but registration is essential. Registration will be open for OATG members EXCLUSIVELY until 20 November (you should have already received the invitation), after which any remaining places will be offered to non-members.

The next edition of Asian Textiles should have reached most members by now. This includes a lengthy article on Naga textiles by Joanna Cole and Julia Nicholson of the Pitt Rivers Museum and another on Pekalongan batik by Maria Wronska-Friend. I’m sure weavers will be fascinated to read the research on a Taiwanese Kahabu flag by Tsai Yu Shan. 

Don’t forget that members can access pdf copies of all editions through our website. Non-members can access all but the last three years here

In addition to this our editor, Gavin Strachan, is currently putting together a third Lockdown Newsletter, which should go out just before Christmas. If you would like to contribute something to this please email it to him by 7 December. Perhaps you have an interesting story about a particular textile, a review of a book, a query about something in your collection that you would like to share?

With all of these exciting developments why not consider becoming a member? Although we are the Oxford Asian Textile Group we do have many members from throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Details of how to join can be found here.

Events: Worldwide textile events in November

I usually list the events that I am aware of in date order but sometimes, as is the case this month, a theme jumps out and it makes more sense to group those events together.

Tents set up for a Fair, 1907. Barratt, Reginald, 1861-1917 Creative Commons

Several exhibitions and talks are on the subject of Egypt, the first of these being the talk by Professor Sam Bowker to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California on 16 November looking at The Tentmakers of Cairo and Egyptian Tentmaker Appliqué in American Collections.

“In the crowded centre of historic Cairo lies a covered market with wonderful textiles sewn by hand in brilliant colours and intricate patterns. This is the Street of the Tentmakers, the home of the spectacular cotton-on-canvas Egyptian appliqué technique art known as khayamiya. Their breathtaking urban pavilions connect the splendour of the Fatimids and Mamluks, the cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and the souvenirs of world wars. A co-author of the book The Tentmakers of Cairo, Sam Bowker brings together the stories of the tentmakers and their extraordinary creations, from the huge tent pavilions, or suradiq, of the streets of Egypt, to the souvenirs of WWI. Tracing the origins and aesthetics of these textiles, Sam will explore the ways in which they challenged conventions, and continue to preserve a skilled handicraft in an age of mass production.” TMA/SC Newsletter.

Details:
Saturday 16 November 10:30. Luther Hall, Lower Level St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, 3590 Grand View Blvd. Los Angeles. Members free, guests $10. Please note reservations to attend this talk are required by Wednesday 13 November. Please email info@tmasc.org.

 

Fragment with head and duck in a jewelled trellis, Egypt, early 5th century. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Continuing the theme is the current exhibition at the Textile Museum in Washington DC entitled Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt. The exhibition showcases 45 exceptional interior textiles from the villas, palaces, churches, mosques, and homes of late antique and early medieval Egypt. A gallery guide can be accessed here.

Hanging with erotes, animals, heads, and garlands (detail), eastern Mediterranean, 4th–5th century. The Textile Museum.

In addition to the exhibition a colloquium entitled New Threads: Recent Research on Egyptian Textiles will take place on Saturday 9 November.

“Inspired by new exhibitions on the fashion and furnishings of early medieval Egypt, this colloquium features new research from five distinguished scholars that will challenge your concepts of these ancient textile artworks. The program also includes curator-led tours of both exhibitions and a first look at the new Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center.” Textile Museum website.  Registration details and a list of topics and speakers can be found here.

Lori Kartchner will give a gallery talk on the use of flax in these textiles on Thursday 21 November – details here.

 

Fragment of a Coptic textile; 5th–6th cent.; Upper Egypt. © Tomaž Lauko

The final exhibition relating to Egypt is in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Entitled Coptic Textiles from the Collection of the National Museum of Slovenia it presents 53 textiles made by the Christian population in Egypt from the 3rd to the late 7th century.

Details:
National Museum of Slovenia – Metelkova, Museum Quarter Metelkova, Maistrova ulica 1, Ljubljana. Closed Mondays.

 

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Rucellai Madonna, ca. 1285, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

The next theme is Islamic textiles. OATG member Dr Federica Gigante will be giving a talk on  Islamic textiles in Medieval Europe: Trade, Circulation and Use. Islamic textiles were common in Medieval Europe. Imported by pilgrims returning from the Holy Land and traded across the Mediterranean, Islamic textiles became the staple of luxury furnishing and clothing. They adorned kings, saints, churches and palaces. Dr Gigante’s talk will address the presence and use and of such textiles, particularly in the 13th to 15th centuries, and explore their traces in fresco decorations, icon paintings, and decorative objects. Please click here to book.

Details:
Thursday 14 November, 18:00 – 19:45. The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6QS

 

Part of the exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Another take on the trade in Islamic textiles comes from the exhibition currently taking place at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Entitled Turkish Rugs on Tudor Walls: 16th-Century Trade between England and the Islamic World this exhibition examines the fundamental attraction and ambivalence between the English admiration of these sumptuous wares, and the idea of doing business with a people they deemed to be “heathen”.

Additional background to the exhibition is given in this post by the MIA. It points out that carpets were originally used as table covers and wall hangings – not floor coverings – and discusses the relationship between the Protestant Queen Elizabeth 1 and the Ottoman Empire.

Details:
Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis. Ends 7 June 2020.

 

The final item on this theme is the current exhibition at the British Museum on the subject Inspired by the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art. For more details see my previous blog.

 

Man’s robe, Cameroon, mid-twentieth century. © Karun Thakar Collection

Also taking place in London but on a quite different topic is the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, of African Textiles from the Karun Thakar Collection. This exhibition is supported by Hali who state that the “high quality material on show highlights the sophistication of historical African textiles, which have been little understood and appreciated. The exhibition examines the links between West and North African textile traditions through a selection of important and rare examples of textile art, being shown here for the first time.” Having seen many photos of this exhibition it really does look like a must see! Karun will be leading two tours of the exhibition in November. The first will be this Saturday 2 November 13:00 – 15:00 and the second on Wednesday 27 November 13:00 – 14:00.

Details:
Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG. Ends 14 December.

Thangka painting of Padmasambhava, the ‘Lotus-Born’, who is one of the most popular teacher figures in Tibet. India 1788-1805. © British Library

The British Library in London currently have an exhibition on Buddhism. Visitors are invited to follow the life of the Buddha by examining sacred texts written on tree bark, palm leaves, gold plates and exquisite silk scrolls of major sutras. This blog by Jana Igunma, lead curator, gives a very good overview of the exhibition.

Details:
The British Library, 96 Euston Road. London, NW1 2DB. Ends 23 February 2020.

 

Detail of Mandala Chandar, Kashmir circa 1840.

From 31 October until 9 November Asian Art will be celebrated in London. “Asian Art in London, founded in 1998, is an annual event held over ten days in early November, which takes place within participating galleries and auction houses. It has a global reputation uniting leading Asian art dealers, auction houses, museums and societies in a series of gallery selling exhibitions, auctions, receptions and lectures. Together they celebrate the expertise and excellence of Asian art on view in London each November, with a wide range of Asian art from the antique to contemporary and in a price range designed to suit all pockets. Participant events are complemented by exhibitions and seminars at satellite events around London and at leading London academic institutions.” – Asian Art website.

According to Hali, textile lovers should head to Ryder Street to see Jacqueline Simcox’s exhibition which features a rare kesi panel and other Chinese silk textiles. Another highlight is the Kashmir shawl (shown above) which can be seen at Simon Ray’s gallery on King Street. Read this Hali article for more details.

 

A new book on Pakistani textiles has just been published. The Flowering Desert: Textiles of Sindh was written by Nasreen and Hasan Askari and celebrates these vibrant textiles through 150 colour illustrations. Nasreen mounted the first major exhibition of textiles from this area, Colours of the Indus, which was held at the V&A in 1997 and then moved to the National Museum of Scotland.

Blouse or tunic front, silk on cotton. © Hasan and Nasreen Askari

The Guardian has an excellent article on how Nasreen’s passion for these textiles developed, describing her 50 years of collecting and her understanding of the place of textiles in society – well worth a read!

 

Dayak beaded baby carrier © FCM/MUSEC

An exhibition celebrating the art of the Dayak is now on in Lugano, Switzerland. Dayak: the art of the headhunters of Borneo has been curated by Paolo Maiullari and is reputed to be one of the largest exhibitions in the world ever made on this subject and certainly the most extensive in the last few decades, filling 14 rooms of the museum.

Gavin Strachan has written a wonderful article for the forthcoming edition of Asian Textiles with his impressions of this exhibition and some great photos to whet your appetites. He highlights some fantastic woven mats and jackets decorated with cowries, beads and bronze pendants. Asian Textiles is produced three times per year and sent out to all members of the Oxford Asian Textile Group – a major incentive to join us!

Details:
Museum of Cultures, Villa Malpensata, Riva A. Caccia 5 / via G. Mazzini 5, 6900 Lugano. Closed Tuesdays. Ends 17 May 2020.

 

 

The 7th ASEAN Traditional Textile Symposium will be held in Yogyakarta, Java, next week and has lots of OATG involvement. One of the organisers, Mariah Waworuntu is a member, as are several speakers including Chris Buckley who will give one of the keynote lectures on the subject of Weaving in ASEAN: Shared Histories, Common Themes. The talks are grouped under the following themes: “Sustainable Traditional Textiles : Design & Fashion”, “Traditional Textile Innovations” , “Traditional Textile Preservations”, “Textiles in Past-and Present-day History”, “Traditional Textiles : Motifs and Meanings”, “Trans-national Textile Connections over the Course of Time”, “Traditional Textiles: Conservation, Looms and Fibers”,  and “Empowering Women through Weaving”. A full programme can be viewed here.

 

Finally OATG member Felicity Wood has kindly informed me of some Arts Society study days taking place at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in January. These are open to the public as well as members of the Arts Society and are likely to be very popular, hence the advance notice. Subjects include The Visual Art of Power and Rank at the Chinese Imperial Court (David Rosier) and Japanese History, Art and Culture (Suzanne Perrin). Click here for full details.

 

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Events: Upcoming textile events

Several new talks and exhibitions coming soon….

Chinese cloth banknote

A reminder that this Thursday Dr Paul Bevan will talk about Chinese Cloth Banknotes to the Oxford Asian Textile Group. This event is open to the public. Click here for further details.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6QS. 18:00 – 20:00.

©Jenny Balfour-Paul

Also on Thursday, but this time in the US, Jenny Balfour-Paul will be lecturing on Indigo and the Orient: The Story of the Blues at Yale University Art Gallery. In her talk Jenny will look at ” this fascinating dyestuff, focusing on its past and present use in Asia, particularly among the ethnic minorities of Southwest China.” Full details can be found here.

Location: Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel Street (at York Street) New Haven, Connecticut. 17:30 – open to the general public.

Woman’s funeral tunic and headscarf

The reason for this particular emphasis is that this lecture is being held in conjunction with the exhibition Ceremonial Dress from Southwest China: The Ann B. Goodman Collection. This exhibition, which was co-curated by OATG founder Ruth Barnes, draws on the ceremonial clothing of communities from Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan, Yunnan, and other provinces of southwestern China. It includes fifteen outfits which use a variety of techniques such as batik, embroidery, and appliqué. Silver jewellery is also featured. For more details, and images of several items from the exhibition,  go to the website of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Exhibition dates: September 6 2019 – January 5 2020.

Jenny will also be giving another talk on indigo, but with a different theme, in New York next week. Entitled Indigo Trail: From Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans! this will clearly be a wide-ranging lecture from an expert in the field. Details of this event, which is open to the public, can be found here.

Location: The Explorers Club, 46 East 70th Street, New York City, NY 10021, United States. October 1, 18:30.

©Karun Thakar Collection

Back in the UK the Brunei Gallery at SOAS will be hosting an exhibition, supported by HALI, of African textiles from the collection of Karun Thakar. With more than 150 exhibits from a wide geographical area this “will examine the links between west and north African textile traditions through a selection of important and rare examples of textile art, being shown here for the first time.” Details are on the SOAS website here.

Location: SOAS University of London 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG. October 11 – December 14 2019.

October has been designated Textile Month in Portland, Oregon, with a huge listing of events taking place. These include talks, exhibitions, and hands-on workshops. One that stood out for me was Symbolism and Significance: The Evolution of the Kimono by Andrea Aranow who will be showing several kimonos from her extensive collection on October 5 – click here for more detail.

I was also intrigued by the work Emily Miller is doing in the Ghost Net Landscape exhibition which runs from 7-31 October. Details are here.

 

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