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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