Video: Reviving a Silk Road Tradition

Screenshot from the documentary. © NHK World Japan

NHK World Japan have just released a new short documentary on ikat-making in Uzbekistan. It will be available to view until 8 March 2019 here.

This short documentary focuses on the work of Muhayo Aliyeva, the remarkable woman behind the Bibi Hanum brand. Muhayo created this brand back in 2006 and through it has provided work for many women not only in her Tashkent headquarters, but also further afield in the Ferghana Valley. According to their website “Bibi Hanum™ is a socially responsible enterprise that creates garments and accessories using traditional hand-woven silk cotton ikat fibre. Founded by Muhayo Alieva its mission is to provide economic opportunities for women while preserving Uzbekistan’s rich cultural and ethnographic heritage.”

Early on in the documentary we see the difficulties she has faced bringing a reinterpretation of Uzbek ikat to a modern audience, and how she has altered traditional patterns to suit her particular needs. We are also introduced to Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov, a fifth-generation ikat maker from Margilan – a famous centre of ikat production. In 2005 UNESCO awarded him a “Seal of Excellence” for his research into, and revitalisation of, the craft of velvet ikat weaving known as bakhmal. In fact 2005 was a very busy year for Rasuljon as that was also when he established the Khorezm Weaving centre in the old city of Khiva – a city which several OATG members have visited with Sheila Paine.  I was intrigued to see the machine they used for binding the bundles of 100 threads in his workshop in Margilan. Rasuljon demonstrated his expertise at the Textile Society of America Symposium in Washington DC in 2012 as part of a Central Asia panel organised by Christine Martens. He is a regular participant in the Santa Fe International Folk Art market.

Also in 2005 the fashion designer Oscar de la Renta used ikat cloths created by Rasuljon in his collection. The designer was clearly enamoured with these textiles, using them in many catwalk shows over a period of years. In this short video interview he speaks of his appreciation for the work that goes into creating ikat textiles and we can see some of his creations, including this stunning strapless dress.

Several of de la Renta’s pieces featured in the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia, which was held at the Freer/Sackler from March to July last year. Some of the highlights of the exhibition can be viewed here. Just click on each image to see the enlarged versions.

Ikat trench coat. Oscar de la Renta 2005 collection. © Smithsonian

Curatorial assistant Christina Elliott describes the process of preparing these textiles for the exhibition here. It was interesting to read of their method of insect prevention and see what goes on behind the scenes of a textile exhibition.

Part of the To Dye For exhibition. © Smithsonian

Last July Muhayo Aliyeva gave a presentation on Contemporary Ikat Designs at the Freer/Sackler as part of the programme arranged around this exhibition.  The whole event was filmed and can be seen here. In it she talks about the history of ikat in Central Asia and then shows current production methods, including the design, dyeing and weaving of the cloth. The video clips she shows of the warping up are really interesting, especially when you realise they are coping with 3000 fine threads.

Threading the reed. © Muhayo Aliyeva.

Another major ikat exhibition opened a couple of weeks ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Entitled Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection it highlights over 60 examples of ikat textiles – including clothing and woven panels. I like the fact that they show several garments worn in layers on the mannequins. This does mean that it’s more difficult to focus on an individual piece, but it gives a more accurate picture of how they would have been worn in the past.

The organiser of this exhibition, Clarissa M. Esguerra, will be giving an exclusive lecture to members of the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California (TMA/SC) on Saturday 2 March 2019 in the Brown Auditorium at LACMA. Email info@tmasc.org for more details on membership.

One of the most striking garments in the Oscar de la Renta collection was this ikat coat with a fur trim, designed for the 2000 Balmain Haute Couture collection. The coat is clearly made up from several different sections of ikat, particularly on the right front. The pattern of the ikat is very reminiscent of the ikat made in a very different area of Uzbekistan – Khorezm.

Many people are unaware of the ikat-producing tradition in the city of Khiva. The cloth here is known as adras. It has a silk ikat warp and a cotton weft, giving it a fine ribbed texture.This design with the central turquoise  stripe and alternating red and green horns was the most popular with the nearby Qaraqalpaqs on their kiymesheks and shapans.

 Khivan patterns were simplified versions of Bukharan designs. This is not surprising given that they were made by members of a small community of Jewish dyers who arrived in Khiva with their traditional Bukharan designs.For more information on this small centre of ikat production visit the website of OATG members David and Sue Richardson on the Qaraqalpaqs of the Aral Delta.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Event: Textile events in San Francisco

Event dates: 7-10 February 2019

San Francisco is the place to be for textile lovers this weekend!

First there is the 33rd annual San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show – the biggest and best of its kind in North America. It showcases art from Tribal Africa, Asia, Australia, Oceania and the Americas, so there is sure to be something to appeal to every taste. This takes place at the Fort Mason Center and more information can be found on their website.

During the Show there will be two special exhibitions. The first is devoted to Fiji and is entitled “Fiji – Art and Life in the Pacific“. This will preview several pieces of Fijian art which will feature in a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the autumn. Click here for full details, and images of some of these extraordinary works of art.

Salei Maasai Warriors with Kanga Flags, Tanzania. Copyright Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher

The second special exhibition is from a very different part of the world – Africa. Entitled “African Twilight: Vanishing Rituals & Ceremonies”  this exhibition of the stunning photography of Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher celebrates the artistry, diversity, and creativity of the continent. More information on the exhibit and talks by the photographers can be found here.

On Saturday 9 February at 15:30 Thomas Murray will be giving a lecture and signing copies of his new bookTextiles of Japan“, recently published by Prestel. This richly illustrated book on the Thomas Murray collection is divided into three main sections: Ainu, Mingei and Okinawa. The collection is very strong in Ainu, including examples from Siberia. Garments made from salmon skin, wild banana, elm bark and nettle fibre all feature in this amazing collection. More details here.

A weaver in Bubu village, Solor, Indonesia, weaving warp ikat cloth for a tubeskirt. Copyright Chris Buckley

Also on Saturday 9 February at 10:00 OATG member Chris Buckley will give an illustrated talk on the migration of Austronesians from mainland Asia via Taiwan and across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This will be held in the de Young museum, Golden Gate Park. Chris will present evidence to support his belief that characteristic Austronesian weaving techniques seem to have come directly from the Asian mainland and not Taiwan. See my earlier blog for more details and a link to a fascinating paper on this subject by Chris Buckley and Eric Boudot.

Fragment (flower carpet), 2nd half of the 17th century. Caucasus, Azerbaijan. © Museum für Islamische Kunst der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. Photograph by Johannes Kramer

Later the same day the de Young museum will also be the venue for another lecture, this time by Anna Beselin, on the subject of “Knots, Art, and History: Shifting Perspectives and Perceptions within the Berlin Carpet Collection”. According to the website of the de Young museum “The carpet collection at the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum of Islamic Art), Berlin, is one of the oldest and most important such collections in Europe. For decades, the unique examples in these holdings were a major attraction for carpet lovers worldwide. But how can we ensure that interest in this art form continues among general audiences as well as the next generation of collectors? The Berlin museum faces this challenge and opportunity to communicate new understandings about individual pieces and offer new approaches to a diverse audience. Aiming to reach a wider public uninitiated to the particular appeal of important carpets, this talk will introduce you to a fascinating variety of individual histories within the collection’s highlights.” Click here for more details.

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Exhibition: The Jeweled Isle – Art from Sri Lanka

Kandyan Chief circa 1880-1890

Exhibition dates: 9 December 2018 – 23 June 2019

The first comprehensive survey of Sri Lankan art organised by an American museum, The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka presents some 240 works addressing nearly two millennia of Sri Lankan history.

The image of a bejewelled isle, first invoked in Greco-Roman accounts of Sri Lanka’s precious gems, inspired numerous literary descriptions of the island’s wealth and tropical beauty. The Jeweled Isle includes precious decorative objects fashioned from gold, silver, and ivory, and 19th-century photographs documenting Sri Lanka’s extraordinary monuments, scenery, and flora. Several artworks convey the importance of sacred sites and relics in Sri Lankan Buddhist practice, while rare images of Hindu gods attest to the long and constant interaction between Sri Lanka and South India.

Exquisite ivories, textiles, and furnishings further reflect nearly four centuries of European colonial presence in Sri Lanka and the dynamic interaction between local and foreign visual traditions. Featuring LACMA’s rarely displayed collection of Sri Lankan art—one of the finest and most extensive in the U.S.—the exhibition presents a timely exploration and celebration of a geographically complex, ethnically diverse, and multicultural South Asian hub.

An oil lamp lighting ceremony, followed by traditional Sri Lankan dances and drumming to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, will take place at 10:00 on Sunday December 16 in the Smidt Welcome Plaza. The event will feature performances by the Sri Lanka Foundation Performing Arts and Thath Jith Dance Company.

A comprehensive overview of this exhibition, with a lot of interesting background information can be found on the Asian Art website.

Exhibition location: Resnick Pavilion, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

 

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Exhibition: A Tale of Two Persian Carpets (One by One) – The Ardabil and Coronation Carpets

Exhibition dates: 17 September 2017 – 8 July 2018

Dating to the first half of the sixteenth century, LACMA’s two spectacular Persian carpets, both the gift of J. Paul Getty, have only rarely been exhibited due in part to their size and sensitivity to light. Now, these large and sumptuous carpets will be shown sequentially, affording visitors the opportunity to see two of the world’s most renowned Persian carpets and to learn of their fascinating history before and after they left Iran. The Ardabil carpet will be on view from 17 September 2017 – 19 February 2018, and the Coronation carpet will be exhibited from 24 February – 8 July 2018.

The large number of carpets surviving from sixteenth-century Iran compared to earlier periods reflects not only a high level of carpet production but also perhaps a change in the nature of their manufacture. During this period, carpet weaving evolved from a rural, nomadic craft to a national industry and an internationally acclaimed art form, as the first shahs of the Safavid dynasty (1501–1732) established royal factories in cities such as Tabriz, Kashan, Kirman and Isfahan. The two great Persian carpets presented here belong to this period of cultural, political and religious flowering.

For more information, visit the website of LACMA, Los Angeles, USA.