Savu, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, female pioneers and more…..

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Last month many members (and non-members) enjoyed a talk by Geneviève Duggan about weaving on the Indonesian island of Savu. Dr Duggan showed how women are the keepers of history in the form of oral genealogies, and how this information can help us to date their textiles.

© Textile Tours with David and Sue Richardson

She looked at historical written reports – starting with those of Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks in 1770 – in comparison to oral tradition. She also explained the binary structure of society on Savu and how men and women complement each other in their roles. She focused on the structure of the maternal line, and how weavers are able to exercise power via the gift of the textiles they produce. This was all accompanied by an excellent slide presentation.

Illustration of a chief’s house on Savu by Sydney Parkinson, who travelled there with James Cook in 1770

Dr Duggan ended her talk with a presentation on the need for a Weavers House, and explained how she was raising funds for this. Sadly in the last week Cyclone Seroja devastated large parts of eastern Indonesia, including the island of Savu and the weaving village with which Geneviève mainly works. Many houses were severely damaged and in some cases totally destroyed. The local government is hoping to get electricity working again in the village in August – yes that’s right – in August! This short video shows the current situation. It was very jerky so I have slowed it down to make it more watchable.

Their immediate needs are a generator, a couple of chainsaws, 1000 sheets of corrugated roofing and nails to secure them. If you would like to help with this please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website and ensure you click Meet the Makers – Tewuni Rai as the destination for your donation.

A recording of Dr Duggan’s talk is now available for members on the OATG website. Just scroll down to that talk and click on the link, then use the current password. This password can be found in the recent edition of Asian Textiles. If any member needs a reminder of it please contact one of the committee.

Recordings of all talks are now being added to the website so that members can view them at their leisure. This is yet another good reason to join the OATG. It doesn’t even matter if you are in a different time zone, you can still get to enjoy the lectures. In addition members receive our excellent journal Asian Studies three times per year.

Woman’s costume from Hama, Syria. © Iwatate Folk Textile Museum

A new exhibition has opened at the Iwatate Folk Textile Museum in Tokyo, entitled Textiles from Syria and its Neighboring Countries. Click through the images to see several lovely textiles from this area. This exhibition closes on 10 July 2021.

The current issue of Textiles Asia. © Bonnie Corwin

Those with a particular interest in the textiles of Syria should read the article Reflections on Late Ottoman Robes from the David and Elizabeth Reisbord Collection by Sandra S Williams in the current issue of Textiles Asia. The woman’s coat which graces the front cover dates to the late nineteenth to early twentieth century and was gifted to the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles by the Reisbords. Textiles Asia is published and edited by OATG member Bonnie Corwin. This particular issue also has a lengthy article on Uyghur Feltmaking in Xinjiang by Christine Martens.

I’m really looking forward to an online talk next Wednesday, 21 April, hosted by the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is “There Were No Women”: The Pitt Rivers Museum and Britain’s first female anthropologists. The speaker, Frances Larson, is the author of a new book entitled Undreamed Shores – The hidden heroines of British anthropology. This is essentially a “group portrait of five anthropologists all linked by Oxford University’s diploma in anthropology, and by the Pitt Rivers Museum, in the years before, during and after the First World War.” – Boyd Tonkin. The women discussed in this book, and their areas of research, are Beatrice Blackwood (New Guinea), Katherine Routledge (Easter Island), Maria Czaplicka (Siberia), Barbara Freire-Marreco (New Mexico and Arizona) and Winifred Blackman (Egypt). An excellent review of Larson’s book by Boyd Tonkin appeared on The Arts Desk website last month and really inspired me to order it immediately. The talk takes place at 17:00 BST and you can register for it here.

Maria Czaplicka © Pitt Rivers Museum

For those interested in learning more about Maria Czaplicka and her work in Siberia I recommend this article and podcast from the Women in Oxford’s History series. “The First World War has often been presented as a period of stagnation in anthropology. However, for Maria it was a time of opportunity – she was made lecturer in ethnology for three years between 1916 and 1919, becoming the first appointed female lecturer in Oxford.” – Jaanika Vider.

Summer kimono for a woman, 1680-1705. Image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.

Don’t forget the next OATG talk takes place on Thursday 22 April when Anna Jackson of the V&A will give a presentation about their recent kimono exhibition. Click here to register.

Master craftsman Tarek El Safty at work. © Ola Seif

Seif El Rashidi, Director of the Barakat Trust, recently gave a talk on the subject From Craft To Art: Egyptian Appliqué-work in Light of Local and Global Changes. He is the co-author (with Sam Bowker) of The Tentmakers of Cairo: Egypt’s Medieval and Modern Applique Craft (AUC Press, 2018). This conversation with Dr Fahmida Suleman (Royal Ontario Museum) and Dr Heba Mostafa (University of Toronto) explored “the over one thousand-year-old tradition of textile appliqué work (khayamiyya) in Egypt, which continues to thrive in the ‘Street of the Tentmakers’ in the heart of historic Cairo’s bustling centre.” The good news is that if you missed this talk, which took place at the end of March, the  Islamic Art and Material Culture Collaborative have now made a full recording of it available here

Bou Oumlil, 2015

That event was part of their Crafting Conversations: Discourses on the Craft Heritage of the Islamic World – Past, Present and Future series. The next event in the series is entitled Deconstructing the Code: Craft Collaborations in Morocco and will take place on Saturday 24 April at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 BST. French-Moroccan artist Sara Ouhaddou will be in conversation with Dr Mariam Rosser-Owen, Curator of the Middle East section at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This conversation will be co-hosted by the series organizer, Dr Fahmida Suleman, Curator, Islamic World, Royal Ontario Museum. Sara and Mariam will cover a variety of topics, including her past projects working with female weavers in the Atlas Mountains and with young female embroiderers in Tetouan. The event is free, but you do need to register for it.