One of the first books we ever bought on the subject of Asian textiles was Handwoven Textiles of South-East Asia by Sylvia Fraser-Lu, so I was delighted to learn that she will be giving an online talk on Burmese textiles next month.
“Sylvia Fraser-Lu’s new book, Textiles in Burman Culture, gives an overview of the history and evolution of textiles made and used by the Burman (Bama) people. This ethnic majority group comprises approximately 70 percent of the present-day population of Burma (Myanmar). The book describes and illustrates textiles made for royalty, religious leaders, and commoners—with information on fibers, dyes, and weaving techniques. Fraser-Lu also explores the importance of cloth in the life cycle, literature, and in trade relations with neighboring states.”
“Colorful photographs feature some of Burma’s most iconic textiles: wave-patterned tapestry-weave lun-taya acheik, embroidered wall hangings (kalaga), and intricately patterned Buddhist manuscript binding ribbons (sa-zi-gyo) made on a card loom. In addition to visiting the major textile centers, Fraser-Lu also ventured into the more remote areas of the Burman heartland to find new information on important lesser known textiles from Rakhine, Yaw, Shwebo, Pyay, and Shan State that have been made for sale in the Burman market.” Textile Museum website
This free online discussion is organised as part of the Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions by the Textile Museum and takes place on 9 January 2021 at 11am EST which is 1600 GMT.
Exhibition dates: 9-18 June 2019, National Museum, Yangon.
Until the late 1950s chiefs known as Saopha or Sawbwa were responsible for the administration of the Shan State of Burma. This exhibition, which is only open for 9 days, showcases a total of 27 costumes which are over a hundred years old. The majority of these costumes previously belonged to prominent men, but there is also one costume which belonged to the Shan Princess Mahardevi Sao Nan Yar. The most important costumes belonged to Sao Shwe Thike, the first President of Burma, and his father Sar Sao Maung.
Sao Shwe Thike
These costumes were brought to the National Museum in Yangon from the Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum, Shan State, in 2017 with the intention of having them properly restored and preserved. These costumes include textiles, silk, brocade, cotton, metals and precious stones.
For more information see this article in the Myanmar Times by Lae Phya Myo Myint.
INLE, Myanmar: If there should be any textile fitting for faith and devotion, a piece of fine fabric meticulously woven by hand from the delicate fibres of tens of thousands of lotus stems is no doubt one of the top contenders.
“A square metre of this fabric requires at least 20,000 lotus stems and takes a skilled artisan 40 days to produce,” said Myint Thein Htun, owner of the established lotus weaving centre Khit Sunn Yin.
The lotus’ beauty, symbolic of purity of the mind in Buddhism, inspired the devout artisan to turn its delicate filaments into a monk robe – a sacred offering of passionate devotion and purity of the soul. Legend has it that Sa Oo spent one whole year extracting and weaving lotus fibres into an exquisite garment for an abbot she revered.
“The stem is long and fresh in deep water but short and weak in shallow areas,” said Myint Thein Htun. His family has been making lotus fabric for four generations and is renowned for its expertise in the craft.
“If we harvest in the dry season when the mud is less fertile, the stem won’t be strong enough.”
After the harvest, each stem is gently cut with a fine blade and carefully pulled apart to expose the delicate fibres within. These almost transparent filaments are then rolled on a moist surface into a thread.
This is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event.
Colonel James Henry Green assembled a pre-eminent collection of textiles, photographs, notes, books and diaries from the northern hill states of Burma/Myanmar in the 1920s and 30s. In particular, Green’s documentation of life in Kachin State in northern Burma/Myanmar constitutes a rare if not unique visual record of life in this area at this time. In 1992, the James Henry Green Charitable Trust chose Brighton Museum & Art Gallery to be the long-term caretaker of the collection.
Helen Mears is Keeper of World Art at Royal Pavilion & Museums and a lecturer and doctoral student at the University of Brighton. In this talk, she will introduce the Green collection and talk about its continuing relevance to Kachin people in and outside of Burma/Myanmar.
The talk will be held at St James Conference Room, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL.
The Conference Room entrance is in the Church Place passageway, which runs between Jermyn Street and Piccadilly. There is a wrought iron gate signed ‘Church Hall Conference Room’ leading downstairs. Drinks and snacks will be served.
Piccadilly Circus tube is 5 minutes’ walk, and Green Park Tube is 10 minutes’ walk. There is free parking in St James Square after 6.30pm.
Please note this is an Oriental Rug and Textile Society event, but non-members are welcome to attend: £7 single lecture, £5 students, or choose £20 for one year’s membership (11 events).
Today’s Textile Tidbit is a link to the Tribal Music Asia website, and this year’s Songs of Memory update. Although the site focuses mostly on the songs and music of Southeast Asia, there are also a large number of pictures documenting traditional textiles in the areas of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China.
This summer’s update includes information about three exhibitions of traditional crafts from these places, and several photographs. I recommend taking a look if you’re not already familiar with the site.
Exhibition dates: 11 November 2015 – 20 March 2016
For readers based in the US, there’s still nearly a month left to see this stunning-looking show in Philadelphia.
This exhibition offers a look at beautiful woven textiles of the Zo people of Myanmar, India and Bangladesh. It focuses on traditional weavings worn for daily life and ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, funerals and feasts of merit. The Zo consider weaving to be the highest form of art. They believe their textiles confer status to the weaver and document his or her status in this life and the afterlife. ‘Art of the Zo’ presents how these woven treasures are made and worn, and features twentieth-century examples from specific locality and cultural divisions.
A talented Zo weaver is prized by her community for her skills. Using the most basic of looms, she can create textiles that range from unpatterned indigo-dyed cloth and simple, colourful stripes to complex weaves that could be mistaken for embroidery. Although most Zo have adopted Burmese and Western attire, some embrace traditional weaving techniques in an effort to preserve their culture. This exhibition draws from the Philadelphia Museum’s collection of Zo textiles and loans from Barbara and David Fraser, authors of Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh (2005).
In addition to tunics, wrap skirts, mantles, loincloths, capes and blankets, the exhibition includes a loom with a partially woven cloth next to a finished example from the museum’s collection. A video presentation, photographic details of selected works, and graphics of specific weave structures further demonstrate the virtuosic skill of Zo weavers.