Textiles from Indonesia, Palestine, Europe, Japan, Mexico and more….

This is proving to be a very exciting month in the textile world! Several new exhibitions opening and interesting talks taking place.

Ritual cloth palepai with ship motif and trees of life, Kalianda, province Lampung, Southern Sumatra. Inv. no. 9709. Photo: Kathrin Leuenberger.

On 11 April an exhibition entitled Schiffe und Übergänge (Ships and Passages) in will open in the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich. This exhibition “showcases selected ritual fabrics from southern Sumatra. The intriguing motifs include ships floating between the sea and the heavens, featuring ancestral beings, auspicious animal figures and powerful patterns. The ship cloths and their bold patterns were made with red, blue and yellow threads, which were intricately woven into cotton fabric using a sophisticated technique.” – museum website. The exhibition, which features some very important textiles collected by a former Director of the museum Alfred Steinmann, will run until 31 October 2021. More information is available here.

The fifteenth century ‘dancing ladies’ ceremonial cloth on loan to the ROM from the Textile Museum of Canada

On Wednesday 14 April the OATG founder Ruth Barnes (Yale University Art Gallery) will be in conversation with another of our members Sarah Fee (Royal Ontario Museum) and Rajarshi Sengupta (Hyderabad University). They will discuss the significance of a fifteenth century ceremonial cloth, which is over five metres long, with images of dancing ladies. Dr Sengupta will introduce the work of the contemporary chintz artists who also feature in the exhibition The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons. Sarah gave an excellent Zoom talk about the exhibition in October, the recording of which is available to our members in the password-protected section of our website. The talk begins at 12pm in Ontario, which is 17:00 in the UK. Click here to register.

One of the displays in the Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk exhibition. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the next OATG talk, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk with Anna Jackson of the V&A. This will take place on Thursday 22 April at 18:30 BST. There are still a few tickets remaining for both members (free) and non-members (just £3). Registration is via Eventbrite here. According to Thomas Murray, author of Textiles of Japan, “Anna Jackson is smart, charming, funny, interesting, wise, focused, disciplined, astute, and did I mention knows her stuff?!!!”. Quite an endorsement and I’m sure the talk will be fascinating.

Yemen, Bayt al-Faqih. Woman’s korta (dress) with embroidery, couched silver bands and white braided cotton (2018.37.67) © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Cross-cultural connections are examined in an online exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This exhibition focusses on a group of textiles from the Arab world donated to the museum by Jenny Balfour-Paul. “From textiles to ceramics, silverwork to photography, ‘Weaving Connections‘ celebrates excellence in design and technical skill from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Senegal, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.  Learn about how people made, used and wore these items and discover how the exhibition brings contemporary relevance, cross-cultural connections and personal stories into the foreground.” – Pitt Rivers website.

Let’s look now in more detail at the textiles from just one of the countries mentioned in the previous exhibition – Palestine.

Shatweh (married woman’s headdress adorned with coins. Bethlehem, Palestine. Early twentieth century. Oriental Institute A35640E 

An exhibition of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from Palestine was shown at the Oriental Institute Museum of the University of Chicago in 2006/2007. The exhibition was entitled Embroidering Identities: A Century of Palestinian Clothing and was a joint project of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem. 

A 48 page catalogue, that is now out of print, accompanied the exhibition and provided an overview of the colourful and very distinctive clothing found in Palestine at that time. “The richly illustrated text discusses the construction of traditional dresses, the materials and dyes employed, and clothing and embroidery in the years following 1948. Garments from many regions are illustrated and described. The volume includes a glossary of Arabic terms and a checklist to the exhibit.” – Oriental Institute website. The author is Iman Saca (in collaboration with Maha Saca) and they are the founders of the Palestine Heritage Center in Bethlehem. This catalogue can now be downloaded free of charge here. It took a little while to download, but the wait was well worth it.

Traditional embroidery today. © Ethnic Jewels Magazine.

The exhibition in Chicago focussed on traditional Palestinian clothing from the past. This article from the excellent Ethnic Jewels Magazine looks to the future. The author, Hala Munther Salem, is just fifteen years old and her love for the traditional craft of embroidery shines through her words.

Ensemble with two striped aprons. Romanian, Oltenia, 1925-45
This outfit belonged to Queen Marie of Romania who brought attention to her country’s regional dress by writing about it as well as wearing it.
Princess Ileana of Romania Collection, KSUM 1987.15.5 a-c

Another exhibition which looks at textiles from across a large region is currently on at the Kent State University Museum. Entitled Stitched: Regional Dress Across Europe this exhibition showcases common features shared by regional costume across Europe. “In its original context in villages, regional dress carefully marked social and cultural differences. Religious affiliation, gender, age, and marital status were all instantly recognisable at a glance by members of the community. A person’s outfit signalled which village or region they came from. Focusing on these signs of difference obscures the common vocabulary that rural residents across Europe used to shape their clothing. By organising the pieces on display according to shared features, this exhibition highlights the commonalities across the continent rather than their differences. The pieces on view span Western and Eastern Europe including examples from Norway, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Romania and Albania. The development of elaborate regional dress was not a result of the isolation of their wearers but a signal of their integration into broader European society.” KSU website. Lots more information, as well as excellent images of some beautiful textiles, can be found on their website.

© Chloë Sayer

Selvedge have a new feature. Once a fortnight they will share a longer blog under the heading The Long Thread. The first of these was written by Chloë Sayer, an expert on Mexican art and culture. She writes of the division of labour in the Zapotec communities of Oaxaca, with men doing the weaving and women the preparatory work. It was encouraging to read of the return to the use of natural dyes. Click here to read this very interesting article.

Finally, some news of upcoming conferences:-

The Costume Society of America will hold a three-day virtual symposium in May. This will include pre-recorded research presentations as well as live discussions. Recordings of all of the events will be available to registrants after the symposium. The subjects to be covered are very diverse – just take a look at the list here, where you will also find a link and instructions on how to register.

Textiles from Japan, Africa, the Pacific, Asia…….

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email may need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the videos.

Tomorrow, 15 October 2020, the Japan House, London will host a panel discussion on the making of the film Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan by director Mizoguchi Naomi.

“Filmed in Biratori, Hokkaido, this documentary follows the everyday life of four elder members of the Ainu community, focussing on their experiences and efforts in the preservation of history and culture through Ainu language classes and participation in several daily activities.” – Japan Society website.

After the panel discussion, registered participants will be able to watch a full screening of the film via a video link. For more information and a link to how to book click here.

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In a previous blog (2 October) I mentioned another Japan Foundation event – an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST. 

OATG member Felicity Wood has kindly informed me of another kimono-related talk – The Unbounded Potential of Kimono, Kyoto to Catwalk – this time organised by the Embassy of Japan. This online talk takes place on Tuesday 20 October at 1300 BST.

Kimono, designed by Jotaro Saito for the Fog Empire Collection Show

“Against the backdrop of the ongoing exhibition at the V&A, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, its curator and Keeper of Asian department, Anna Jackson, will be in conversation with Kimono designer Jotaro Saito, who will join from Japan. The two will talk about the exhibition, how they met, and about Jotaro’s convicition that the kimono is an everyday object of fashion that fits into modern life. In following the notion of a total look, in which the designer creates the garment, obi, and all the accessories, the session will explore what this philosophy means in practice for Jotaro Saito’s designs.”

Click here to register for this event.

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A new exhibition entitled Fibres Africaines opened at the Musée de la Toile de Jouy near Paris on 1 October, and this will run until 28 March 2021.

This exhibition will celebrate “the creativity and diversity of African textiles. While some fabrics are made with precious materials such as silk or glass pearls, others have the audacity to be real luxury pieces, yet designed from humble materials. Raffia fabrics, tree bark, cottons colored with natural dyes such as indigo can be regarded as real works of art for the virtuosity of their manufacturing techniques.” – museum website. 

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I found this blog by Sarah Foskett of the University of Glasgow Textile Conservation team really interesting. In it she gives some background to a five year project looking at Pacific barkcloth.

The Hunterian GLAHM E.537. A small section of the outer border of a late 19th century Fijian masi kesa fabric, stencilled in black, red and brown. (© The Hunterian, University of Glasgow)

Last month they held several online workshops and a website has now been launched. This is still being developed, with new information constantly being added.

There are also a series of videos showing some aspects of barkcloth production. The one above focusses on some of the dyes used.

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On Saturday 7 November the Textile Museum, Washington will host another Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning. The presenter will be Alberto Levi, and the subject is Italian Peasant Rugs. “In this illustrated lecture, independent researcher Alberto Boralevi will explore how textiles produced in the Italian folk tradition blend designs and techniques from the East and West……. The term “peasant rugs” generally refers to textiles produced by Italian folk tradition, primarily from the peninsula’s central-southern zones, as well as Sicily and Sardinia. The techniques and patterns of these Italian rural weavings share a striking affinity with the tribal weavings of Anatolia, Persia, and the Caucasus.” – Museum website.

For more information and to register please follow this link.

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On Wednesday 21 October and Thursday 22 October the Textile Museum will host a two-day roundtable to celebrate the creation of the new Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center.

Patchwork trade cloth robe (detail), Indonesia, 18th century. Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection T-2852. Bruce M. White Photography.

“Beginning with an introduction to Lloyd Cotsen’s collecting and an overview of the collection and study center, the roundtable will feature five one-hour panels highlighting textiles from five continents, including an Indian robe for Indonesia, a Kuba hat, and Captain Cook’s sample book of tapa cloth.” – museum website.

The subjects of the five panels are : Asia, Europe-Central Asia, Africa, Americas and Oceania. Our founder, Ruth Barnes, will look at a patchwork coat (pictured above), created from over 100 small pieces of Indian block-printed textiles. and intended for Indonesia.

In her presentation Hélène Dubied will look at a Central Asian silk weft-faced compound twill, which dates to the seventh to tenth century. This is part of the permanent exhibition of the Abegg Stiftung. The presenter will give details of how this delicate textile was conserved.

I have a particular fascination with Captain James Cook, so will be most interested in Adrienne Kaeppler’s talk on the Alexander Shaw Barkcloth Books. These books are made up of pieces of barkcloth from Cook’s actual voyages!

These are just a few of the highlights of this event – the pdf with the full programme can be accessed here. Please note registration is essential.

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I’ve mentioned the superb videos produced by the Tracing Patterns Foundation in previous blogs. Their latest release is called Kantha Reimagined: From Private to Public . This was co-produced with Kantha Productions LLC.

The presenter this time is Cathy Stevulak, who explains the importance of kantha as a women’s artform in Bengal. I was intrigued to learn of references in the 6th century BCE to kantha being worn by ascetics.

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Event: International Convention of Asia Scholars (and more) in Leiden

This July a series of textile-related events will take place in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars runs from 16-19 July 2019. Participants from over 60 countries, covering a multitude of disciplines, are expected to attend. Registration details for ICAS can be found here. Please note there is a significant discount for early registration and this ends on 15 March 2019.

As part of this Convention the Tracing Patterns Foundation are organising several Textile Panels around the subject Fibre, Loom and technique. Fifteen researchers will present their findings on a variety of subjects. These include our founder Ruth Barnes on Early Weft Ikats found in Sumatran Textiles and OATG member Chris Buckley on The Origin of Chinese Drawlooms. Itie van Hout, whose book on Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum was recently reviewed in Asian Textiles will speak about Twill Weaving in Kalimantan and Sandra Niessen will give a presentation on the Bulang of the Batak people – which Pamela Cross spoke of with such passion at our recent Show and Tell.

Although several of the talks are on Indonesian textiles, other areas covered include the Philippines, Egypt, Laos, China, India and Africa.

From 13-19 July the Textile Research Centre (also in Leiden) is organising a special Asia Week on the theme of East-West connections. This will include an exhibition, workshops and lectures. The exhibition, entitled Out of Asia: 2000 years of fascination with Eastern textiles, aims to show “how economics and trade have played an essential role in the movement and use of textiles” and will present a range of textiles, from Indian block-printed textiles from the thirteenth century to regional Dutch textiles from the early twentieth century.

Back of a woman’s blouse from the Dutch island of Marken, with a panel with a chintz-style decoration with peacocks and buteh, 1937. © Textile Research Centre

The workshops will include Indigo Printing and Dyeing with Georg Stark (read my earlier blog on him here), Analysing Ancient Textile Fragments with Affordable Equipment, and Embroidery from Afghanistan.

Full details of the talks and workshops, along with registration details, can be found here – please note spaces are limited.

Obviously a visit to Leiden would not be complete without spending time in the Museum Volkenkunde, where you are greeted by a huge totem pole as you enter the museum. Its collection is vast and it seeks to convey through universal themes that “despite cultural differences, we are all essentially the same”.

Part of the Indonesia Gallery display at the Museum Volkenkunde

A short train ride (around 40 minutes) will take you to Amsterdam where you can visit the Tropenmuseum.

It’s easy to travel to Leiden from many parts of the UK – just fly to Amsterdam (Schipol) and get the train from there (15 minutes), or take the Eurostar to Amsterdam. See you in Leiden!

 

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Exhibition: Traded Treasures – Indian Textiles for Global Markets

Exhibition dates: 26 January – 9 June 2019

13th or 14th century cloth from Gujarat, made for the eastern Indonesian market

This recently opened exhibition at the Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, showcase the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia.

“Known for many centuries as the source of fine cotton and silk textiles, India has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. Spanning five hundred years of the history of India’s thriving commerce to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Japan, this exhibition reveals why Indian textiles were in demand the world over.

Some of the earliest surviving Indian textiles are printed and painted cotton fragments found in Indonesia. Along with silk double-ikat patola, these were used for ceremonial purposes and treasured in Indonesia as heirlooms. The maritime trade that relied on supplying Indian textiles to Southeast Asian markets in exchange for spices was first conducted by Arab, Persian, and Indian merchants but later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, which expanded the demand for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.

The textiles presented in this exhibition…….. tell a fascinating story of global commerce and the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced goods of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, while also revealing how cross-cultural interchange contributed to global aesthetic developments.”

A fully illustrated catalogue on the history of the Indian textile trade, is due out in March 2019 and will have contributions by many leading experts, including our founder Ruth Barnes, Kaja McGowan, and Sylvia Houghteling.

Location: Bartels Gallery, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 114 Central Avenue, Ithaca, NY.

 

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Exhibition: The Fabric of India

Exhibition dates: 19 October 2018 – 6 January 2019

Discover the richness of Indian textiles from the fifteenth century to today in The Fabric of India, on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum 19 October 19, 2018 – 6 January, 2019. Organised by the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London, this exhibition showcases the finest examples from the V&A’s world-renowned collection together with masterpieces from international partners, leading fashion and textile designers and additions from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection.

Handmade textiles are embedded in every aspect of India’s identity and the history of these fabrics dates back at least 6,000 years. Long before Europeans landed on the shores of the subcontinent, Indians were using indigenous resources to create colourful textiles desired around the world. Handwoven, printed, dyed and embellished fabrics were so central to the subcontinent’s character that in ancient Greece and Babylon the very name “India” was shorthand for “cotton.” Today a lively textile and fashion industry thrives in India.

The exhibition is organised in six thematic sections, exploring courtly splendour exemplified by sumptuous fabrics and dress alongside finely crafted sacred cloth used for religious worship. Centuries of global trade shaped by the export of Indian textiles is examined, illustrating a robust aesthetic exchange between artisans and their clients. The political power of textiles is considered through their use as a symbol of power and protest in the quest for independence in the early twentieth century.

Today, Indian designers and artists are adapting traditional techniques to create exciting new fashion, art and design for a global audience, giving India’s textile history a new relevance in the modern world. Innovative dress by contemporary fashion designers, including Manish Arora, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Abraham and Thakore, Rahul Mishra, Aneeth Arora and others will be on display.

For more information visit the website of the Cincinnati Art Museum

A one-day Symposium will also be held on 16 November featuring OATG founder Ruth Barnes. Click here for more details.

Event: Textile Tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands 2018

Event dates 16-28 May 2018

 

OATG members David and Sue Richardson will again be leading a textile tour of the Lesser Sunda Islands in 2018.  They will be exploring some of the most beautiful islands of Indonesia – Flores, Lembata, Alor, Timor, Savu, Sumba and Rinca – from the comfort  of the beautiful Ombak Putih. This fabulous tour, limited to just 22 participants, uses a traditional boat, but with all of the modern comforts including air-conditioned en-suite cabins. The cruise will start from Maumere on the island of Flores on 16 May and end at Labuan Bajo (also on Flores) on 28 May. Both towns are easily accessed by short flights from Bali.

This year the itinerary is one day longer than usual and also includes visits to the islands of Ternate, Pantar and Raijua. One of the highlights is the day spent in Lamalera where the founder of the OATG, Ruth Barnes, did her research. In every village guests will be welcomed by expert weavers and natural dyers, keen to share their knowledge. Of course there will also be some time for snorkelling and relaxing on deck. Each evening there will be a talk on the people and textiles to be encountered the next day. The highlight of the final day is a close encounter with the  Komodo dragons on the island of Rinca.

There are just a few spaces remaining  for the 2018 tour, so if you are interested in this trip of a lifetime contact David and Sue without delay!

For more information and photos, visit their website Asian Textile Studies here

Event: OATG’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations – Talk by Ruth Barnes on the Ashmolean’s Robert Shaw Collection

Ashmolean - Robert Shaw Collection cap - OATG 20th Anniversary

Event date: Saturday 8 August 2015, 2–5pm

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Oxford Asian Textiles Group (OATG), this talk will examine the remarkable collection of ikat coats and other garments from Central Asia collected by explorer Robert Shaw in 1868‒1869 on his travels from India to Yarkand and Kashgar.

In 1995 Dr Ruth Barnes initiated the founding of the OATG, with the specific aim of making the Oxford textile collections better known to specialists and the interested public. Since leaving the Ashmolean Museum, Ruth is now Senior Curator in the Department of Indo-Pacific Art at Yale University, USA.

Drinks will be served from 2pm, and the talk will take place at 2.30pm. Questions and refreshments, including birthday cake, will follow!

Tickets £5/£4 concessions. Free entry for OATG members. Booking is essential: click here to book.

For more information, visit the Ashmolean event’s Facebook page.