Upcoming textile events – exhibitions, online lectures and symposia

 

We have had some very encouraging feedback on the video that Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono made exclusively available for OATG members until 1 October. Our next Lockdown Newsletter is well under way, but our editor Gavin Strachan is always keen for new material for both the Newsletter and the Journal. If you have any ideas for an article or perhaps a short piece about a favourite textile please email him directly.

 

Woman’s hat or ládjogahpir, Sámi, Norway. Wool, horn, cotton and silk, pre-1919. © British Museum

The British Museum has now reopened and their major exhibition entitled Arctic culture and climate will start on 22 October and run until 21 February 2021. This looks fascinating and I’m sure we will hear more of it shortly from our chair Helen Wolfe as she has been closely involved with this exhibition in her position as Textiles Collection Manager. I was interested to learn more about the hat depicted above. Apparently use of these hats declined around 1870 because “missionaries, who interpreted the horn as representing the devil, considered them sinful” (BM website).

The Pitt Rivers Museum has in its collection a portrait dated circa 1873 of a Saami woman wearing one of these hats, which Arthur Evans described as like “Minerva’s helmet, exquisitely graceful”.

Man’s snow-spectacles. Reindeer skin, metal, glass beads, uranium beads. Dolgan, Russia, before 1879. © British Museum

There are several excellent relevant blogs on the British Museum website. My favourite of these was 10 things you need to live in the Arctic  , which has some wonderful images of textiles. Tickets are not yet available, but I will ensure members are informed as soon as they are.

 

Woollen tunic from an 8th century tomb in Niger
Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines, Université Abdou Moumouni de Niamey, Niger

The Met Fifth Avenue has now also reopened, giving visitors a final opportunity to see the Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara exhibition which ends on 26 October 2020.  The history of this region will be illuminated through more than two hundred items. The majority of these will be sculptures, but there are also about 30 textiles including some very rare ancient indigo examples that were preserved in the Tellem Caves in Mali (information from Elena Phipps). Do scroll down the page to the images of the exhibition objects where you are able to click on each one to bring up the full details of the item.

The Textile Society of America holds a biennial symposium, which this year was due to take place in Boston. Obviously that could not happen, so a virtual symposium has been organised instead. This is actually a great opportunity for many of our UK members who would not otherwise have been able to attend. Even better, you do not need to be a member of the TSA to register for these events – though obviously if you enjoy them you may well wish to consider joining. The theme of the symposium is Hidden Stories/Human Lives. It takes place from 15-17 October 2020 and registration is now open. Full Symposium registration gives you access to twelve concurrent sessions, keynote and plenary sessions, and film sessions. There are a range of rates, including a heavily discounted one for students, making this extremely good value. Click here for full details of how to register, and here for full details of the programme.

There are 12 concurrent sessions, featuring a range of speakers from across the globe. Topics are very diverse with the textile traditions of the Andes, Mexico, Africa, Japan, India, Cambodia and China among those covered.

 

Dr Sam Bowker with the Syme Panels, photograph by Kylie Esler (2015)

As part of their response to Covid, the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art at the California Lutheran University hosted a series of online lectures. These have now all been made available online. This one by Sam Bowker in particular caught my eye. Sam is an expert on the textile art of ‘khayamiya’, Egyptian appliqués produced by the tentmakers of Cairo. This hour-long presentation “brings together the stories of the tentmakers and their extraordinary tents – from the huge tent pavilions, or suradiq, of the streets of Egypt, to the souvenirs of the First World War and textile artworks celebrated by quilters around the world. It traces the origins and aesthetics of the khayamiya textiles that enlivened the ceremonial tents of the Fatimid, Mamluk, and Ottoman dynasties, exploring the ways in which they challenged conventions under new patrons and technologies, inspired the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse, and continue to preserve a legacy of skilled handcraft in an age of relentless mass production. ” (WRG website). You can access the video through following this link. The list of the full series of lectures can be viewed here.

 

Chinese textile to protect children against “dangerous forces”. © USC Pacific Asia Museum

The USC Pacific Asia Museum will be hosting an online event looking at Protective Textiles in the USC PAM Collection. The curator, Dr Rebecca Hall, will “explore textiles made to help children survive against dangerous forces in China; jackets constructed to keep a fireman safe in Japan; and an undershirt inscribed with symbols to keep its wearer safe in Myanmar. Click here for more details of how to register for this event which takes place on Tuesday 22 September at 20:00 BST.

 

Sample of cloth with Japan-inspired decoration, Europe, mid-20th century. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden. TRC 2010.0493

Finally I would like to suggest another useful resource for members. ClothRoads have a monthly blog of interesting textile events, written by my friend Marilyn Murphy. Sometimes, inevitably, we both list the same exhibition, but often there are differences. In her most recent blog Marilyn includes an online exhibition of Russian quilts and another on Macedonian costume. She also provides links to an online exhibition at the Textile Research Centre in Leiden entitled Out of Asia. I saw this exhibition last year when I attended the ICAS conference and am sure members will enjoy this virtual viewing of it. I recommend signing up to the ClothRoads blog to get their monthly guide (there is an option to subscribe in the top left corner of your browser).

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More reopenings!

 

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 video.

Many museums are either now open once again, or are preparing to reopen soon. There will obviously be some changes to the visitor experience. In many cases tickets have to be booked in advance and one-way routes have been marked out. For example the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford reopened this week and everyone, including members, has to book their ticket in advance. This should lead to a better experience for all visitors.

The British Museum will be reopening on 27 August. To begin with only a selection of galleries will be opening, with more to be added later. Click here for the full list. Visitors will need to book a timed slot and follow the one-way route marked out.

The V&A in London has also partially reopened, with more galleries to be added to the list in the coming weeks. Please check their website for the new opening hours. Most exciting is the fact that their fantastic exhibition Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk will reopen on 27 August!

Standing courtesan, colour print from woodblocks, Katsukawa Shunsen, 1804-18, Japan. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

 

Parr (1893–1969); cotton or polyester cotton blend; screen printed. © Dorset Fine Arts

Further afield the Textile Museum of Canada opens again to the public on 19 August. Their current exhibition is entitled Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios and celebrates these textiles which show the traditional way of life. Curated by Roxane Shaughnessy the exhibition also includes a small selection of clothing and footwear in addition to the examples of printed cloth. Last December I blogged about this exhibition, and a video has now been added to the museum’s website. For those (most of us) who can’t get to the museum this gives us a flavour of the textiles on display.

Last month I blogged about the major exhibition of chintz at the Royal Ontario Museum which had been postponed due to the pandemic. This will now open on 12 September. The museum website has lots of interesting background information and videos, including one about a rare book of Indian chintz patterns recorded by a Japanese cloth manufacturer which was published in 1785. Best of all is the video featuring OATG member Sarah Fee (the curator of this exhibition) in conversation with Anjli Patel examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” This gives us a chance to see several of the textiles from the exhibition in close-up.

 

I was recently checking some of the Asian textile links on our WordPress site and noticed the Harris Museum in Preston, UK was listed. I checked out their website to see what collections they held, and became fascinated by the story of John Forbes Watson. In 1866 he put together an 18 volume set of fabric sample books entitled The Textile Manufactures of India. This was published by the India Office of the British Government. Forbes Watson was Reporter on the Products of India at the India Museum in London. As such he was responsible for identifying and cataloguing Indian products for the Secretary of State for India. “Forbes Watson’s great skill was as an organiser and cataloguer of information and objects. He re-organised the India Museum’s collections and published on a variety of subjects, including Indian tobacco, tea cultivation, and cotton. He even tried to catalogue the population of India in a photographic series called The Peoples of India (8 vols, 1868-75).” – Harris Museum website.

John Forbes Watson 1827-1892

Although he had worked in India for several years as a physician in the Bombay Medical Service, he did not return to India to collect the samples used in these books. Instead – textile lovers and curators look away now – he cut out sections from fabrics held in the stores of the India Museum and used them to create 20 sets of the 18 volume books. As you can imagine this involved hundreds of samples. The India Museum closed in 1879 and much of its contents were sent to the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A.

It’s important to realise that the fabrics chosen were not intended to fully represent the wide variety of textiles made in the region. Forbes Watson’s focus was on those fabrics which could be useful to British industry, more specifically to show manufacturers what they could copy. According to him “The 700 specimens … show what the people of India affect and deem suitable in the way of textile fabrics, and if the supply of these is to come from Britain, they must be imitated there. What is wanted, and what it is to be copied to meet that want, is thus accessible for study”.

 

Sample no 24 listed as a turban from fine cotton made in Jeypoor in Rajpootana.

 

A design registered by a British manufacturer which is clearly a copy of the sample shown above. ©Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.

The Harris Museum website has a lot of fascinating background to these volumes and has now made all 700 textile samples in these books available to explore digitally for the first time. It is possible to just browse through each volume, or you can search under different categories. The title of the volumes is actually misleading as it only mentions India but they do contain some textiles from further afield such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and Nepal. I highly recommend taking a look.

A few days after discovering that website 2 different friends shared an article about these volumes from an Indian perspective. Written by Kaamya Sharma for The Hindu, we learn how copies of these books were sent to many British manufacturing locations and “As a result, cheap, mass-produced, British replicas of these samples inundated the Indian market within a decade. These were print imitations of intricate weaves whose technique had been developed and perfected by Indian weavers over several centuries. The cheaper prices of British textiles had a predictably devastating impact on Indian handlooms.” Forbes Watson was clearly a great admirer of Indian textiles and his books of samples are invaluable to textile historians, but we also need to acknowledge the devastating impact their publication had on the very textiles he so admired.

 

Moving to another area of Asia, I found this video by the Tracing Patterns Foundation on banana fibre cloths from Mindanao fascinating. This time the speaker is Craig Diamond, who has a passion for these T’nalak cloths woven by the Tboli people. The technique used is warp ikat and the colours are obtained using natural dyes. Craig explained that black is seen as the background, red as an embellishment, and white as the primary pattern. This was most helpful and something not every presenter would have thought of. The cloths have several uses, both for ceremonies and as a form of currency. I was amazed to learn that some are 35 feet in length!

With my interest piqued I started to look for more information on this textile tradition and found this article on the Narra Studio website provided a lot of background on how textiles are seen as a form of storytelling.

We hope OATG members enjoyed the special Lockdown Newsletter with a variety of interesting articles which was sent out last month. Please don’t forget to email our editor Gavin Strachan by the end of August if you have ideas for the next newsletter. These are being produced in addition to our usual Asian Textiles journal in recognition of the fact that we are currently not able to provide our usual programme of events. Don’t forget that all 76 back issues of our journals are available to search through and view online for members, with the first 62 also being available to non-members.

Newsflash!

Another exciting treat will also soon be arriving in your inboxes. Chris Buckley and Sandra Sardjono have produced an excellent video for us on Minangkabau Looms and Textiles. This will be in a password-protected area of our website and all members will receive the password in the coming days.

 

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