Silk Road Symposium, Japanese textiles, Pitt Rivers reopens

 

Great news! The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (a personal favourite of mine) is reopening on 22 September 2020. In line with current regulations, visitors will have to pre-book a free ticket in advance.

The museum is accessed through the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, an awe-inspiring space with wonderful informative displays.

 

You can just see the entrance to the Pitt Rivers behind the skeleton of the young Asian elephant. © Oxford University Museum of Natural History

 

Interior of the Pitt Rivers. © Charlotte-Brown.com

For those not familiar with this museum, you can visit it virtually through this link on their website. You can use this tool to zoom around the display cases while in the comfort of your own home. When you find something of interest you can then search their database for more information.

Postcard from Japan-British Exhibition, The Bear Killer, Ainu Home, 1910. Misa Tamura, private collection.

Their website also has a selection of conservation stories, explaining how conservators have worked on an object. In some cases the before and after photographs show a marked difference, in others it is much more subtle. This particular example shows the work done to preserve an Ainu hunting quiver, which was purchased for the museum in 1910. Staff collaborated with the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, and in reading this article we gain some insight into the position of the Ainu in Japanese society.

 

I have mentioned Thomas Murray, the author of Textiles of Japan, several times in previous blogs. Tomorrow, Saturday 12 September, he will be discussing the central themes of this book as part of the regular Rug and Textile Appreciation sessions hosted by the Textile Museum. “The talk will cover daily dress, work-wear, and festival garb, and follows the Arts and Crafts philosophy of the Mingei Movement. Murray will present subtly patterned cotton fabrics – often indigo dyed from the main islands of Honshu and Kyushu – along with garments from the more remote islands: the graphic bark cloth, nettle fiber, and fish skin robes of the aboriginal Ainu in Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the north, and the brilliantly colored cotton kimonos of Okinawa to the far south.” Museum website. Spaces for this online event are limited and registration is necessary through this link. Please note the session takes place at 11am EDT which is 1600 in the UK.

 

 

Regrettably I have only just become aware of a Symposium currently taking place at the University of Kansas entitled Visual and Material Culture of the Silk Road(s). This two-day event began today, but hopefully you might still have time to register vis this link for tomorrow’s sessions. Timing is 0900-1215 Central time, which is 1500-1815 in the UK.

“Inspired by the Eurasian trade routes that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the mid-15th century, this symposium highlights how artworks, design, trade goods, medicine, religion, and people traveled both overland and by sea and stimulated new cultural forms and ideas. While the term “Silk Road,” invented in the 19th century, may conjure an image of camels plodding across the desert on one contiguous road, speakers in this symposium challenge us to envision instead a dynamic pattern of cross-cultural exchanges occurring between Asia, Africa, and beyond that continues today.” University website.

 

Woman’s pleated wedding skirt 1800s, Qing Dynasty. © Spencer Museum of Art

The Spencer Museum of Art will be running an online exhibition to accompany this symposium. The exhibition, entitled Interweaving Cultures along the Silk Road, will run until 13 December 2020.

**************************************

 


 

Silk Road lectures, Japanese textile designs, Chinese silk cultivation and Madagascan textiles……

 

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.

I don’t usually do two blogs in one week, but just discovered this series of six online lectures which I thought members might enjoy.

The mummy known as Yingpan Man. © Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology

They took place at Penn Museum from October 2010 to June 2011. Grouped together under the title Great Adventures on the Silk Road, each video lasts around one hour. Although they can be watched in any order I would recommend watching the Introduction to the Silk Road by Nancy Steinhardt first. The lectures were geared towards an exhibition called Secrets of the Silk Road which was due to be held at Penn Museum in February 2011. Sadly the length of the exhibition was shortened, and the number of exhibits was reduced at the last moment. Edward Rothstein gives an interesting account of this in his article for The New York Times. I would also strongly recommend reading this well-illustrated article on The Mummies of East Central Asia by Victor H Mair, who also gives one of the lectures in this series.

The link to the full series of lectures can be found here.

 

 

I also really enjoyed this collection of 83 printed textiles in the Japanese style from a book in the collection of the Bibliothèques Patrimoniales in Paris .

This book of samples seems to have been published in France around 1930. Clicking on each sample brings up a larger version and you can also zoom right in as the resolution is very good.

 

Image showing a weaver at her loom. © Brooklyn Museum, 76.110d_recto_IMLS_PS4.jpg

Those interested in silk weaving might enjoy the contents of this book entitled Silk Cultivation and Production, which is in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. It shows all the stages of making silk, from collecting and feeding the worms up to the weaving of the threads.

 

One of the 54 Madagascan textiles in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum. © ROM

While on the subject of silk I found this presentation on the silks of Madagascar fascinating. It is by OATG member Dr Sarah Fee of the Royal Ontario Museum. The quality of the images really enhances the excellent text. The ROM hold 54 Madagascan textiles in their collection, some of which date to the nineteenth century. It was interesting to read of a connection with Omani traders and Indian trade cloths, almost reminiscent of the Silk Road connections with which I started this blog. 

 

This video shows how the silk is processed and dyed. © ROM

 

***************************

 


 

Exhibition: Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams

brunei-gallery-embroidered-tales-and-woven-dreams

Exhibition dates: 19 January – 25 March 2017

The exhibition Embroidered Tales and Woven Dreams is a colour-coded social history of the vast and geographically varied landscape known as the Silk Road (or originally the ‘Seidenstrasse’, a name given to this road by the German explorer Richthofen), which stretches from Central Asia to Western Europe. Its regional history will be explored through the embroidered tales and woven textiles of the communities who lived north and south of this ancient trade corridor across Asia.

The textiles on display have recorded a wonderful vernacular art, as embroidered tales, told by women storytellers, who were guardians of their customs and traditions for their individual tribes, castes and communities.

This exhibition, with a series of related lectures by internationally renowned lecturers, will examine the immensely rich, culturally fascinating identity of the Central Asian, Middle Eastern and South Asian landscapes, through the heritage of their embroidered textiles and costumes. It is a rich seam of historical material, meticulously embroidered and woven.

While the Silk Road, as a concept, refers to an area that underwent a thousand years of turbulent history, the physical links were comprised of smaller land routes, often through difficult terrain, and passable only by specialised trade caravans.

The northern ‘–stans’ of the Uzbeks, Kyrghiz, Tajiks, Turcoman and Khazaks exchanged goods with distant neighbours in Afghanistan and northern India, and, depending upon varying political arrangements, the even more distant powers of South Asia, Persia, Byzantium, Russia and China.

The exhibition will briefly examine the political upheavals that destroyed the lives of these communities and their nomadic, semi-nomadic and settled lifestyles.

For more information, visit the website of the Brunei Gallery, London, UK.

Textile Tidbits: Handmade on the Silk Road

BBC - Handmade on the Silk Road

For today’s Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about a handweaver in north west China, from their recent mini series ‘A Day in the Life of Three Master Craftsmen’.

The Uyghur community in north west China have been making Atlas silk for thousands of years. Mattursun Islam and his family are continuing the tradition, using a combination of handmade techniques and mechanised looms. From designing the patterns to colouring, dyeing and weaving the thread, this film follows each stage in absorbing detail. We also get an engaging glimpse into how their family and working life are closely connected. With rival companies often copying his designs, Mattursan is proud of his reputation.

Subsequent episodes in this mini series explore the lives of a wood carver and a potter.

To watch this programme online, visit the BBC Four website.