Indigo, batik, Chinese and Serbian textiles

An exhibition has opened at the Albuquerque Museum entitled Indelible Blue: Indigo Across the Globe. It examines the history, techniques, and movement of indigo as it has been used and exchanged around the world for millennia.

Hispanic New Mexican, Frazada, 1840-1850, wool and indigo, Albuquerque Museum, museum purchase, 1983 General Obligation Bonds, PC1984.25.15

“The chemical compound (indican) required to produce indigo dye is present in various levels in several different plant families and hundreds of different plant species. Individuals around the globe have ingeniously developed and utilized various methods for extracting and applying indigo dye for at least the last 6,200 years. While many diverse local techniques and uses of indigo have existed, the allure of the famous blue dye has made the story of indigo inseparable from the history of trade, colonialism, slavery, globalism, and cultural exchange.” – Albuquerque Museum website.

This exhibition will run until 24 April 2022.

Today marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Parish House of the Serbian Orthodox Church Municipality in Ljubljana, Slovenia, entitled Two Faces of the Pirot Carpet from the Collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade. The exhibition was curated by Marina Cvetković of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.

The sixteen carpets displayed represent the highest achievement of Serbian textile creativity. “The collection of Pirot carpets of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, one of the oldest and most important collections in Serbia, consists of 169 objects created in the interval from 1892-1932….. The exhibits classified in three historical periods indicate the specific development and transformation of Pirot carpet weaving viewed from the aspect of broader socio-economic and historical changes in Serbian society.” – Museum website.

OATG member Maria Friend has kindly informed me about an upcoming webinar hosted by the Chinese Indonesian Heritage Center Foundation. The subject of the programme is Chinese Attire and Batik in Indonesia: Tempo Doeloe until the 21st Century.

“As Chinese New Year is approaching, CIHC invites you to get a glimpse into how the Chinese in Indonesia dressed themselves – both in daily life and on special occasions – during the Dutch colonial times all the way to present-day Indonesia. Batik has always played an important role in Chinese Indonesian clothing. In this webinar, experts and batik artists from Indonesia and the Netherlands will share their insight about clothing and batik, then and now.” – CIHC

The presentations and discussions will be in English and will take place on Saturday 29 January at 15:00-17:00 GMT. This event is free, but you do need to register for it before 26 January.

I would strongly recommend going to the CIHC website and looking at the articles on traditions and culture. Christopher Ng has written a series of thirty one short pieces looking at Chinese dress, funeral rites, wedding rituals etc. Many of these are illustrated with interesting old photographs.

Ceremonial attire of a woman with simple “cloud collar” and a man without “Mandarin square”

Finally, a reminder that the Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM takes place on Thursday 27 January at 18:00 GMT. The formal part of the meeting will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, a conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. Members should have already received their invitations.

Don’t forget to let me know if you hear of any interesting talks, exhibitions, new textile books, so that I can share the information here.

New Year, New Textile Events!

On Monday 10 January Dr David Hugus will give a talk on the Evolution of Chinese Rank Badges. David is the author of Chinese Rank Badges: Symbols of Power, Wealth and Intellect in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. These badges were officially worn from 1391 to 1911, and thus illustrate the textile art of China over a span of 600 years.

This will be the first of a two-part talk on the evolution and dating of these badges. It begins at 19:00 PST, which is 03:00 GMT so doesn’t really work for our UK members, but hopefully some of our many overseas members will enjoy it.

Click here for more information and registration details.

Slide ©Dr Dorothy Armstrong

On Thursday 13 January the Hajji Baba Club will host an online lecture by Dr Dorothy Armstrong, the current May Beattie Fellow at the Ashmolean Museum. Her talk is entitled Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: A Carpet Controversy.

In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in the provincial city of Sheffield, UK, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Museum, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge, collectors’ drive and market practices, played out through a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.

All of this may sound familiar to OATG members, as Dr Armstrong gave this talk to us last August. It was extremely well-received, and if you missed it a recording is available in the members’ resources area of our website. However you may well want instead to join this online event, as the Q and A session afterwards is sure to be stimulating. The talk begins at 11:00 EST, which is 16:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Fragment (Tunic), 1532/1700
Inca; probably Cuzco or Lake Titicaca region, southern highlands, Peru. Bessie Bennett Endowment

On the same day, Thursday 13 January, the Art Institute of Chicago will host an online lecture by Andrew Hamilton entitled Inca Textiles under Colonial Rule. This talk focuses on two fragments of an Inca tunic, explaining “the appearance and usage of the original tunic; the tunic’s elusive designs, called tocapus in Quechua; the European design influences manifested in the garment; and how an elite Indigenous man might have worn such a tunic to express his nobility under colonial rule. Most importantly, this talk will illuminate the knowledge and skills of the tunic’s weavers and show how their work upheld long-standing Inca techniques while also inventing new ones in response to their much-changed lives in the Viceroyalty of Peru.” – AIC website

The talk takes place at 17:00-17:45 CST, which is 23:00-23:45 GMT, and you can register for it here.

The Textile Museum Associates of Southern California begin their 2022 programme on Saturday 15 January with an online talk by Abel Trybiarz, author of Rugs & Art: Tribal Bird Rugs and Others, published in 2017 by HALI. The title of his talk is RUGS & ART: South Persian Tribal Rugs with Birds and Other Creatures.

“The so-called “bird rugs” of the Khamseh Confederation and the Qashqa’i are among the most charming and colorful of figurative rugs of the Southwest Persian tribes. Their rows and columns of birds, and all kinds of other animals including human figures, have been made in an infinite array of combinations and colors, with a huge variety of border motifs. Over many years, Buenos Aires collector Abel Trybiarz has quietly built a previously unknown collection of bird and animal rugs that has at its heart a superb selection of antique knotted-pile rugs, woven by the nomadic tribes of the Khamseh Confederation in southwestern Iran during the 19th century.”

The talk takes place at 10:00 PST, which is 18:00 GMT, and you can register for it here.

Cover of Mea and the Palm Flowers. ©Tracing Patterns Foundation

OATG member Sandra Sardjono of Tracing Patterns Foundation has been instrumental in producing a lovely book for children, telling the story of a little girl called Mea who dreams of wearing a new ikat cloth to the Harvest Festival on the island of Savu in Indonesia. One of the advisors for this book was Geneviève Duggan, who last year talked to our members about the textiles of Savu, in particular those woven by the women of Pedero village, the setting of this book. The book is beautifully illustrated, and half of the proceeds of sales will be going to the weavers – who you may remember suffered dreadfully after Cyclone Seroja. Click here to order this delightful book.

A young girl from Pedero we photographed during one of our many visits to Savu.

I missed Joe Coca’s talk on textile photography last month, so am glad to see that a recording of it is now available on Youtube. In it he talks about the trials and tribulations involved in taking some of the photographs of weavers and people in their traditional dress.

On Thursday 27 January we will hold our Oxford Asian Textile Group AGM via Zoom. It will begin at 18:00 GMT and will be followed by a talk by Sue Stanton, conservator at the Ashmolean Museum. All members should have already received the Zoom link, which will be resent along with the agenda and committee reports well in advance of the meeting.