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In her recent OATG talk Geneviève Duggan spoke of the need for a Weavers’ House for the community she works with on the island of Savu. Here is the background to this story, and a link to how you can help.
In 2006 several women on the small and isolated island of Savu got together to form a weaving group called Tewuni rai (placenta of the earth). The forty current members still produce their fabulous textiles on back tension looms, and use only vegetable dyes.
In the past few years they have been hit hard, not only by Covid – which has meant no visitors coming to the island to buy their textiles – but also by African swine flu and a prolonged drought. These challenges have only increased their determination to plan for a better future.
Their aim is to build a Weavers’ House, in the shape of a traditional Savunese house with an extended roof ridge. Having such a building would give them somewhere to weave together, exchanging their knowledge of traditional patterns and techniques, and passing this on to the next generation. It would also provide them with a comfortable place to demonstrate their skills to visitors, instead of sitting out in the burning sun.
The community already has a track record of working together on large projects such as this. From 2016-2018 they worked with Geneviève and André Graff to install a phyto-sanitation system, bringing clean water to their village, and so making a massive difference to their lives. They now have showers, toilets, a laundry area and another area for dyeing the threads for their textiles.
A plot of land close to this block has been donated for the Weavers’ House. The project will be overseen by Geneviève, in conjunction with Ice Tede Dara (Secretary of Tewuni rai), and the head of the village. The anticipated cost is $10,000, and every donation – no matter how small – will be appreciated.
If you would like to help make their dream a reality please go to the Tracing Patterns Foundation website here . Under ‘designation’ please tick Meet the Makers – Tewuni rai. Those donating $250 or more will receive a naturally dyed ikat or striped shawl as an expression of the weavers’ appreciation.
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Last month I blogged about the major online conference organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference was Textiles on the Move, and it took place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .
The programme was very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here.
The good news for those who were unable to participate is that recordings of this conference have now been made available and you can watch them online until 15 November.
The first video begins with a welcome by Willem Vogelsang of the International Institute for Asian Studies. He is followed by Sumru Belger Krody of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum whose subject is Beauty & Purpose, Prayer Carpets and their Design Impact.
Next is Ariane Fennetaux of the Université de Paris, speaking on Interwoven Gowns: Japanese Inspired Night Gowns Ready Made on the Coromandel c. 1700. Marie-Eve Celio-Scheurer of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum then talks about Wiener Werktätte Textiles from the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection.
Finally OATG member Chris Buckley and his partner Sandra Sardjono of the Tracing Patterns Foundation show a modified version of the presentation on Minankabau Textiles and Looms, which was previously exclusive to OATG members for a while.
The above is just the first of 4 videos. Click here for more information and to access all of the videos – but remember they are only available until 15 November 2020.
“A philosophy originating in medieval India, Tantra has been linked to successive waves of revolutionary thought, from its sixth-century transformation of Hinduism and Buddhism, to the Indian fight for independence and the rise of 1960s counterculture……
Elements of Tantric philosophy can be found across Asia’s diverse cultures, but it remains largely unknown – or misrepresented – in the West. The exhibition showcases extraordinary objects from India, Nepal, Tibet, Japan and the UK, from the seventh century AD to the present, and includes masterpieces of sculpture, painting, prints and ritual objects.” British Museum website.
One of the objects which features in this exhibition is this beautiful thangka from Tibet. It was initially in a sorry state and in desperate need of conservation. I really enjoyed reading this blog by Alice Derham and Teresa Heady about just what this entailed.
Seattle Art Museum are running a series of lectures under the heading Virtual Saturday University. The topic which caught my eye is Korean Culture in Five Colors. This takes place at 10am on Saturday 7 November (1800 in the UK). Sunglim Kim of Dartmouth College will “Explore the traditional five-color system of East Asia in its Korean expressions, which identified the elemental colors as white, black, blue/green, red, and yellow. Kim’s talk investigates the pigments used, color associations, and their use in various art media including painting, ceramics, textiles, architecture, and even food.” SAM website.
News of another interesting lecture reached me via OATG member Judy Cottrell. Serena Lee will be giving a presentation on The Yi Tribes: Extraordinary Ethnic Dress in Southwest China to the Textile Museum Associates of Southern California on Saturday 31 October, but non-members are also welcome to attend this online lecture. It takes place at 0930, which is 1630 in the UK. Registration is essential.
I also recently came across a wonderful collection of photographs, taken in Indonesia. They are from an exhibition entitled Garden of the East: photography in Indonesia 1850s – 1940s, which was held in 2014 by the National Gallery of Australia. The accompanying video shows a great variety of these images, many of which show people in traditional dress.
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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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
PLEASE NOTE The video referred to in the title is no longer available. I will add it to a future blog when it is.
OATG member Dr Sarah Fee will be giving our first Zoom lecture later this month. Dr Fee is Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles (Asia and Africa) at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
For the first time in 50 years, the Royal Ontario Museum’s world-renowned collection of Indian chintz is being presented to the public in a new original exhibition. Lead curator Dr. Sarah Fee will share highlights from the exhibition and discuss its wider narrative arc that traces 750 years of global trade in, and desire for, this most-influential of India’s trade textiles, from medieval times to the present. She will also share the challenges of bringing the exhibit to fruition during this time of global pandemic.
This online talk will take place on Wednesday 21 October at 1830 BST. This event is free for OATG members and just £3 (payable by Paypal) for non-members. Please note that registration is essential.
We have another excellent talk lined up for December, and the next edition of Asian Textiles is out later this month so why not consider joining us? Click here for more details.
The Seattle Art Museum will host an online lecture TOMORROW with the intriguing title of Dragon’s Blood and the Blood of Dragons. This is part of their Saturday University Lecture Series: Color in Asian Art – Material and Meaning. The presenter is Jennifer Stager, Associate Professor of Art History, Johns Hopkins University.
As an entry point into attitudes toward color, this talk considers the red pigment identified as cinnabar or dragon’s blood in the ancient Mediterranean. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder attributes this pigment (derived from Socotra tree resin) to the blood of actual dragons living on the Indian subcontinent. His critique of painters for their indulgence and excess in using it—and the persistent idea that colors contaminate—stands against an idealized whiteness constructed in opposition to the materials and geopolitics of other cultures. Prof. Stager examines the afterlives of Pliny’s fantastical slander. Seattle Art Museum website.
This talk will take place on Saturday 3 October at 1000 Seattle time, which is 1800 in the UK. You need to register in advance.
The Japan Foundation are hosting an online talk entitled Kimono Crossing the Sea – Its Power to Inspire Imagination and Creativity on Friday 16 October at 1200 BST. Renowned fashion historian and curator, Fukai Akiko, will discuss how the kimono was depicted in the latter half of 19th century and the intriguing relationship between the kimono and artists.
For progressive artists such as Manet and Whistler, as well as innovative fashion designers such as Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet, the kimono was not merely a beautiful garment invoking exoticism, but an inspirational source for their creativity and, as a result, we are able to perceive its significant influence in their pieces. – Japan Foundation.
The talk will be preceded by an introduction by Anna Jackson, the Curator of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, and a brief conversation with Fukai Akiko will follow her lecture. Register for the talk here.
Finally Marilyn Murphy and her team at ClothRoads have put together another great list of textile-related events. Their list is definitely worth subscribing too as they often feature events that I don’t come across elsewhere.
In my last blog I mentioned a new book, Workbook: Antoine Janot’s Colours, by Dominique Cardon. Catharine Ellis has taken a much more detailed look at this book, specifically from the point of view of a dyer, in her blog which can be read here.
The Fabric of Civilization won’t be published until November, but is currently available for pre-order. The author, Virginia Postrel, will be taking part in an online book launch as part of the Textile Arts Los Angeles Textile Month.
“In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.” TALA website.
The launch takes place on 30 September at 12:30 LA time, which is 04:30 am in the UK, so probably only works for our international members.
The third new book celebrates the Indian textile collection of the authors Helmut and Heidi Neumann and has a foreword by Rosemary Crill. Published by Prestel it certainly seems to be lavishly illustrated and will be added to my wish list.
“Dating back to the fifth millennium BCE, India’s rich and vibrant textile tradition boasts an enormous range of techniques and extraordinary level of artistry. Drawn from one of the world’s finest collections of Indian textiles, this book presents a fascinating overview of centuries of artistic production from every corner of India. Each section examines a different region to reveal its distinct textile traditions, patterns, and processes: Patola silks from Gujarat, brocade lampas preserved in Tibetan temples, mordant resist dyed cottons from Indonesia, embroideries from rural Bengal, and silk saris from Murshidabad. The book also delves into the roles that textiles have played in daily life over the centuries, from household and dowry textiles to devotional pieces and exquisite materials crafted for rich patrons. Each object is photographed from multiple angles and reproduced in meticulous detail. Many of the antique pieces featured here are exceedingly rare, which makes this book an invaluable resource.” Prestel.
The Yale University Art Gallery has now reopened. One of its current exhibitions is called Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art.
The exhibition “showcases basketry, beadwork, drawings, photography, pottery, textiles, and wood ….. …Guided by the four themes in its title, the exhibition investigates the connections that Indigenous peoples have to their lands; the power of objects as expressions of sovereignty; the passing on of artistic practices and traditions; and the relationships that artists and nations have to animals, plants, and cosmological beings.” Yale University Art Gallery website.
I’ve already blogged about the virtual symposium organised by the Textile Society of America entitled Hidden Stories Human Lives. This takes place from 15-17 October and you can still register for the sessions.
However before then there will be another major online textile conference, this time organised by the IIAS Leiden, Tracing Patterns Foundation, and the Textile Research Centre Leiden. The title of the conference is Textiles on the Move, and it will take place from 6-9 October. “The theme of the online conference relates to the changing role, importance and significance of textiles and garments when they are moved from one particular cultural environment to another. Particular emphasis is laid on the movement of textiles and garments in Asia, and between Asia and the rest of the world.” – IIAS .
The programme is very varied, with an impressive line-up of speakers looking at kantha from Bengal, kanga from Africa, Turkmen carpets, Javanese batik, Silk Road textiles and much, much more. You can download the programme and abstracts here. Registration is also necessary for this free event – just click here.
Finally, I would like to recommend a series of blogs written by a variety of authors between 2017 and 2019 to celebrate New York Textile Month. These blogs have been hosted by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and cover a wide variety of topics – Chris Martens on Central Asian felt, Thomas Murray on an Indonesian palepai, Precious Lovell on Ghanaian adinkra, Wendy Weiss on a Gujarati patola – to name but a few.
This is a link to just one of these blogs, this time by Susan Bean, looking at a Bhutanese coat which is known as a gho. I strongly recommend signing up to receive the Object of the Week emails from Cooper Hewitt.
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.
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!
This online exhibition is based on the actual exhibition “Connecting cultures: Chinese from Indonesia in the Netherlands” that was on display in the Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands in 2015-2016. The original texts are by Francine Brinkgreve and Johanna Leijfeldt. Johanna also created this online presentation.
According to the Tracing Patterns Foundation “it explores the cultural narratives of Chinese merchants who settled in Indonesia and married with local women. The union of these two groups gave rise to a unique mixed culture; their descendants were called the peranakan. Through historical photographs and objects from the collection of the Museum of World Cultures, the exhibit shows how the peranakan straddled the two worlds. On one hand, for example, they adopted the Indonesian way of life by wearing an Indonesian sarong kebaya and chewing betel nuts, but they decorated these clothing and utensils with motifs of Chinese origin. As the peranakan pursued status within the Dutch colonial society in Indonesia, or immigrated to the Netherlands, they also adopted the European custom of dressing”.
The exhibition looks at Chinese migration and how Chinese craftsmen introduced new techniques into Indonesian arts and crafts. A lot of the exhibition is focussed on marriage, and details of the wedding costume worn by Han Tek Nio in 1901 are featured. When you click on each of the excellent images, further information is shown on that object – see for example the details given below on the batik hip cloth shown above.
Whereas batik cloths were originally made by Javanese women at home, for their own family’s use only, along the north coast of Java, Peranakan Chinese entrepreneurs developed batik industries where they produced batik for various categories of customers, who all preferred their own style of motifs and colours. This hip cloth has two designs in contrasting colours in synthetic dyes, divided by a diagonal line. This design is called pagi sore (morning-afternoon/early evening) and could be worn in two ways. To allow the motifs and the person to stand out, the dark or sore section of the hip cloth was worn during daytime. Vice versa the light – pagi – section served as an evening dress. The main motifs on the lighter half consist of dancing peacocks and double wings on a background of small white flowers and foliage in pastel shades of pink, blue, and ochre.
These pastel colours were very much favoured by Peranakan Chinese ladies. With its tail feathers the peacock represents beauty and dignity, both in Chinese and European symbolism. The double wings motif is one of the larangan, the ‘forbidden’ batik patterns that originally were for the exclusive use of the rulers of the Central Javanese courts and their close relatives. The dark green section depicts large bouquets (buketan) in European style. For a lively effect a fluttering butterfly and a bird were added. The cloth is signed by (the workshop) of Oey Soe Tjoen and his wife Kwee Tjoen Giok, a renowned batik craftsman from Kedungwuni, near Pekalongan. It was produced there in 1930-1950 using synthetic dyes.