Exhibition: How to Make the Universe Right – The Art of Priests and Shamans from Vietnam and Southern China

Exhibition dates: 30 July 2017 – 7 January 2018

‘How to Make the Universe Right’ presents a large selection of rare religious scrolls, ceremonial clothing and ritual objects of the Yao, Tày, Sán Dìu, Cao Lan, Sán Chay, Nùng and other populations of northern Vietnam and southern China. Each group has their own traditions of educating and initiating priests and shamans, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds and between the community and deities, in order to make the universe right through healing, balancing the forces of nature, and communicating with ancestors. The Yao’s practices are most prominently associated with Daoism, a religious and philosophical tradition of Chinese origin, while for the other peoples, Daoist beliefs are combined with aspects of Buddhism, Tantrism and Confucianism.

The works of art in the exhibition, most of which date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provide the material foundation for the regional manifestations of religious practices. Examples in the exhibition include vibrantly coloured and intricately embroidered ritual robes and headdresses worn by priests, and a spectacular set of eighteen scrolls of elaborately painted deities, made for those engaged in the higher levels of initiation. The exhibition also features a display evoking the shrines constructed for ceremonies, a film on contemporary religious practices in the region, and a selection of scrolls highlighting their recent conservation and what this has revealed.

All of the works on view are part of the Barry and Jill Kitnick Collection generously donated by the Kitnicks to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2015.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

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Textile Tidbits: Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia

Textile Tidbit - Weavers' Stories from Island Southeast Asia

This Textile Tidbit comes from OATG member and web manager, Pamela Cross.

A while ago, I was pointed in the direction of a series of eight fascinating videos on the website of the Fowler Museum at UCLA. The second interview with a weaver from Timor Leste was particularly recommended to me and I thoroughly agreed. It is very moving with great filming and English subtitles, and gives a real connection to the meaning of a textile. The film on Ndona, Flores is also excellent. It shows the tying of ikat, the dyeing and weaving … and so much more. I found the films to be quite compulsive!

The press release on the exhibition (curated by Roy Hamilton, the Fowler Museum’s curator of Asian and Pacific collections) to which the videos relate, says:

‘In Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia, weavers and batik artists speak for themselves in videos produced at eight sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and East Timor. What motivates women to create new patterns? How do they adjust to changing social and economic situations?

‘A panoply of human emotions and experiences – determination, longing, dream inspiration, theft, war and more – emerge from the stories of these remarkable women. In one video, for example, a weaver in Tutuala, at the far eastern tip of Timor, describes how she designed a cloth pattern by copying the skin of a snake. She recounts that this “snake cloth”, now served by the snake spirit, became an object of such power that when one was stolen during a militia rampage in 1999, the snake destroyed all the coconut trees in Baucau in revenge. Another weaver tells of learning weaving patterns from her deceased mother, an expert weaver, when her mother visits her in dreams.

‘These seven- to ten-minute oral histories include interesting footage of daily life with extended families and the interplay of generations, detailed looks at weaving and dyeing techniques, and unique celebrations, such as a wedding in a sultan’s palace. Textiles created by the featured weavers and batik makers accompany each video.’

Particularly interesting is the fact that the last video is all about Lang Dulay, a famous weaver from Mindanao in the Philippines, who died earlier this year. You can read more about her in a thread on Pamela’s forum, Tribal Textiles.