Textiles literally weave a thread throughout everyone’s lives: it is the first material one comes in contact with shortly after birth, and it acts as a final shroud when one leaves this earth. Textiles sooth, protect, shelter and identify you. No wonder then that the mere mention of textiles conjures up a lot of passion amongst TAASA members.
Shortly after the inauguration of TAASA the idea of a special textile focus group was proposed by Judith Rutherford. A call to arms quickly resulted in the very first meeting in 1994. Ann Baker’s suggestion to set up a rigorous Study Group that expected members to be highly committed to researching and promoting all aspects of Asian textiles was enthusiastically adopted.
Thus the TAASA Textile Study Group (TSG) was born and in itself can be considered as a textile: a vibrant patchwork encompassing hands-on experience, analysis of textile objects, reviews of artists, exhibitions, publications, and the like. The TSG has become stronger than ever thanks to a committed, active core of people, some of them foundation members. Publishing a dedicated textile issue on this, the 20th anniversary of the TSG was an opportunity not to be missed.
This issue then, acts simultaneously as a celebration of Asian textiles and as recognition of, and dedication to all those people who have so generously offered their time, expertise, knowledge and general support to keep all aspects of textiles firmly in the spotlight. As part of this celebration, a Textile Symposium was held on 19 July at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. The first three articles in this issue present summaries of the papers presented at the symposium.
Susan Scollay opened with a keynote address which focused on the cross-cultural influences of symbols and imagery transmitted through textiles, in particular woven textiles. She explores how specific designs, colours and textile items were successfully exploited to identify and visually enhance political and socio-economic power.
This was followed by Siobhan Campbell, a scholar whose research is firmly located in Balinese material culture. Her article examines how symbolism found on Balinese woven, embroidered and painted cloths continues to play a vital role in contemporary Balinese cultural and ritual life as a means of storytelling and articulating Balinese worldviews.
Rounding off the symposium, Christina Sumner, a longstanding member of the TSG, explored the history of the boteh (paisley) motif. She presents us with a chronological trajectory of this universally recognised design, giving us a better understanding of the impact it had, and continuous to have, on modern-day textiles.
The use of graphic symbols on cloth is further examined by Margaret White in her article, which investigates the use of Arabic calligraphy on batik cloths of Southeast Asia. This is a welcome enquiry, as it appears this area is a little neglected in modern day scholarly pursuits.
Both Carole Douglas and Sarah Tucker reflect on personal experiences prompted by specific textile pieces. Carole vividly recalls her conversation with Rabari women in the village of Bhujodi, Gujarat, who are still producing the famed ludi (wedding shawl). In light of rapid industrialisation, access to technology and economic prosperity she wonders what the future holds for the women and their textiles traditions. Sarah’s memories of living as a young girl in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan were jolted by the sight of a well-used and worn ralli (quilt) from Thatta, Sindh. Like Carole, she recognises the ongoing resourcefulness and creativity of the women who make them today.
Belinda von Mengersen approaches Asian textiles from a very different perspective, providing us with a rare glimpse into creative textile practice in her examination of the work of two prominent contemporary artists, Ruth Hadlow and Wendy Lugg. She describes the dialogue between their initial inspiration - West Timor’s woven textiles (Hadlow) and Japanese hand-stitched Boro (Lugg) – and their subsequent artistic response.
Gay Spies invites us to sample her favourite piece, an exquisite Muang Hun tube-skirt, produced for Khmu shamans who were living in northwest Laos. Min-Jung Kim tempts us with a preview of a major jewellery exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney starting in September. Whilst Charlotte Galloway reminds us of the importance of cataloguing museum artefacts as she informs us of her ongoing work in the Sri Ksetra Museum in Myanmar.
We trust you enjoy this special issue of the TAASA Review.
3 EDITORIAL: CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF TEXTILE STUDY
Marianne Hulsbosch, Guest Editor
4 TRANSLATING TEXTILES: POETRY, PROFIT AND POLITICS IN THE IMAGERYOF THE WOVEN ART OFASIA
7 TEXTILES IN THE SYMBOLIC UNIVERSE OF BALI
10 FROM PINECONE TO PAISLEY: THE UBIQUITOUS BOTEH
13 VEILS OF CHANGE – RABARI WEDDING SHAWLS
16 A FINE POSSESSION: JEWELLERY AND IDENTITY - ASIAN BODY ADORNMENT AT THE POWERHOUSEMUSEUM
Min-Jung Kim and Christina Sumner
18 IN CONVERSATION : ASIAN CULTURAL ORIGINS IN THE TEXTILE WORK OF RUTH HADLOW ANDWENDY LUGG
Belinda von Mengersen
22 CALLIGRAPHIC BATIK CLOTHS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: MEANING BEHIND THE WORDS
24 RALLI QUILTS : EXPRESSIONS OF CULTURAL & INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY
Sarah E. Tucker
26 RESEARCHING IN THE FIELD – THE SRI KSETRA MUSEUM, PYAY, MYANMAR
27 COLLECTOR’S CHOICE: A MUANG HUN TEXTILE FROM NORTHWEST LAOS
28 BOOK REVIEW: POINTY SHOES AND PITH HELMETS
29 TAASA’S AGM & INAUGURAL TAASA ORATION
30 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
33 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2014
34 WHAT ’S ON: SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2014
Compiled by Tina Burge