TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Textiles and Politics

On the recent acquisition by the TRC of a very special blouse, TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson writes: “Textiles tell stories, and some textiles tell stories more clearly than others. I saw an example of this recently at a women’s peace conference, held in April 2015, the Hague (the Netherlands). There was a market place at the conference, where women’s groups could sell things (candy bars, posters, publications, etc.) in order to raise money for their work. A group of women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had commissioned a printed fabric with the conference’s logo and title on it. They had made blouses and bags from the factory woven cotton fabric. This reflects a long tradition throughout Africa of marking political, social and sometimes personal events through textiles. It is one of these blouses that is now on display at the TRC.

These objects were commissioned by the Congolese section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The roller printed motifs on the fabric included a blue circle with a dove, the logo of the WILPF, which had organized the conference to celebrate its 100th anniversary. The conference’s title “Women’s Power to Stop War: Uniting a Global Movement” is also portrayed on the fabric along with the names of countries around the world.

The crinkled look of the fabric imitates batik. In the 19th century, wax resist dyed fabrics (batik) from Indonesia became popular along Africa’s Gold Coast (modern Ghana). The wax print spread throughout West Africa and into Central Africa and remains popular today.

But there’s even more to the story. The 2015 WILPF conference celebrated the organisation’s founding at an International Congress of Women also held in the Hague in April 1915. There, some 1,130 women suffrage activists, from twelve different countries (many of the countries then at war with one another), met to try to stop World War 1. Their governments denied them passports, threatened to jail them—the British government suspended ferry service in the North Sea to prevent these “blundering Englishwomen”, these “Pro-Hun Peacettes”, as they were labelled in the media, from attending.

One month before World War 1 began, delegates from the International Women Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) delivered a Manifesto to all European embassies, and the British Foreign Office, in London. This Manifesto called on governments “to leave untried no method of conciliation or arbitration for arranging international differences which may help to avert deluging half the civilized world in blood.” The delegates came up with a 20 point peace plan. It was printed in English, French and German and addressed to European government leaders and to the US Congress. Copies were sent to prime ministers throughout Europe; in Germany alone, hundreds of copies were sent to politicians, prominent citizens, and civic organizations. The plan demanded a permanent international court of justice; “democratic control of foreign policy”; a delinking of business interests with political institutions; a Society of Nations where member states could settle disputes nonviolently; general disarmament; and the political enfranchisement of women.

Five women, including the influential Dutch activist Dr. Aletta Jacobs, were elected to spend the next few months lobbying foreign ministers and the heads of state of nearly every country in Europe. They had a private audience with the Pope and spoke with US President Woodrow Wilson, who incorporated some of the Women's Congress’s demands in his famous Fourteen Points policy.

The history of one simple blouse can tell a story that spans centuries!

For more on the history of the 1915 Congress, see A. Wiltshire’s Most Dangerous Women: Feminist Peace Campaigners of the Great War (Pandora Press, London, 1985). The Congress’s papers can be seen on-line at www.peacepalacelibrary.nl. For more information about the 2015 conference see www.womenstopwar.org.

24 May 2015

   

Opening Textielfestival, Leiden

Op woensdag 13 mei werd het Nationale Textiel Festival feestelijk ingeluid in de Leidse Pieterskerk. Tijdens de opening, door burgemeester Henri Lenferink, vond de prijsuitreiking plaats van de internationale wedstrijd ‘Water-Land’. Van alle inzendingen waren er 54 geselecteerd. Vele bezoekers bewonderden deze prachtige kunstwerken van verschillende materialen. Veel aandacht trok de Haagse kunstenaar Lichel van den Ende met zijn performance ‘Selfcantus’.

In de Pieterskerk toonden vele professionele kunstenaars hun werk. Er werden techniekdemonstraties gegeven, o.a. kantklossen, weven, speciale borduurtechnieken, quilten en nog veel meer. Men kon ook diverse korte workshops volgen. Verder was er gelegenheid voor restauratie adviezen en taxatie. Ook de kraampjes met textielbenodigdheden waren aanwezig. Niet alleen in de Pieterskerk was het een drukte van belang. Ook de vele adressen van de textielroute werden druk bezocht. Over vijf jaar is er weer een Textiel Festival, misschien weer in Leiden.

Tineke Moerkerk, 17 May 2015

   

Textile Events in Leiden

The last few days have been very busy in Leiden with respect to textiles. There were two major events, and several smaller ones. The two large events included the Textiel Festival Leiden: Ambacht en experiment (Leiden Textile Festival: craft and experiment) that lasted from the 13th - 16th May. The event was organised by STIDOC (Stichting Textiel Informatie en Documentatie Centrum) with the help of various other textile groups. There were over forty official venues in Leiden displaying, discussing and encouraging people to try different textile techniques. There were also shops and stalls selling everything you need and did not know you needed to make textiles of all different types. There were varous workshops about blackwork embroidery (Lien van den Hoogen), about spinning and weaving with newspaper (Renée Campagne) and about bobbin lace making (Ephrem Muskee).

The textile events and exhibitions in Leiden included plants and plant dyes, and dyeing with natural dyes, at the Hortus Botanicus. The SieboldHuis showed its exhibition of Itchiku Kubota kimonos. There were ikats at the Volkenkunde Museum. The Weever's Huis displayed a collection of modern double weave textiles, while the TRC displayed its exhibition about the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo.

At the same time the ETN (European Textile Network, http://www.etn-net.org/etn/211e.htm) organised its 17th annual meeting in Leiden, with numerous lectures and workshops on different textile themes - there were complaints that people were forced to choose between really interesting lectures and seeing the festival itself - it made for some hard descisions.

The festival ended on Saturday 16th May, but there was a mini-symposium on Sunday 17th at the SieboldHuis about Itchiku Kubota and his kimonos with three speakers: Linda Hanson the curator of the current exhibition, talking about kimonos in general; Dale Gluckmann, a freelance textile curator talking about the background to Itchiku Kubota and his kimonos and finally, Jacqueline Atkins who talked in detail about the master dyer himself and what he wanted to achieve by trying out different materials, dyeing techniques, designs, and so forth. She discussed his great concern with the function and future of the kimono and his artistic vision that led him to fashion ideas that some traditional kimono lovers found abhorrent , including the cloth used, the designs on the kinomos and how a kimono could be worn in a 21st century manner with Western style high heelded shoes!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 17 May 2015

   

International award for film maker Kim Beamish

Some really nice news. An international award has been granted to Kim Beamish for his documentary 'The Tentmakers of Cairo'. Kim has been helping with the setting up and organisation of the current TRC exhibition on The Street of the Tentmakers in Cairo, Egypt. The Prix Buyens-Chagoll is awarded to a film of humanist dimensions focusing on stories that confer meaning to the future of mankind. It is said: "Kim Beamish blended in with a group of men as if he were one of them, freely recording their daily lives as craftsmen making carpets. Lives that are forcefully woven into the political situation in Egypt today and the current state of crisis. The filmmaker also reveals the beauty of the carpets created by these virtuoso craftsmen. Another aspect that touched us was the desire to transmit millennial expertise, which is accepted humbly and naturally by younger generations." The TRC exhibition remains to be seen until 2 July.

Gillian Vogelsang, 25 April 2015

   

The Stadskanaal embroidered kerchief, part 3

Following up on previous blogs, we can now relatively safely identify the embroidered kerchief from Stadskanaal. In the previous blog, we tentatively linked the kerchief to the internment camp 'Ons Belang', constructed in Stadskanaal immediately after the end of World War II, in order to house former collaborators with the Germans. We now have confirmation of this hypothesis: One of the embroidered names is that of Tony Bijland, to whose name is added the embroidered word 'zwemster' (swimmer [fem.]).

Tony Bijland was a female swimming champion who was particularly active in the early 1940s. Born in 1923/24, she trained in Hilversum with the HZC swimming club. In various war-time newspaper articles she is linked to the 'Nationale Jeugdstorm' (the Dutch variant of the Hitlerjugend). She joined the 'European youth swimming championships' in (German) Breslau in 1941. She was interviewed for the Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden (Thursday, 13 July 1944; with photograph). Whether or not she sympathised with the German occupying forces remains unknown. We should not forget she was very young at the time, but it does explain her presence in the internment camp in 1945. How she ended up there, and how and why her name appeared on an embroidered handkerchief, remains a moot point.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 14 April 2015

   

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Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

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TRC Gallery exhibition: 12 - 15 August 2019: Out of Asia: 2000 years of textiles

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
 
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
 
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