TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Shopping for Kanga's in East Africa

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Two women from Zanzibar wearing a kanga. The woman to the right has a kanga with the text "Alaa kumbe", which means something like 'Good gracious me!'. Photograph by Kate Kingsford.

Two women from Zanzibar wearing a kanga. The woman to the right has a kanga with the text "Alaa kumbe", which means something like 'Good gracious me!'. Photograph by Kate Kingsford.

Kangas are large cotton cloths that are worn by women living along the whole of the East African coast, especially in Kenya, Tanzania and on the island of Zanzibar. Their characteristic feature is a short text printed on the cloth. The texts are often funny. They reveal some ' home truths', or they may tell something about the wearer's political opinion, etc. The TRC collection contains many examples of these garments, and in late 2009 / early 2010 the TRC mounted an exhibition on the subject. Below is a blog written by Kate Kingsford, now from Leiden, who is particularly fascinated by kangas and over the years has made a large collection of these marvellous garments:

"Shopping for kangas in Tanzania is always a very social activity. As I searched through the piles of kangas at the market in Moshi, Tanzania, the shopkeeper made tea and helped me decipher the layers of meaning in the messages. My favourite: “Mimi ni pweza mambo yangu hayatoweza”. Literally, this means, “I am an octopus, you can’t mess with my affairs”. Several local women passing the shop were happy to explain why they might wear it - as a warning to another woman who was flirting with your husband, or a way of telling a neighbour to stop spreading dangerous gossip, or perhaps to tell your mother-in-law not to interfere with your family.

Kangas are a way of saying the unsayable, and always open to interpretation. But the Tanzanian elections are only a month away, and political kangas are much less subtle. Fatuma, the shopkeeper, was happy to sell me a dress in the bright red and blue of Chadema, the opposition, but was adamant that I wouldn’t find anything in the colours of CCM, the ruling party for the past fifty years. A little further into the market, however, I came across one small shop decked out in green and yellow, offering discount prices on CCM kangas. A lot of people have bought CCM kangas and Chadema dresses, apparently, but no one is wearing them in the streets; while there is still a chance that the elections will be violent, it’s better to wait to see who wins before flaunting political affiliations. “Keep it for after the election!” warned another woman at the market. Walking home, I followed her advice and wore the octopus kanga with pride.

Kate Kingsford, 20 September 2015

   

Stadskanaal embroidered kerchief, part 4

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A little while ago we had a Textile Moment (well several, actually) about a kerchief, donated to the TRC, which had the embroidered signatures of a group of women, an inscription that mentioned Stadskanaal (town), Ons Belang (factory) and two dates, in May and September 1945. In the various blogs it was noted that we were slowly coming to the conclusion that the handkerchief was embroidered by various women in an internment camp for Dutch citizens who had worked with the Germans during the Second World War. The internment camp was located on the premises of the Ons Belang factory. In one of these blogs we identified the swimmer Tony Bijland, who during the war used to compete in various German organised swimming contests and apparently was a member of the Jeugdstorm, the Dutch equivalent of the German Hitler Jugend.

This idea is getting more substance, as one of our student volunteers was able last month (August 2015) to decipher the names of three sisters in one corner of the kerchief. The names are Iskje, Trijntje (?) and Griet, who would be Grietje van der Meulen (1922-2001), Trijntje van der Meulen (1924-2003) and Iskje van der Meulen (1930-1982). Various members of the large Van der Meulen family of Lippenhuizen (Friesland), as is clear from many sources, were actively involved with the NSB (Dutch nazi party before and during WWII) movement in the 1930s and early 1940s. The father of the three girls, Luite van der Meulen (1894-1964), was arrested by the resistance movement in Ureterp, in April 1945 (the same place where he died in 1964). Contemporary reports describe him as a "gevreesd boerenleider".

The kerchief was bought a few years ago in a flea market in Leiden and given to the TRC in 2015, so one of the questions that we had was how did this kerchief get to Leiden? We may have found an answer to this question, the youngest Van der Meulen sister, Martha (who is not mentioned on the kerchief) died in 2008 in Leiden at the age of 77. In 1945 she would have been 14, so perhaps regarded as being too young to be in such a camp, but it is possible that it was via Martha that this kerchief came to Leiden.

Finally, another name on the kerchief can be identified: that of Uta Nieper, who was Uta Maya Ellen Carola Nieper (1916-2006), born in Hamburg, Germany. She died in Gouda, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands. She married Lukas Jan Pronk (from Emmen, Drenthe; member SS; died in 1994) in Groningen on 22 June 1944. 

An interesting book on the subject is by Koos Groen, Fout en Niet Goed: De Vervolging van Collaboratie en Verraad na de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Hilversum 2009.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 5 September 2015

   

Indonesian batik

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TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson’s Textile Moment took place during a recent batik workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: “Batik is everywhere in this city, which has been called the cultural heart of Indonesia. While the shirts and dresses used for daily wear are factory produced, the patterns are based on traditional batik designs. A popular downtown department store offers batik demonstrations and sells supplies; young fashion designers here and in the capital Jakarta incorporate batik into their work.

Batik comes from two Javanese words which translate as ‘to write dots’. This wax resist dye technique was used in ancient Egypt, in China and India, and in Africa. A pattern is first drawn on the fabric. The same pattern is then redrawn with hot wax, applied either with a canting (a small piece of wood with a metal container with a spout attached) or a metal block stamp called a cap. The fabric is then dyed until the desired colour or colours are reached. The wax is removed, either by brushing or by boiling the cloth.

While batik may not have originated in Indonesia, it certainly developed into a highly respected art in Java. A pattern is first drawn on the fabric. The same pattern is then redrawn with hot wax, applied either with a canting (a small piece of wood with a metal container with a spout attached) or a metal block stamp called a cap. There were special batiks used in ceremonies for mothers-to-be, for new born babies, for a ritual when a baby took its first steps, and for the dead. The patterns and colours used in a batik showed one’s ethnicity and status. Certain batik patterns were reserved exclusively for royalty—and royal batiks were among the goods thrown into volcanoes during ceremonies to prevent eruptions. In 2009 UNESCO declared Indonesian batik a part of humanity’s intangible heritage. This textile has quite a history!”

8 August 2015

Photos:

  1. Wife of the Sultan of Yogyakarta giving a speech dressed in batik.
  2. Examples of royal batik from the Kraton (Palace) in Yogyakarta.
  3. Batik demonstration at local department store.
  4. Batik supplies for sale in department store
Wife of the Sultan of Yogyakarta giving a speech, dressed in batik.

Wife of the Sultan of Yogyakarta giving a speech, dressed in batik.

Examples of royal batik from the kraton (palace) in Yogyakarta

Examples of royal batik from the kraton (palace) in Yogyakarta

Batik demonstration at local department store

Batik demonstration at local department store

Batik supplies for sale in department store

Batik supplies for sale in department store

 

   

Henri Matisse

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Henri Matisse, La femme au luth (1949-1950)

Henri Matisse, La femme au luth (1949-1950)

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson had a textile moment recently at an exhibition on the work of painter Henri Matisse: “The French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was an avid textile collector, perhaps as a result of being born in the textile town of La Cateau-Cambrésis. He often painted textiles in his works in great detail, like the beautiful table cloths in The Red Room (1908) or Still Life with Blue Tablecloth (1909). He also collected fabrics which he would have made into costumes for his models to pose in, such as a silk and cotton skirt modeled by Lydia Delectorskaya in the painting Femme en bleu (1937). He also made many sketches of a Romanian blouse whose embroidery fascinated him. The exhibition of Matisse’s work at the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) also displayed a costume made from felt that he designed for the ballet Le chant du rossignolc (1920) and several tapestries based on his paintings (La Femme au Luth, 1949-1950, by Gorbelins, Paris). As part of his design for his famous Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, France, he designed not only the stain glass windows and wall paintings, but also the chasubles for the priest. It was a delight to learn how this versatile genius also loved textiles.”

8 August 2015

   

Brugge, Belgium

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Last week a few days in Brugge, Belgium, have left several textile moments. The first was the visit to the Kantcentrum ('Lace Centre', Balstraat 16, 8000 Brugge, Belgium), which is located in a former lace school that was run by the Apostoline Sisters. The exhibitons are not large, but there is an interesting film about lace with Frieda Sorber, as well as some examples of older forms of bobbin and needlepoint lace. The shop is worth a visit for practising lace makers.

The Kantcentrum, 'Lace Centre', Brugge, Belgium

The Kantcentrum, 'Lace Centre', Brugge, Belgium

Opposite the Kantcentrum is the 't Apostelientje, a small shop run by Anne Thijs who is very knowledgeable about the history and types of bobbin laces, especially the Flemish and French forms. She very kindly agreed to help the TRC in bulding up a lace reference collection over the next few years.

Around the corner from the Kantcentrum is the Jeruzalemkerk, a private chapel that includes five embroideries on dispay, a 19th century banner with metal thread embroidery; three 18th century panels depicting the Virgin with Child, St. Catherine and the last one with St. Michael. All of which are worked in silk on a linen ground. The last embroidery is on the frontal of the high altar. The frontal is embellished with three applied, embroidered bands, each with two figures, taken from a medieval orphrey. The figures include male and female saints, as well as the Virgin and a figure of Christ.

Also in Bruges, Willem and I visited the Groeningemuseum, which has a collection of early Flemish paintings. A number of the paintings on display provide details about contempory ecclesiastical and domestic embroideries. Two paintings are of particular note with respect to embroidery, one by Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) "The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele" (1432) and other by Ambrosius Benson (1495-1550), "St. Mary Maglelaine" (c. 1525-1549).

Gillian Vogelsang, 26 July 2015

   

Textiel Biënnale in Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands

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'Het zwevende interieur' ('The floating interior'), art installation, Textiel Biënnale, Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands

'Het zwevende interieur' ('The floating interior'), art installation, Textiel Biënnale, Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands

De Rijswijk Textiel Biënnale is een internationale tentoonstelling van hedendaagse beeldende kunst van textiel, die om de twee jaar in Museum Rijswijk wordt georganiseerd. Er zijn hier textielwerken van negentien internationale kunstenaars te bewonderen. Naast de grote variëteit in materiaalkeuze en –toepassingen zijn er deze editie opvallende gemene delers waar te nemen. Een deel van de kunstwerken staat/hangt in de nieuwe vleugel van het gebouw; het andere deel is gecombineerd met de vaste collectie in de oude vleugel. Zelf was ik erg geboeid door de soms verrassende toepassingen van borduurkunst. De tentoonstelling duurt nog tot 27 september 2015.

Voor verdere informatie zie: http://www.museumrijswijk.nl/textiel2015.html 

Else van Laere, 19 July 2015

   

Catharijneconvent, Utrecht

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Willem and I have just been to see the Medieval church embroidery exhibition at the Catharijneconvent Museum, Utrecht. The exhibition is called "Het Geheim van de Middeleeuwen in Gouddraad en Zijde" (The Secret of the Middle Ages in Gold Thread and Silk) and it runs until the 16th August. TRC Needles now has a separate entry for this event.  If you have a chance to see it, please go! The garments are displayed in such a way you can really see them - on podiums and without glass. The light is subdued and diffused through thin paper, so it is easy to see the objects rather than trying to see 'something' in a blackened room with few bright spot lights. The Utrecht display is good for the garments and the viewers.

Catharijneconvent, Utrect, The Netherlands. Exhibition: Het Geheim van de Middeleeuwen.

Catharijneconvent, Utrect, The Netherlands. Exhibition: Het Geheim van de Middeleeuwen.

The embroidery itself is divided into various sections, following the range of Catholic liturgical garments that were and are normally embroidered - chasuble, cope, dalmatic, mitre and stole. There are also some brief details about where the cloth, etc, used for making the garments came from. A particularly interesting section deals with the various gold work techniques used, with some commissioned examples on display so that the technical details can be seen on the front and back of the ground cloth.

There is another section on liturgical embroidery since the re-organisation of the Catholic Church (Vatican Two) between 1962-1965. There were numerous examples in this section some of which with the original art work. Actually, this section is a different exhibition, which focusses on the work of the Atelier Stadelmaier, in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, which between 1930 and 2010 was the world's largest producer of liturgical clothing.

The exhibition is a treat for the eye, a source of inspiration for embroiderers, as well as making various historical aspects of Catholic liturgical clothing much more understandable. My favourite piece: a single, embroidered shoe for a bishop is tucked into a corner. Totally unpractical, but saying a lot about the role of embroidered garments in a powerful medieval institute.

And now for something totally different ...... Next door to the intense medieval embroidery exhibition, was another clothing exhibition created to celebrate a modern institution, the Tour de France, which started this year in Utrecht. The exhibition is called De Heilige Trui (The Sacred Jersey) and is on display until the 28th July. on show are the '"Sacred Jerseys" worn by various cyclists over the years, some of which were signed. For some, these jerseys are the equivalent of religious relics from a particular annual event that joins together thousands of people all over the world - sounds familiar? The exhibition is a bit of fun, but one that makes you think about the role of clothing, and institutional clothing in particular, in our lives.

We had one night in Utrecht's smallest hotel (one room, in an old storage cellar next to one of the many canals that crisscross the city). Then onto Amersvoort, whose medieval centre is well worth a visit. We actually went to see Paul Spijker of Toguna (click here for more info) to pick up a collection of Yemeni jewellery that he has very kindly agreed to lend to the TRC for our next exhibition about Yemeni textiles, clothing and jewellery (opening on the 17th August 2015). There are going to be some spectacular items on display as well as more daily life items that tell different stories. There will be town, village and Bedouin garments and jewellery in the exhibition, as well as a wide range of decorative techniques for textiles. Some of the pieces were especially commissioned for the TRC from embroiderers in Yemen itself.

See also TRC Needles

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 19 July 2015

   

Australian convict shirt

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Slopshirt or convict shirt, Australia, c. 1840. Photograph Jamie North

Slopshirt or convict shirt, Australia, c. 1840. Photograph Jamie North

Spending a few days in Adelaide, I visited this afternoon a really marvellous exhibition in the Art Gallery of Southern Australia, called Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of the Spices. On display are beautiful examples of textiles from India and Indonesia, plus many other precious objects, including paintings, drawings, weapons, etc., all relating to the extensive trade networks in the Indian Ocean and beyond, from between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. I must admit, it still 'touches' me to see objects so closely linked to my Dutch ancestors who played such a prominent role in these networks, although, politically correct as I am supposed to be (a position not lost in some of the texts that accompany the exhibition), I also realise that many things they did were not always particularly very nice. But then, no one is perfect.

An object that stirred my imagination (and which was a bit of an anomaly among the other objects) was a so-called slop shirt, a type of garment worn by the British convicts that were sent to Australia in the early days of European settlement over there. This example was accidentally found in 1980 during restoration works at the Hyde Park barracks, now a World Heritage site in Sydney. The shirt dates to c. 1840. Two of such shirts were issued to the convicts each year, I learnt from the catalogue. The same catalogue tells me that the textiles for the shirts came from India, but the sewing of the shirts was done by female convicts in Australia.

Most of the shirts, including the illustrated example, were 'decorated' with stripes, to clearly indicate the status of the wearer. The striped pyjamas worn by the prisoners in the German concentration camps have their direct precedents !

Willem Vogelsang, 8 July 2015

 

   

German student fraternity caps

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Group of (ex)students with their Mütze (cap) in front of the Lambertikirche, Münster, Germany, 24 May 2015

Group of (ex)students with their Mütze (cap) in front of the Lambertikirche, Münster, Germany, 24 May 2015

Last weekend Gillian and I spent a few days in Münster, Germany, where on Sunday morning we watched all over town young and older men (not women !) with rather conspicuous caps walking around, and actually congregating at the St. Lambert's Church (Lambertikirche) in the centre of town for what we thought was a special church service. These caps are really characteristic. Some of them have a brim in front, others not, but for the rest they seem pretty uniform and they are certainly very colourful. Student fraternities, or Studenten-verbindungen, are still wide-spread in Germany and other (former) German speaking countries. Many of them date back to the early 19th century. Students who join these fraternities often remain in contact with each other throughout their lives. The caps (Mütze or Deckel) constitute an important part of their traditional outfit (Couleur), only worn, so we may assume, at important communal events. For more information, see http://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studentenm%C3%BCtze 

Willem Vogelsang, 30 May 2015

   

The world's oldest working planetarium: thanks to textiles

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The world’s oldest working planetarium, built between 1774 and 1781, was in fact made possible by textiles. The planetarium in Franeker (the Netherlands) was built by wool comber Eise Eisinga (1744-1828) in his own home. There is a display, with video, about the processing of wool in the back of the house where Eisinga used to live and where we now find the planetarium.

The display includes a life size comb stove or pot, where the combs were heated before use. Heating made the combs move through the wool more easily. Combing made the long fibres (called ‘sleevers’) lie parallel to each other, so they could be spun. Combing also separated sleevers from short fibres (called ‘noils’), which could not be spun. The sleevers would then be drawn through a ring or disc to ensure they were the same length.

Eisinga also dyed the wool, and won an international prize in Ghent in 1820 for this skill. He used dyes made from alum, logwood, brazilwood, madder, sumac and indigo, among other substances alum, logwood, brazilwood, madder, sumac and indigo, among other substances.

See for instance the YouTube film: https://youtu.be/NcbDH1u_I1c

Shelley Anderson, 24 May 2015

   

Textiles and Politics

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

   

Stadskanaal kerchief, continued

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The plot thickens. Last week we told you about a commemorative kerchief from Stadskanaal, a small town in the northeast of The Netherlands. We added that the kerchief included the embroidered signatures of some twenty-five names, plus references to the town of Stadskanaal, the name of 'Ons Belang', and two dates in the year 1945. This week we have received really interesting information from various sides.

As a result the story has unexpectedly taken a new twist. As pointed out to us (Deandra de Looff, many thanks!), the name of 'Ons Belang' was not only that of the local straw board factory, but also that of a temporary internment camp for men and women arrested for collaboration with the Germans. In fact, the camp was 'opened' on 7th May, some three weeks after the liberation of the area, and remained in use well into 1946. The camp was located on the premises of the straw carton factory, 'Ons Belang', hence of course the name of the camp. The initials J.K. that were embroidered on the kerchief, as we initially read them, could in fact also be read as I.K., for 'Internerings Kamp', as Deandra de Looff suggested. Furthermore, the embroidered names, as suggested by another correspondent, are not local, and likely represent people from outside Stadskanaal (thank you, Jacco Pranger).

The dates on the kerchief, which could be read as 17 May 1945 and 5 September 1945, may have been of great importance to the camp, the internees or their guards.

We will continue this intriguing piece of research, based on a simple handkerchief given to us by the owner of a local Leiden curio shop. It may well reflect a darker and hidden aspect of Dutch post-war history. We will keep you posted.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 12 April 2015

   

Commemorative kerchief from Stadskanaal, May 1945

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Saturday, 4th April 2015: While visiting a curio shop in Leiden, we were looking at some old textiles, including part of a mid-19th century Cashmire style shawl. But among the various textile items there was also an embroidered kerchief worked in a red and beige cotton thread. It is an example of a commemorative embroidery, albeit on a small scale. The embroidery includes a central text that reads Stadskanaal J.K. 17-5-1945 Ons Belang 5-9-45. Surrounding it are numerous signatures.

Embroidered kerchief, internment camp, 1945. TRC Collection

Embroidered kerchief, internment camp, 1945. TRC Collection

Stadskanaal is a town in the province of Groningen in the northeast of the Netherlands. Ons Belang ('Our interest') was the name of a company producing straw-board.  It was opened in 1910, one of numerous socialist co-operatives that were established in the early 20th century in the Netherlands. The date on the embroidery is no doubt of particular importance: the nearby major town of Groningen was liberated from the Germans by mainly Canadian troops in mid-April 1945.

Ons Belang changed its name several times in the 1960s and 1970s and in 1978 the company was closed down. If you have any information about the people, company or what happened on the 17 May 1945 at the company please let us know.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 4 April 2015

 

   

Afghan woman with iron underwear

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Perhaps I am becoming a bit of a fetishist, but after my blog of last week about some Afghan young men wearing a burqa to protest against the suppression of women's liberties in Afghanistan, there is another media report that drew my attention, again from Kabul. This time it is an Afghan performance artist, the 27-year old Kubra Khademi, who for eight (!) minutes walked the streets of Kabul wearing a kind of suit of armour over her normal clothing, with large metal breasts and buttocks, to protest against, as it is reported, the endemic harassment she and other Afghan women have to endure when they go out into the streets. A brave gesture, since she had to go into hiding after her performance. Yet, she told the reporter that there was one young boy, about ten years old, that got the message: "Look at that girl: she does not want to be touched."

Willem Vogelsang, 12 March 2015

   

Kimono exhibition in the SieboldHuis, Leiden

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Back of a Japanese kimono created by Itchiku Kubota, on display in the SieboldHuis, Leiden, The Netherlands

Back of a Japanese kimono created by Itchiku Kubota, on display in the SieboldHuis, Leiden, The Netherlands

Last night a friend and I went to the opening of a new exhibition, called Zijden Pracht (‘Silk Splendour’) at the Japanmuseum SieboldHuis, Rapenburg 19, Leiden, The Netherlands. The kimomos on display come from the Kubota Collection, Japan. The exhibition is curated by Linda Hanssen.

The exhibition focuses on the hand dyed kimonos made by the Japanese master textile dyer, Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003). Some of the kimonos took forty dye baths, 300 colours and up to a year to be created. The garments can be viewed (and worn) as individual items, but some of them were made and decorated as part of a series ('winter', 'autumn', 'universe') and can thus be placed next to each other to create a scroll-like painting, with the design moving from one kimono to the next. The attention to detail, in the main design, background patterns, and the overall effect, is truly amazing. These are the work of someone who has not just mastered his craft, but has shown to be a true genius.

There are sixteen kimonos on display and they are truly unbelievable. If you have the chance to see the garments then it becomes much easier to understand the intense amount of work involved in creating just one of these kimonos, let alone the various series. And it will leave you reeling.

The exhibition will be on display until the 31st May 2015, and if you are in Leiden then this is a MUST for anyone who loves textiles. It is not often you get a chance to see such works of art (literally) and these kimonos are simply and utterly stunning items.

Gillian Vogelsang, 7 March 2015

   

Men in burqa

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We are so used to seeing Afghan women being clad in the all-enveloping burqas, or chadaris, that the garment has almost become an icon of Afghan society. Now I just came across a news report from Kabul about some young Afghan men donning the burqa. I quote a message from TOLOnews.com, by Tariq Majidi, published yesterday, 5 March: 

For the first time, more than 10 male civil society activists took to the streets of Kabul City on Thursday wearing burqas in protest of violence against women. The men sporting burqas began their protest in Pul-e-Surkh area of Kabul ending their march near the Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC), walking over 200 meters protesting against the harassment and violence the women of the country face on a daily a basis. "I walked the streets today in a burqa to understand how my sisters and mothers face violence from men on a daily basis," a protestor said. "I wanted to understand the situation." Several spectators ridiculed the men protesting, while others supported the movement. "I was sitting inside a restaurant eating breakfast when I saw the men marching down the streets in their burqas," Maisam, Kabul resident, said. "I lost it and couldn't stop laughing. Men should not being doing this." Fifty year old Haji Haider, a resident of Kabul, said this move made by the men spoke volumes. "This is the first that I'm witnessing such a protest," Haider said. "This is a very good move. It's a step forward in favor of the women." The men have filed complaints and cases to the IHRC and the government to resolve the increasing harassment and violence against women. This comes after a female wore an iron clad vest illustrating the curves of the female body on the streets of Kabul in protest of sexual harassment of females.

Willem Vogelsang, 6 March 2015

   

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