Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Amy Gould and Matthew Polk on Radiocarbondating of Andean Textiles 2

Posted in Uncategorized on January 3, 2017 by rjohn

On July 9, 2016, Amy Gould and Matthew Polk gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program here at the Textiles Museum in Washington, DC on carbon-dating of Andean textiles.

*

am18a

am27b*

Amy is a Graduate of Rhode Island School of Design with degrees in Fine Art and Architecture.

In 1983 Amy founded her own firm, Gould Architects, based in Baltimore and specializing in healthcare and institutional architectural services. Her client list includes many of the regions great institutions such as the National Aquarium, Johns Hopkins Medical System, the University of Maryland Medical System and the Baltimore Symphony.

In 1996 Amy was elected to the American Institute of Architects National Board of Directors and was elevated to the College of Fellows in 2000 for her leadership in the legislative arena.

She is a former Trustee of the Textile Museum and is currently serving as a Trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore where she has chaired the Accessions Committee for AAAPI- Arts of Asia, Ancient Americas, and Pacific Islands.

Matt is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Physics and is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School, OPM Executive program.

In 1972 Matt co-founded Polk Audio, one of the best known makers of high quality loudspeakers. He sold the company in 2006 and retired in 2008. From 2009 to 2011 he served as President of Gibson Island. In 2010 he co-founded MSI-DFAT Services which is the premier provider of acoustic testing services for spacecraft.

Matt is a former trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art and currently serves on the Johns Hopkins Department of Physics and Astronomy advisory board and its executive committee.

Over the last 35 years their common interest in textiles has led them to create an eclectic collection which includes one of the nation’s most important groups of Andean textiles and Central African textiles along with significant groups of ethnic Chinese, Japanese and other Asian textiles. And, yes, more than a few nomadic carpets.

In 2009, as an outgrowth of their interest in understanding more about historic textiles, they established the Historic Textile Research Foundation, a 501-C-3, dedicated to creating a database of textile radiocarbon dating information for use by museums, scholars, collectors, dealers and other interested parties.

They began with an illustrated lecture.  Mostly, we are going to let the slides in it tell the story, with occasional additional comments.

You can see larger versions of any slide by clicking on it up to three times and you are encouraged to do that.

*

Slide1*

Slide2*

Sometimes the age of an object is a subject of great importance.  For example carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin has been very controversial.  The results have questioned the authenticity of the relic causing some to question the validity of the Radiocarbon dating method itself.

Slide3*

Nevertheless, the science behind radiocarbon dating is well accepted and most things are not so controversial.  When something about a piece doesn’t seem right carbon dating may shed some light.  In this case carbon dating showed that a textile believed to be Nazca was actually early Inca period with a red square added in the center using  old wool, presumably, from another piece to improve it’s marketability.

Slide4*

Sometimes carbon dating can answer questions about how textiles were used.  Multiple samples from this central African Kuba Overskirt showed that it is composed of panels from 19th, 18th and possibly 17th centuries suggesting generations of owners modified and added to the piece.

Slide5*

The textile traditions of the Hainan Island ethnic groups were virtually unknown outside China until the 1990’s.  Little research has been done into the origins of these traditions.  Carbon dating of this “Ghost Cover” showed that it was at least early 20th c. and possibly much older.

Slide6*

Slide7*

When a piece is not like anything else carbon dating can sometimes help us figure out what it is.  Many who looked at this unusual piece thought I could be Sihuas, possibly as early as 200AD.  But the carbon date placed it in the early Inca period, 1420AD to 1449AD.  The two headed snakes suggest it was associated with shamanistic rituals observed by the Spanish conquistadors and still practiced today by Shamans such as the one pictured above.

Slide8*

Carbon dating of groups of pieces can sometimes reveal important patterns.  Carbon dates on several dozen Andean textiles from the 1st millennium BC showed a sudden shift between 500 BC and 400 BC from painted, plain woven cotton textiles to colorful, wool textiles with motifs executed in complex tapestry, embroidery and knitting techniques.  How and why this occurred is still an unanswered question.

Slide9*

And, of course, investigating these questions can be a great excuse for travel.  Our visit last year to the Temple of Chavin de Huantar (circa 1200 BC) on the Amazon side of the Andes in Northern Peru really helped us understand how the Chavin civilization exerted such a powerful influence over the entire region for more than 600 years.

Slide10*

The answers to many other important questions lie in museums who have virtually no research funding.   Through our foundation we have begun a project with the Museo Nacionale in Lima carbon dating layers of Paracas bundles to understand whether these bundles were maintained over time by their communities.  The answers to this question will provide important clues to  understanding ancient Andean burial rituals and their culture of ancestor worship.

Slide11*

Okay, just a joke.  But, the Radiocarbon dating technique is a quite modern development which has only recently evolved to become a really practical method for dating objects, such as textiles, where removal of only the tiniest amount of material for analysis can be tolerated. 

Slide12

Reduction of sample size and improved accuracy over the past 30 years has made it possible to apply this technique to many more objects.  Analysis is now possible with less than 10 milligrams of material meaning that samples can be taken from pristine textiles with no visible impact.

Slide13*

The idea behind carbon dating is pretty straight forward.  Every living thing constantly absorbs radioactive carbon 14 (C14) in small quantities from the atmosphere.  As a result all living things have the same amount of C14 as their surroundings.  After death, however, the C14 is no longer replenished and starts to decay at a known rate.  If we measure how much C14 has disappeared from a sample we can calculate how long it has been since the sample was alive.

Slide14*

But, nothing is ever simple.  When we analyse a sample today we measure how much C14 is left but because the amount of C14 in the atmosphere has changed up and down over time, we don’t know how much it had to start with.  That makes the determination of actual age a more complicated process. 

We start with the Conventional Radiocarbon Age (CRA).  This is how old our sample would be if the amount of C14 in the atmosphere had never changed and was always the same as it was in 1950.  The CRA is not the actual age of the sample it is just an approximation and the starting point for the analysis.  

  The amount of C14 in the atmosphere over the past 10,000 or so years has been determined by making measurements on tree rings of known age.  This ‘calibration curve’ can be statistically compared to the amount of C14 we measure in a sample today to give us a number of possible age ranges for the sample.  The analysis also gives us the probability that the actual age falls within any particular range.

This is the most difficult thing to understand about Radiocarbon dating and has led to many false impressions about how accurate or useful it is.

Slide15*

For example, the CRA of this Hainan Island “Ghost Cover” is 82 years before present (BP)  +/- 20 years.  (We always use 1950 = the present.)  So, the CRA tells us this piece dates to  approximately 1868 +/- 20 years.

If we compare this result to the calibration curve we get the possible age ranges with probabilities:  1813 to 1919 at 69.7% probability and 1695 to 1727 at 25.4% probability.  The actual age could be anywhere in these two ranges.  We can say for sure that the piece is earlier than 1919 but could be as old as 1695.  Although this is not very precise it is still useful in telling us that this textile tradition dates to at least the beginning of the 20th century and probably 19th c.

Slide16*

Sometimes what we know about a piece can help us narrow the range of possible dates.  The calibrated results for this early colonial era Andean textile were 1454 to 1529 with 47.4% probability and 1552 to 1634 with 47.6% probability.  But, the European religious imagery of the piece tells us it must have been created after the conquest in 1532.  So, the earlier date range can be eliminated meaning the wool used in this piece was harvested some time between 1552 and 1634 and the piece itself most likely made within the same time period.

Slide17*

Slide18*

(click two or three times on the image above to get a larger version)

It’s always fun to test your textile instincts.  Without reading beyond the descriptions below take a look at the five textiles above and choose the one you think is oldest.  Write its number on paper.  Below is a more detailed description of each to help.

These five pieces have been carbon dated and span a range of nearly 2,000 years.  All are warp faced Andean tunics made of wool probably alpaca.

#1 is a beautiful, finely woven tunic with a light, very soft feel, made in two pieces joined in the center, with distinctive red wool stitching joining the sides.

#2 is a very heavy wool tunic made of thick, ropy natural color wool yarns with crude elemental brown stripes at the sides.

#3 is a classic Aymara marching stripe design.  It has discontinuous warps at the shoulder, often seen in pre-Columbian pieces, with a blue field on the other side.  The warp faced weave is very tight and slightly stiff.

#4 is a very soft, somewhat loosely woven tunic with an unusual trapezoidal form.  The edge bindings and neck treatment are beautiful multi-colored Inca style.

#5 has a nice floppy feel and makes extensive use of yarns spun in alternating directions creating subtle changes in surface texture to enhance the narrow pin stripe design.

*

*

Done that?  OK, now, scroll down.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Slide19*

We were shocked to learn that this heavy wool tunic was nearly 2,000 years old!  Utilitarian garments like this rarely survive this long.

Now, removing the oldest piece which of the remaining four is oldest:

Slide20*

Again, write down the number of the one you think is oldest, the scroll down to see the carbon-dating-based answer.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Slide21*

It was not surprising to learn that this adorable little tunic is nearly 1,000 years old.  The trapezoidal form is seen in a few pre-Columbian pieces but never, to our knowledge, in post conquest tunics.  Since making this presentation we have separately carbon dated some of the old repairs in this piece as having been made around 1750.  That suggests this piece was still in active use six to seven hundred years after it was made.

Now we are down to three.  Again, write the number of the one you think is oldest before scrolling down to the book answer.

*

Slide22*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Slide23*

Again, not surprising to see that this piece is most likely to be Inca period and pre-conquest.  The two piece construction is often seen in pre-conquest pieces from the Arica area in Northern Chile.

The final two tunics are 250 years apart.  Write down your candidate for the oldest then scroll down to see the answer.

*

Slide24*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

Slide25*

Tunics and other forms of traditional dress were outlawed by the Spanish after the nearly successful rebellion of the 1770’s.  So, we can say with  that this  very sophisticated tunic is most likely mid-18th c. with some possibility it could be late 17th c..

Now, you may be wondering about the last tunic.

*

Slide26*

We’ve included this piece to make the point that looks can be deceiving and that even quite modern pieces can be accurately radiocarbon dated.  The discontinuous warp and marching stripe design is characteristic of some of the most beautiful and iconic Aymara tunics of the 16th century.  Our instincts told us something wasn’t quite right with this piece but we really hoped carbon dating would prove that it was a genuine 16th c. tunic.  Unfortunately carbon dating results show that the piece is modern, most likely made between March and December of 1996 (72% probability).  This coincides with a revival of interest in traditional Aymara weaving in the early and mid-1990’s.  Whether it was made as a tribute or meant to deceive we will never know.

However, it does show that it is possible to carbon date very recent items, sometimes with great accuracy.  The signature of Atomic bomb testing after 1950 is immediately recognizable when analyzing a sample and can lead to a very precise determination of age.

Finally, here’s a quick summary of things to remember about radiocarbon dating.

*

Slide27*

Also, Amy and I have established a foundation dedicated to building a database of radiocarbon dated textiles.  If you have any carbon dated textiles we’d love to include that information in our database.

Thank You!

Matthew and Amy then took questions on their lecture before moving on to discuss the pieces they had brought in.

*

am17a

*

am25a*

The pieces they brought included some featured in their lecture.

*

am20*

They walked us through these in the wool allowing for treatment on different aspects.

I will treat them in the order in which they were arrayed in the room, not, necessarily in the order they were treated.

First were the five tunics from “Guess My Age”.  Here they are left to right, one at a time.  Matthew and Amy are speaking in the Comments.

AM1

*

am12comprehensive*

Comment on AM1: #1 is a beautiful, finely woven tunic with a light, very soft feel, made in two pieces joined in the center, with distinctive red wool stitching joining the sides and “evil eye” style rabette along the bottom edge.  Z2S yarns, possibly Vicuna wool.  As mentioned previously the two piece construction style is typical of pre-conquest tunics from the Arica area.

*

AM2

*

am5*

Comment on AM2: #2 is a very heavy wool tunic made of thick, ropy natural color wool yarns with crude elemental brown stripes at the sides.  A very rare example of a utilitarian garment that has survived for nearly 2,000 years.  Very beautiful in my opinion.

Detail of AM2.

*

am11

*

AM3

am1*

Comment on AM3: #3 is a classic Aymara marching stripe design.  It has discontinuous warps at the shoulder, often seen in pre-Columbian and conquest era pieces, with a blue field on the other side.  The warp faced weave is very tight and slightly stiff.  Although it looks just like a fabulous 16th c. tunic it is, in fact, modern and probably made in 1996.  The give away was the stiff feel and the Z3S yarns.  Genuine antique pieces are always Z2S or S2Z.  Nevertheless, it’s still a beautiful piece.

Detail of AM3.

*

am10*

AM4

*

am2*

Comment on AM4:  #4  is a very soft, somewhat loosely woven tunic with an unusual trapezoidal form.  The edge bindings and neck treatment are multi-colored Inca style.  As mentioned before the piece itself is nearly 1,000 years old but we’ve carbon dated repairs to as late as 1750.  It is a well loved piece which has clearly enjoyed many, many generations of affectionate ritual use.  A very ‘honest’ piece and one of our favorites.

*

AM5

*

am3*

Comment on AM5: #5 has a nice floppy feel and makes extensive use of yarns spun in alternating directions to enhance the narrow pin stripe design through changes in surface texture.  The combination of Z2S and S2Z yarns creates a herringbone effect in the surface of the textile that sets off the stripes.  Use of this technique along the edges is also said to allow the textile to drape without curling.  A great example of how the Aymara employ great sophistication in weaving to achieve subtle effects.

*

Amy spoke to a textile on the right.

*

AM6

*

am14*

am13*

Comment on AM6:  as mentioned earlier no one was really sure what this tunic was when it first came to us.  Carbon dating showed it was early Inca period.  But, it wasn’t until last year during a meeting with a Shaman in northern Peru that we began to really understand the piece.  His use of a snake motif staff demonstrated to us the ritual significance of the double headed snakes shown in this tunic.  Also of note is that the snakes are woven, not painted, employing an unusual displaced weft technique to produce the curving forms.

There was a textile on a tripod on the left.

*

AM7

*

am4*

Comment on AM7: This is a Kuba Overskirt from what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The very fine weave and deep red color suggests it was  part of the royal family’s collection.  It is made of rafia palm fibers with many separate panels in a combination of embroidery and cut pile techniques.  By separately carbon dating six of the panels we determined that some panels were 19th c. while some were 18th c. and possibly 17th c suggesting it was handed down and modified by many generations of owners.

Details of AM7.

*

AM4b*

am4a*

AM4c*

There were two textiles on the front board.

AM8

*

am6*

Comment on AM8: This so called “Ghost Cover” from the Li ethnic group of Hainan Island (South coast of China) is an example of the textiles used in funerary rituals.   During open air cremation a Ghost Cover such as this is thrown gently back and forth over the smoldering pyre.  Such use, although infrequent, is hard on these textiles. Few have survived intact and fewer still with a white ground.  

Little is known about these Hainan island ethnic groups who were so isolated that they did not even have a written language until the mid 1950’s.  The late 19th c. to early 20th c. radio carbon date for this piece and several others we have dated sheds some light on the ritual textile traditions of this area.

Detail of AM8.

*

am6a*

am6c*

AM6b*

AM9

*

am16adifferent textile*

Comment on AM9:  This is the piece we talked about early in the presentation that when it came to us had a red square in the middle of the brown field.  

The dealer said it was Nazca which would have placed it in the range of 200AD to 600AD.  However, the  technique looked like classic Aymara warp faced weaving to us, suggesting that it was much later.  Also, the red square in the middle just seemed out of place and even without magnification one could see the cut ends of brown warps tucked back into the weave around the red square suggesting that the red yarns had been added later.  Carbon dating of the original brown warps placed the piece in the middle Inca period, 1450AD to 1500AD.  However, a sample of the red yarns from the center dated to 1220AD to 1280AD, 200 years earlier.  

It’s not uncommon to see old yarns from a very damaged piece used to repair or restore another piece. Here, it looks like someone used yarns from an old piece just to make the piece look more interesting.  This was probably done prior to 1980 after which the importance of early Aymara textiles was beginning to be appreciated.  After making this determination we had the red yarns removed and the area rewoven with matching yarns to restore the original appearance of the piece.  Ironically, today a genuine Inca period Aymara textile  is far more valuable than a relatively plain Nazca textile.

Detail of AM9.

*

am16adetailofdifferenttextile*

Amy and Matthew answered questions, on the pieces brought in 

*

am18

*

am23

*

and brought their session to a close.

I want to thank them for yet another excellent session that was both interactive and authoritative.  Thanks to them also for making it possible to construct this virtual version of this program, and for their patient work in the editing of it.

I hope you have enjoyed and learned from it, too.

If radiocarbon dating and/or Andean textiles interest you, you can see another program of this sort that Amy and Matthew gave here at The Textile Museum a few years ago.

https://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/carbon-dating-for-andean-textiles/

Regards,

R. John Howe

Jaina Mishra on Kutch Embroideries

Posted in Uncategorized on September 11, 2016 by rjohn

On June 4, 2016, Jaina Mishra

Jaina1

gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program here at the Textile Museum in Washington, DC, on “Wedding Embroideries of Kutch.”

In the 1990s Jaina began to collect the “souls” of vanishing cultures embedded in the traditional arts.  There are three streams of her work.  First she is a collector, a consultant, and curator.  She is also a skilled photographer, and she writes and lectures on these cultures.  Her web site: WovenSouls.com is an entry to her work.

She began her program on Kutch wedding embroderies.

*

Slide1*

 

Good morning,

I am going to talk about the textiles of the salt desert region of Kutch.  I will treat these textiles through the cultural paradigm from which they emerge.

*

Slide2*

In Kutch, the geography has played an important role in shaping the social structure.  The people are migrants and the history of their migrations has influenced their life-style.

Let’s look at this cultural background before proceeding to examine their textiles.

*

Slide3*

I am going to focus, particularly, on the Rabaris, who are nomadic herders who live scattered throughout the western Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

*

Slide4*

It is said that the Rabaris originate from the Kachhi region of Baluchistan.

One source of this alleged connection is that one of the goddesses they worship. “Hanglaj” has a major temple in East Baluchistan and before the partition of India, Rabari elders made pilgrimages to Hinglaj at least once in their lifetimes.

*

Slide5*

The brown area in the map above indicates the location of the state of Gujarat.

*

Slide6*

Some famous people hail from Gugarat.  Gandhi and the newly elected Prime Mininster of India, Modi, and even some not-so-famous people, like myself, are from Gujarat.  Gujarat is the home to several tribes, some of Gypsy origin, but, as I’ve indicated, I’ll treat only the Rabaris of the Kutch.

The upper jaw of Gujarat (red) is largely a salt desert and,

*

CorrectedSlide1*

Let’s look at some Rabari people and their social context.

*

Slide8*

Below are pictures I took in 2007.

*

Slide9*

This is a Rabari woman carrying water to her home.

*

Slide10*

 Here are two other Rabari women.  They are going to their temporary home in a field where they are parked for a fortnight.

*Slide11*

The economic model the Rabaris migrants follow is interesting. Because they are constantly moving, it is to their advantage to have only things they need.

*

Slide12*

Below is a bare Rabari home (a simple tent), with meagre belongings.

The perspective of these people is that the more things one owns, the less freedom one has.

It is as if our possessions become “Gulliver’s pegs” and tie us down.

There is truth to that.

*

Slide13*

 

*

Slide14*

The Rabaris are expert camel breeders, cattle herders and shepherds.  They are said to have introduced camels to the subcontinent.

*

Camels

*

Slide15*

Rabaris trace their ancestry to the Lord Shiva.

They are Hindu and devout worshipers of the Mother Goddesses.

*

Slide16*

 Rabaris also have connection to the Rajput warriors of Rajasthan through marriage.  This establishes their position in the caste hierarchy through their association with the second rung of the pecking order.

*

Slide17*

Periodically a given Rabari community grows too large for the environment in which it lives, even with migration, to sustain it.  The group divides and part of it migrates to a new region.  As a result of this periodic division there are many subgroups of Rabari.

*

Slide18*

While many of the lifestyle elements differ from one Rabari subgroup to another, they still all retain a common set of Rabari values and beliefs that over-ride all other  differences.

*

Slide19*

Rabaris have a strong sense of Rabari identity and belief that is the most important aspect of their lives.

When many non-Rabari strangers meet they introduce themselves as “I am from village X or city Y,” but Rabaris introduce themselves by saying “I am Rabari.” 

(ed. This strong sense of identity as a Rabari is a remarkable thing.  It contrasts with the sense of identity in some Central Asian tribes.  For example, one large Turkman tribe has, historically, been called the “Ersari,” but none of them would say “I am Ersari.”  Instead their identity is tied most strongly to a subgroup of the “Ersari” tribe.)

*

Slide20*

Within the Rabari group, identity is defined by genealogical origin and expressed as “Shahkh” (or branch) and “Atak” (or surname).

All Rabaris determine marriage rules and allowable marital alliances based on genealogy.

*

Slide21*

There is a strict code of social behavior among Rabari community members, bonded by the belief that they are descendants of Lord Shiva.

*

Slide22*

We are going to treat wedding textiles, but first let’s look at the Rabari concept of weddings and marriages, which is quite different from that in much of the modern world.

These concepts can seem strange to us, as outsiders.  But we must realize that our constructs seem equally strange to them.

* Slide23*

In a society of scarcity, as opposed to one of abundance, it is necessary to utilize scarce resources to full capacity.

So in poorer countries, such as the India of the past, resources that require heavy investments of time or money, such as living quarters, child rearing, etc. are shared within an “extended family.”

These extended or joint families include several generations: grandparents, parents and children, all living under one “roof.”

The functions that must be performed are divided among the generations of the extended family by tradition.

The grandparents mind the children.  The middle-aged women mind the processes of managing domestic finances and inventory.  The younger married women manage the “kitchen,” domestic finances and inventory.  The men of all ages go out and earn an income (primarily by working with the livestock).  So while all the women have had some tasks assigned to them in their traditional roles, this traditional division of labor provided enough free time for them to invest in the considerable work required for their embroidery.

Now this division of labor was most strongly observed in the past.  Nowadays, it is more loosely defined and does not apply to every household.  And it is changing rapidly as people move to larger cities for work in nuclear units.  The gradual breakdown of the traditional division of labor will impact the creation of Kutch embroidery such as that we are treating here.

*

Slide24*

For such an arrangement to work, the selection, training and assimilation of a new incumbent – the bride – was critical.  Her entry into the extended family was critical to the continued smooth functioning of such a collaborative organization within the home.

So marriages were arranged.

The families selected the bride/groom based on commonalities of lifestyle: religious beliefs, food habits, etc, so that the amalgamation results in the least possible friction for all concerned.

So when a young man or woman comes of age, proposals come to the parents from various relatives and clan members through common connections.

Once the parents are satisfied that the proposed new member is alright, an alliance is proposed.

Then, following negotiations of bride price an alliance is struck. (In some communities outside Kutch, this practice is reversed and is called the “groom price or dowry.”

When a new bride comes in, she absorbs the family’s ethos (and the previous arranged process has made this easier and more likely) and becomes an effective contributor to the “well-oiled machinery” of the extended family she has joined.

Now arranged marriages like this run counter to the modern notion of individual choice of marital partner, and of romance.  But there are many aspects of life over which (at least initially) individuals world-wide have no choice.  One’s parents are a given, as is the place where you will live in your early life.  Most are raised in the religion of their parents without the question of choice ever arising.  So the notion of not exercising one’s choice in important matters, is not necessarily as alien as some, nowadays, might think.  Nor is it limited to arranged marriages in India.

It is also important to note that romance and individual choice of marriage partner is, historically, a rather recent development world-wide.  In the traditional world love and romance (if it was to occur) happened after marriage.  So arranged marriages have for most of history, also “worked” for the purposes for which they were designed.

*

Slide25*

When a girl of less than 18 marries – it is deemed a child marriage.  Child marriage is a custom prevalent even today in several states of India.  Actual number of child marriages in India is not clear, but at least several million occur each year.

Child marriages are sometimes presented as horror stories by the media, but examination of the actual facts shows that this is not the case.

First, in societies in which child marriage is part of the traditional structure, the age difference between the girl and the boy is usually 2 – 5 years.

Second, child marriage has been practiced, and its functionality tested, in traditional societies for centuries.  It is not salacious.  It is focused on family stability.

We cannot always assume that modern marriage practices are superior to those of traditional societies.

It might well by that, sometimes, the reverse is the case.

*

Slide26*

So how does it work?

First the marriage is arranged, then some ceremonies are conducted to affirm the wedding.

And then the girl continues to live with her parents, to play and to go to school – just as she used to do before here wedding, until she attains child-bearing age.

Now preparations are made for her “gauna” or “aanu” or “farewell.”

This is the occasion when her husband’s family comes to the girl’s home to pick her up and take her to her new home.

This event is practiced in all communities that practice child marriage in its pure traditional form.

In the Rabaris, the bride wears a special Ludhi shawl – red with yellow dots for this occasion.

AANU SHAWL*

Slide49*

What is the logic behind the practice of child marriage?

The thought is that, if the biological clock has begun to tick, then, it is time for the married couple to embark on family life.

Just as other animals do, humans live life according to the rules of nature.  Even in modern societies, we know that teenagers are, often, active in the biological sense regardless of the social and moral prohibitions imposed.  Modern societies have the problem of unwanted teen pregnancies.

Arranged marriages, even child marriages, are a solution that takes nature into account. They have created a social structure – the arranged marriage and the joint family – for bringing up the babies, rather than having teen pregnancies with no social structure to support them.

* Slide27*

The dowry is the bride’s trousseau, and consists of clothing and jewelry and household items.

She also takes ,with her dowry, things that remind her of her old home: things filled with love and memories.

*

Slide28*

For some, the dowry might be comprised of things purchased in the market.  But those who are fortunate, the dowry contains pieces that were made by her mother, and grandmother, and her aunts before her own eyes during her childhood.

One stitch at a time, the textile is embroidered – together – by the women of the family.  They sing and embroider together in the afternoon.  They chat, passing stories of their ancestors and their wisdom.

So these home-made dowries contain, not just artistic wealth, but also memories of moments spent together.

Now let’s take a quick visit to a home on the morning of a wedding.

Note: Not all Rabaris are migrants and live in tents.

*

House

*

RabaroHouseGroup1*

rabaridoor*

This the decorated door of the bride’s home.  A member of the bride’s family, likely her mother, is a greeter.

*

tumblr_ns0p719Q1M1r85dmao2_r1_540*

During our visit, we will treat textiles for women and men and, also, textiles for decorating walls and animals.

*

Slide30*

We start with textiles that women wear.

  *Slide31*

 

The next two images below are of Rabari women in traditional clothing.  As you can see, the first is on the occasion of a wedding.

*

Slide32*

Slide33*

Here are some individual items of traditional Rabari women’s dress.

The first, below, is a backless blouse, called a “kapdu.”  It has only narrow panels at the back, tied together with strings.  The black veil hangs over the bare back so it isn’t exactly bare. 

*

Slide34*

The kapdu is tight fitting, in front, and does not require a brassiere underneath.  The examples below are from a different Rabari subgroup than those above.

*

Slide35*

The next three images show examples of Rabaris skirts.

*

Slide36*

*

Slide37*

Slide38*

The examples of blouses and skirts above are those Rabari women wear everyday.  They are not reserved for ceremonial events.

*

Slide39*

One item of the clothing of Rabari women stands out: the black veil. 

Hindus form 80% of India’s population.  The color black is not preferred by Hindus.  Not for wedding; not for funerals.

Black is considered inauspicious and, in the past, it was not worn at all.

The Rabaris are Hindus, so why the color black was chosen needs explanation.

*

Slide40*

We will talk, in a moment, about how black came to be the color of the veil used, uniformly by the women of the entire Rabari tribe.

* Slide41*

But let’s first have a look at the art and the craft of this important black veil.

The veil is made of hand spun wool from goats.

*

Slide42*

The veil is hand-woven on a narrow loom.  The woven material is tied and dyed (the orange-yellow on the piece below).  Then two pieces of the material are placed side-by-side and attached together along the long side.

*

Slide43*

It is then embroidered together at the center.

*

Slide44*

Now let’s return to the question of why Rabari women’s veils are black.

*

Slide46*

Legend has it that “once upon a time,” a few centuries ago, the Rabari tribe with their herd roamed the lands ruled by a particular Muslim or Islamic king.

Nomadic tribes have symbiotic and cordial relationships with rulers, acting sometimes as escorts, sometimes as messengers, spies, or advisors in political matters of state.

In this case, the Rabari tribal lord and his family came to be on very good terms with this particular Islamic king and both families became close.

The wife of the Rabari chief declared the Islamic king her brother and the family ties strengthened.

From that point the families of the brother and sister participated in each others life celebrations and festivals.

Life went on and one day there was a battle between the Islamic king and some enemy of the state in which the king lost his life.

Since he was the Rabari “first lady’s” brother, mourning was declared among the Rabaris as well.

Black was worn because the king was a Muslim king.

All celebrations and joyous activities ceased for the mourning period.

Mourning usually lasts for up to 13 days, and ends with a ceremony, in which a feast is offered.

In this story, the Rabari’s tribal lord’s wife – the declared sister of the Islamic king – was so deeply devastated that that she declared more stringent terms for the end of the mourning.  She declared that mourning for the tribe would continue until an offering of a feast was held at which 2000 kg of salt would be used in the cooking.

Since such a feast was beyond the preparation capabilities and the eating capacities of the tribe, the end of the mourning period never came and the tribe continued to wear black.  This practice continues today.

Since all this happened centuries ago, most of normal life has resumed, but the dress tradition of the black veil continues.

Slide40*

“This legend was heard from a prominent Rabari tribal patriarch.  The discovery of the tale in this textile and its multiple layers of beauty that make is a remarkable palimpsest, has made it one of my favorite textiles to collect.” 

Slide41a

The image below is of a veil oriented horizontally, and not stretched out.

*

Slide47*

Below, again, is a row 3-D floret embroidery done to seal the two narrow panels of cloth along the spine.  The greater the number of florets, the greater the value of the veil (ludhi or ludgadi).

*

J15c*

The bridal veils, below, are more decorated and ornate than some of the others we’ve seen.

*

Slide45*

Slide51*

Now let’s turn to Rabari men’s clothing.

*

Slide52*

The men in the photo above are wearing short tunics.  The sleeves of such tunics are fitted to allow the hands to be unobstructed for work.  But at the chest of these tunics, there are dozens of tiny gathers making it loose and airy.  These tunics are called “kediyus.”

*

Slide53*

The shirt, above, is a kediyu that would be worn at a male child’s marriage.

*

Slide54*

A similar one was exhibited at the “Fabric of India” exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The next textile is the men’s pants or dhoti.

*

Slide55*

The dhoti is a panel of cloth (usually about five yards long) that is taken around the waist and the brought between the legs to form flexible pants.  One size fits all.

*

Slide56*

Above is an open dhoti of the Debariya Rabari subgoup.

Below are closer images of the ends of this dhoti.

 

  *Slide57*

Now, while we are treating this sort of pant form as one worn by men in India, in truth, this basic format is widely used in south and southeast Asia by both men and women. 

I make that point because I want to show one way in which a dhoti-like garment is put on and tied. 

The example I want to use is one worn in southeast Asia and is there called a “hip wrapper.”  In this example, this pant form is being worn by a woman volunteer in another Textile Museum program.

It starts by putting the long strip of cloth around her, kind of like a horizontal sling. 

*

SE4tryona*

Next, she holds the two sides together around her waist (I think a clip of some sort is used; she’s holding it closed with her hand). 

*

SE4tryoneb*

The man helping her, holds the ends of the sling, and twists them together to form a sort of “rope.”  The “rope” then gets passed through her legs and the end is tucked into the waist at the back.

*

SE4tryonc*

SE4tryond

As we noted above, this is a unisex garment.  Yul Brynner wore one in his role as the King in “The King and I.”

MV5BMTI5MDkzMzYzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzA5NTczMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR11,0,214,317_*

Now, with that explanation, we move back to India and to Rabari men’s dress. 

*

After1detail

*

The next item is the shawl.  The man in the image below is wearing one.

*

Slide58*

Here is a closer view of it.

*

Slide58a*

The images above and below are of men and their camels at a religious fair where even the livestock are brought to worship.

The sense of style with which these shawls are worn is evident.  And the color is distinct.

*

Slide59*

Now we turn to the accessories worn at a wedding by the Rabari groom.

*

Slide60*

We are going to treat some of the groom accessories individually, but notice in the multicolor-banded, silk-cotton, Mashu shawl and pants (about which more later), worn by the groom over his clothes. 

Note also the sword sheath, held over the shoulder, and the panel worn above his turban.

Below are two, isolated examples of groom decor.  The first is a turban panel; the second a sheath.

*

Slide61*

Slide62*

Below are two examples of the shoulder cloth, worn by the groom and called “bokani” or “bukani.” 

  *Slide63*

The turban is the crown worn by every man.

It represents the dignity and honor of the man and his family in societies where material wealth is not the focal point of life.

*

Slide64*

A little background on the turban and its role in marital ceremony.

  *Slide65*

The identity of every community rests on a few anchors. 

For the Rabaris, the honor of the individual is among the most important anchors, and it is this anchor that drives all his behavior and makes him do things that will enhance his honor.

One of the factors that is critical to a man’s honor is the virtue of his daughter(s).

Daughters are raised with care and protected from the outside world and are expected to be virgins at the time of marriage.

A daughter is her father’s honor and pride.

At the time of the wedding, the father of the bride places this honor in the hands of his son-in-law.

The groom is responsible for treating his wife well, protecting and looking after her.

Divorce is permitted among the Rabaris, and if the groom sends his new wife back to her birth family, the honor of the bride’s father is at stake.

So the turban represents the honor of the bride’s father and the turban ceremony is one of the important rituals of a Rabari wedding.

*

Slide66*

The turban being made here (the red strip) is the one worn by the father of the bride.  Here is how the making proceeds.

A long strip of material is first twisted to make it roundish.

*

Slide67*

The twisting goes on…

*

Slide68*

and on. 

Slide69*

Then it begins to be coiled, a few beginning turns, around an arm, to begin to take on the shape it will have when placed on the bride’s father’s head.

*

Slide70*

Next, the beginning coils are placed on the head of the father, and further coiling turns are made, building it up.

*

Slide71*

Eventually, the winding of the turban on the head of the father of the bride is completed, the end is tucked in, and completed turban looks like this.

*

Slide77a*

Now we are ready for the turban honor ceremony.

*

Slide72*

The groom, dressed in white, has arrived and is being received at the door.

*

Slide73*

Slide74*

There is a long, decorated strip of material, held on his head, as he goes through the door.

*

Slide75*

Once through the door, he removes the head cloth and here he is.

*

Slide76*

The father of the bride enters the chamber.

Slide77*

He takes off his turban,

*

Slide78*

and places it on the bridegroom’s head. 

*

Slide79*

This is a solemn moment; the bride’s father, is symbolically, conveying the family’s honor to the bridegroom.

*

Slide80*

The bridegroom makes a few adjustments.

Slide81*

Almost right…

*

Slide82*

Yes, this is as it should be.

*

Slide83*

He emerges from the chamber, proudly, with his new crown of responsibility.

*

Slide84*

This is the second example that shows us how important textiles are to the cultural traditions of the Rabari people.

*

Slide85*

 

In the pictures so far, you may have noticed textiles on the walls.  Wall hangings are another instance of Rabari textile practice.

*

Slide86*

Above are three types of panels used to decorate doors. The piece on the left is hung on either side of the entrance.  The upper right piece hangs above the door.  The lower right piece is arranged on the wall, either as a square or a diamond.

Below is another wall hanging.

*

Slide88*

The textile below is a cover, called a “dhaniyo” or a “dharaniyo.”  In nomadic households, it is not possible to have wooden cabinets for storage.  As a result, things are stacked one upon the other and, even if neatly stacked, the assortment of items makes it look untidy.  So covers have been created to make such a space look good.  Such covers are thrown over or hung in front of messy stacks to conceal the mess.

A dyaniyo usually conceals grain boxes, trunks full of clothing, bedding, and vessels meant for occasional use.

*

Slide89*

Despite their primary functional purpose, covers, such as the one above can be fabulous examples of folk art.

Animals are essential to migratory Rabari life and the Rabari want them to look good for special occasions.

*

Slide87*

Above are some animal decorations.  Bottom center is a camel hat with space for ears.  It could also be used as a horn cover.  The the upper right piece is a ceremonial bullock-forehead decoration.  The two pieces on the upper left are also said to be head decorations for bullocks.

Simple pieces of this sort, are, now, beginning to be made for the sole purpose of selling them.

Once commerce takes over, the taste of the buyer comes into play and the character of the art changes dramatically.

*

Slide90*

The contents of the “dowry” will have different meanings depending on the Rabari group, place, customs and economic level, but it is essentially the bride’s trousseau.

The bride’s trousseau consists of things she may wear over her lifetime and things that will offer her memories and comforts when she moves to her new home.

The dowry may also contain heirloom items that are passed from generation to generation.  It may also contain a textile that the bride’s mother began work on with her.

Rugs, bags or other textiles in a dowry may also be gifts from relatives, mostly likely from the mother, the mother’s brother, or an aunt.

The selection of items for the dowry may take place over a long time.

A bride and her family will put into her dowry items that are as good as circumstances permit.

 * Slide91*

The maternal uncle: the brides mother’s brother, is the person expected to give the most gifts in the dowry.

Performance of this function is the honor, responsibility and duty of this man and must be planned for by the uncle’s family as well.

*

Slide92*

Here are members of the bride’s family carrying items of her trousseau.

*

Slide93*

More trousseau items.

*

Slide94*

Now family members of the bride, led by the maternal uncle, carry the trousseau items for presentation.

  *Slide95*

The maternal uncle and other family members carry the trousseau item into the ceremony chamber.

*

Slide96*

The bride’s trousseau is presented.

*

Slide97*

A senior member of the groom’s family meets the trousseau entourage at the door.  Being met at the door by a senior member of a family is a sign of respect.

*

Slide98*

*

Slide99*

The maternal uncle has done his duty.

Now we return to the textiles.

Here are some Rabari dowry bags.  They are made in various sizes and construction depending on the objects that would be placed in them.

They are extravagantly embroidered and embellished with mirrors.  The one on the left, below, is likely used for clothing.

*

Slide100*

The small bag below is probably for jewelry.

Slide101*

The dowry bags were used to pack the bride’s things when she moved from here parents home to her husband’s.

Because camels were the means of transport, suitcases were not appropriate.  Instead, pliable bags were used that could be comfortably carried on the camel’s back.

Here are some more examples.

*

Slide102*

Slide103*

Slide104*

The bag on the right below has an “envelope” format, with the triangular top flap folding over to close it.

*

Slide105*

The Kutch employ a variety of embroideries.  As the Rabari subgroups splintered, and moved away from each other, the embroidery art of of the subgroups evolved differently.

So we have three distinctly different types of embroidery, each practiced by one of the Rabari subgroups.

*

Slide106*

The three types of Rabari embroidery are vagadia, debariya and kaachi.

Slide107*

A close look at the work, above, from the Vagadia subtribe, reveals their preference for high-density stitching, rendered in yellow and white.

*

Slide108*

The next two images below, show a Debariya preference for many unique motifs each rendered in a single color.  Mirrors are not necessarily found all over Debariya work – they may be restricted to border panels.

*

Slide109

*

Slide110*

The Kaachi Rabari embroidery work, below, employs mirrors, all over, and a variety of motifs, each rendered in several colors.

*

Slide111

*

Slide112*

A look at a dozen examples of each of these types of Rabari embroidery is sufficient to make good guesses about the particular subgroup a given piece originates from.  It is important to remember that these subgroups did not exist a century ago, so in older pieces they may have not attained the unique identities that we see today.

*

Slide113*

Below is one more Rabari textile format: the cradle hammock

*

Slide114*

Jaina said that she wanted to examine an interesting aspect of the Rabari embroidery stitch used in this cradle hammock.

*

Slide116*

The stitch in the detail above (and also in the cradle hammock above) is one that is common in Rabari work.

It seems not a simple stitch that could have intuitively arisen in different parts of the world.

*

Slide117*

Above are some clips of embroidery stitches.  Would you agree that they all look similar?

*

Slide118*

Would you agree that the stitch used in the two pieces above are also similar?

*

Slide119*

The surprise is that the piece above is not Rabari, but rather, “Marash embroidery” from Armenia.

*

Slide120*

Jaina said that she finds it intriguing that this little cultural usage – a “meme,” if you will, is found in two geographically separated cultures.  She said that she wonders how these these two groups came to have the same complex stitch and what their connection might be.

Jainaend

But that, she said, would be a topic for a future exploration.

*

Slide122*

She said that she would end her lecture by examining some of the motifs used in Rabari embroidery.

Here, below, is a first set of two.

  *Slide123*

The motif on the left above is of “butter-churning girls.”  The one on the right is a girl on a camel.

*

Slide124*

Below are a second set of similar motifs.

They are of a girl or a goddess.  They are rendered differently from slide to slide.

*

Slide125

*

Slide126

*

Slide127

*

Slide128*

The next set of motifs are versions of the eight-pointed flower or star, as seen frequently.

**

Slide129

*

Slide130

*

  Slide131*

A next set of motifs are seen to be a girl or a goddess on a camel.

*

Slide132*

Finally, Jaina said, are two set of embroidery stitches that can be used to fix mirrors on cloth.

*

  Slide133*

Slide134*

Jaina had brought a number of Rabari embroideries and some audience members had brought Rabari textiles, and she turned to them now.

*

Jbroughtincdetail

*

Some are treated in the lecture, but are worth seeing a little closer and in more detail.

I have not distinguished between pieces brought by Jaina and those brought by audience members.  Photos were taken opportunistically and, often, non-sequentially.

J3

*

J3*

Comments on J3:  Jaina described this piece as a tie-dyed, Gaji, silk, wedding shawl, called “odhana or ab0chani” in different regions.

It is an example, not just of the micro tie-dyes that create the red dots on the black background, but also the larger black devices on the yellow areas of the field.

Detail images of J3.

*

J3a*

J3b*

J3c*

J3d*

J3e*

J3f*

J4

J4*

Comment on J4:  Jaina said that this is a little boy’s shirt that may have been his wedding suit.

The motifs suggest that it is probably from the Ahir community that shares geography with the Rabaris.  Their work is very similar.

Details of J4.

*

J4a*

J4b*

J4c*

J5

*

J5*

Comment on J5:  Jaina said that this is a dowry bag.

Details of J5.

*

J5a*

J5b*

J6

*

J6*

Comments on J6:  The use of silk floss thread and the type of stitching suggests that this work is probably from Saurashtra and not Kutch.

Details of J6.

*

J6b*

J6c*

J6d*

J7

*

J7*

Comments on J7:  This shirt front is not from Kutch but from a neighboring region.

Details of J7.

*

J7b*

J7a*

J7c*

J7d*

J7e*

J8

*

J8*

Comment on J8:  This is a “welcome” panel to be hung on the door.  The use of silk floss and the type of stitch suggests that this is not a Rabari piece.  Note the use of negative space to create lines between the diamonds.

Details of J8.

*

J8a*

J8b*

J8c*

J8d*

J9

J9*

Comments on J9:  Jaina said that this is a beautiful dhanivo or dharaniy0 – used to cover up household goods.  Probably from the Jat community in Kutch.

Details of J9.

*

J9b*

J9awithJaina*

Note the use of the camel and girl/goddess motif detailed below.

*

J9adetail

*

J9c*

J10

*

J10a*

Comment on J10:  This is a skirt made of Mashru material.

Details of J10.

J10d*

J10*

It is made with silk on the outside and cotton on the inside and is created on a complex loom.  Such a structure came to be in order to circumvent the mandate of the Islamic community that silk could not be worn on the skin.  With this fabric, the cotton side faces the skin and the silk faces outward.

*

J10adetail*

More details of J10.

*

J10c*

J10b*

J11

*

J11*

Comment on J11:  Jaina said that this is a lovely dhaaraniyo or dhaniyo.  She said that she is not sure which group it belongs to but that it is not Rabarai.

Details of J11.

*

J11a*

J11c*

J11b*

J12

J12

Comment on J12:  This is a blouse called a “kapdu.”

Note the various animals and birds on it in the detail images below.

Details of J12.

*

J12a*

J12b*

J12c*

J12d*

J13

*

J13*

Comment on J13:  Jaina said that these are a pair of ceremonial bullock headdresses.  When I first saw these, in Jaina’s lecture above, they seemed similar to knee decorations for camels in Central Asia and Turkey.  If they were headdresses I  was not clear why there were two. 

I thought that perhaps bullocks are usually used in pairs, but have seen some photos of singles.

*

26985410-bullock-cart-on-road-shot-at-afternoon-hours-on-march-26-2014-at-patna-bihar-india

*

Jaina indicates that bullocks are used both singly and in pairs and that fact there there are two of these bullock head decorations suggests that they are intended for use on a bullock pair.

Details of J13.  Probably natural dyes.

J13 left

*

J13aleft*

J13 right

*

J13aright*

J14

*

J14*

Comment on J14: This is a groom’s ceremonial sword shield of the Debariya Rabari.

Details of J4.

*

J14d*

J14e*

J15

*

J15*

Comment on J15:  This is a Ludhi – ceremonial “Aanu” shawl of the Vagadia Rabari tribe, with eleven florets.  An expensive one.

Details of J15.  Lots of them.

*

J15a*

J15b*

J15c*

J15d*

J15f*

J15e*

J15g*

J15h*

J15i*

J16

*

J16*

Comment on J16: This is a groom’s shoulder cloth/scarf called “bokani” or “bukani.”  Kaachi Rabari tribe.

Details of J16.

*

J16a*

J16b*

J16c*

J16d*

J17

*

J17*

Comment on J17:  This is a ceremonial “kediyu” for a Debariya Rabari child.  Probably used for a wedding.

Details of J17.

*

J17a*J17b*

J17c*

J17d*

J18

*

J18*

Comment on J18:  This is a Vagadiya dowy bag – envelope style.

Details of J18.

*

J18a*

J18b*

J18c*

J18d*

J19

*

J20enlarged*

The image, above, of J19 is not good.  Here, below, is a better image of a similar piece from the lecture slides.

J20similarmaybe*

Comment on J19:  This is a superb Jat community (not Rabari) dowy bag.  Note the use of silk floss and negative spaces.

*

J20

*

J21*

The detail, below, of J20 shows its character much more clearly.

*

J21a*

Comment on J20 and detail:  Not sure where this is from, but, it is, certainly, Gujarat.  The flowers could be mochi work.

*

The last piece of the day was J21.

J21

*

J19*

Comment on J21:  This piece is also from Gujarat, with rich, natural dyed red hand-spun cloth.  Probably not Rabari.

J21 is a piece deserving of details.

*

J19b*

J19a*

J19c*

J19e*

J19d*

J19f*

Jaina answered questions

Jbroughtinc

and adjourned her session.  The forward migration began…

*

After1*

After5*

After4*

After8*

After3*

Jaina’s dress deserved notice.

*

After9*

After10*

After2*

After6*

After7*

I want to thank Jaina for coming and presenting this interesting program.  She and I have known one another via the internet, since, perhaps, 2004, so it was especially good to see her in person.  She not only came from a great distance, she gave two programs: this one, and another she gave, the next day, to our local textile club.  You will eventually also be able to enjoy that second presentation on my Eccentric Wefts site.

Jaina expressed her own thanks with this calling card.

*

Slide121*

I hope you have enjoyed this program by a person who travels widely in traditional societies, documenting their ways of life and their textiles.

Regards,

R. John Howe

 

Mike Tschebull on Zeikhur Caucasian Rugs

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24, 2016 by rjohn

On April 9, 2016, “Mike” Tschebull gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program on Zeikhur Caucasian rugs, here at The Textile Museum, in Washington, D.C.

*

Mike0*

Mike, many readers will know, is a long-time student of Caucasian weaving. 

His early classic “Kazak” exhibition catalog is still referenced usefully.  He has written for what was once the Oriental Rug Review and has written, early, and on a continuing basis, for Hali. 

He has been active in the New England Rug Society and in 2004 curated an exhibition on transport and storage bags, entitled “To Have and To Hold.” (see link at the end of this post). 

Mike has lectured to a number of textile groups and at conferences, here and abroad, and has previously given a number of Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs here at the TM (again see links at the end).

Here is the description of Mike’s session in the Textile Museum announcement:

*

RET #23 medallion*

“Zeikhur” rugs from the NE Transcaucasus have a very distinctive structure, plus complex and varied designs – taken from embroideries, other textiles, tiles, and large carpet designs.  Zeikhur indicators include a blue and ivory “running dog” border and tone-on-tone reds. Sumak Zeikhurs are fairly common. Slit-tapestry weaves and bags are not easy to identify.

Mike’s program consisted of a short lecture and then a number of rugs in the Zeikhur group that we had arranged to have brought in.

Here is his lecture.

Slide 1

Mike2*

Mike started with this map.

Slide 2

*

JSlide2*

Slide 2: The Zeikhur weaving area is in the foothills of the Caucasus mountain chain, about 30 km north of the city of Quba, at an altitude where livestock raising would have been common. See the map detail in slide 3, colored in tan. The best known villages in the weaving area are Zeikhur and Alpan, but there were several others. The weaving area is spelled in English variously as Zeikhur and Zeykhur, but not “Seychour” or some version of that. The latter spelling is a German transliteration of the Turkic name. Old rugs from nearby Quba are a bit different, separated from Zeikhurs in time and space, which would not have been unusual in an era when transportation would have been by mule or donkey, and 30 km over rough paths and ravines would have taken a long time.

Here is a closer look at the map on the left (click image two or three times to get an even larger version)

Slide 2 left

*

JSlide2left*

The red and blue arrows in Slide 2 right point to the area of interest and Slide 3 gives a closer detail (click on all of these images to get somewhat larger versions).

Slide 2 right

*

JSlide2right*

And here is a detail that makes the specific areas of interest visible and readable.

Slide 3

*

JSlide3*

Slide 3: The map and village locations are from a friend in Baku, whose local knowledge is very much appreciated.

Ed:  In our treatment of the following rugs, we will begin with two rugs shown side by side.  This permits direct comparison.  Click two or three times on these two-rug slides to get a somewhat larger image.

Larger versions of the two rug shown in the two-rug comparisons are also repeated below it for ease of viewing.

Slide 4

*

JSlide4*

Slide 4: Reviewing three of the most interesting Zeikhur field patterns and their origins, the first is fairly easy to unravel.

It is a vase design derived from an Indo-Persian tradition, probably brought to the Transcaucasus from India by about 1800 via printed, painted and resist dyed cotton textiles like the example, right, that were imported into Baku.

The Zeichur rug, left, with a bisymmetrical design, has a woven date which is the equivalent of 1860.  The rug is a good dated example of how high the quality of dyes was when it was woven.

Here is a somewhat larger image of Slide 4 left.

Slide 4 left

 *

JSlide4left*

Slide 4 right

*

JSlide4right*

Slide 4 right: Textile catalogued as from Burhanpor. Note that the highly stylized floral arrangement in the rug approximates that in the textile.

Slide 5

*

JSlide5*

Slide 5: The second Zeikhur field pattern, sometimes called the “Bijov”, probably a Russian corruption of the name of a nearby village called Bijo, has a long complex history.

The ascending design of three columns of palmettes with clasping leaves in the Zeikhur rug, left, seems to have started out on a group of 16th century Ottoman silk and metal thread textiles, sometimes used for kaftans.

The Ottoman design is fairly clearly tulip flowers with clasping leaves, all within an ogival lattice. In later versions, the lattice can fall away.

*

Slide 5 left

*

JSlide5left*

Slide 5 right

*

JSlide5right*

Slide 6

*

JSlide6*

 

Slide 6: Left, a Bijov Zeikhur with a border made up of rose forms, likely either due to Qajar or Russian influence.

Right, Ottoman kaftan back with tulip form, now palmette-like and the clasping leaves much larger. No more lattice. Stylization is not always linear.

*

Slide 6 left

*

JSlide6left*

Slide 6 right

*

JSlide6right*

Slide 7

*

JSlide7*

Slide 7:  Zeikhur Bijov rug, left.

Anatolian pile rug, right, probably 18th century, with exaggerated clasping leaves and palmettes on stems. An example of further stylization, probably in a village context.

Slide 7 left

*

JSlide7left*

Slide 7 right

*

JSlide7right*

Slide 7 Right: The single column of ornaments fits well in a small format when the weaving technique is coarse.  May be a yastic.

*

Slide 8

*

JSlide8*

Slide 8: Zeikhur Bijov, left, Anatolian pile rug, right, probably 18th-19th century.

In the right hand example, the single column design from previous slides has morphed into a three column repeat, at least in part because of the larger format. The clasping leaves are further stylized. A stiff version of the Ottoman textile lattice has reappeared.

The basic three column version of this design for pile rugs has been established.

*

Slide 8 left

*

JSlide8left*

Slide 8 right

*

JSlide8right*

Slide 9

*

JSlide9*

Slide 9: Left, a “Shirvan” rug, 19th century, with a field design based on “Bijov”, but a bit different.

Right, partial view, Zeikhur Bijov.

The same village rug designs  were interpreted differently in different parts of the Transcaucasus.

*

Slide 9 left

*

JSlide9left*

Slide 9 right

*

JSlide9right*

Slide 10

*

JSlide10*

Slide 10.  Another version of the Ottoman original.

Detail from a Shirvan “shield” rug, left, probably 19th century. The “shields” are pretty clearly a stop on a path of continued stylization of the tulip design. Clasping leaves are almost unrecognizable.

Right, the same design, probably late 19th century, photographed in a mosque in Zakatal, in the NE Transcaucasus.

*

Slide 10 left

*

JSlide10left*

Slide 10 right

*

JSlide10right*

 

Slide 11

*

JSlide11*

Slide 11: Inwoven dates: left, 1202/1787, the earliest dated Zeikhur Bijov (see top of the larger Slide 11 left image below). But is the date accurate? It doesn’t look like it has been fiddled with, but the rug could easily have been woven at a later date.

Right, Bijov palmette detail with date, 1297/1879 plus an unreadable inscription. From dated examples, it is clear that some real good rugs and kilims were woven late, but generally, earlier times meant better weavings, especially when dye use/color sensitivity is considered.

*

Slide 11 left

*

JSlide11left*

Slide 11 right

*

JSlide11right*

Slide 12

*

JSlide12*

Slide 12: The third Zeikhur field design of interest is based on a tile design, probably originally unglazed floor tiles, as in the right hand slide (two large images below).

The orientation of the slide helps make clear the comparison of the long hexagonal tiles to the diagonal cartouches in the rug, left; the repeat medallions in the rug are represented by the diamond-shaped tiles.

*

Slide 12 left

*

JSlide12left*

Slide 12 right

*

JSlide12right*

Details of Slide 12 right

*

JSlide12rightdetail*

Slide 13

*

JSlide13*

Slide 13:  The tile design is to be seen in Isfahan, on vertical columns. But is picked up in the Transcaucasus on silk embroideries, see right hand example.

All the rug elements are present in the embroideries, just that the rugs have more straight lines, reflecting structural limitations. The claw-like elements on the ends of the diagonal cartouches are more complex and curvy in the embroidery.  

Zeikhur rugs and the embroideries were likely produced in the same region, and probably had some time overlap, but the embroideries are generally considered to have been earlier.

*

Slide 13 left

*

JSlide13left*

Slide 13 left: This fragmented rug has a bottom border sewn on, which was taken from a later piece with some synthetic dyes; the rug has less disciplined drawing than the previous example. This may reflect age, or maybe not.

*

Slide 13 right

*

JSlide13right*

Slide 13 right: Sinuous lines are made possible in fine embroidery.

*

Slide 14

*

JSlide14*

Slide 14: Tile design Zeikhurs rarely have multiple columns of ornaments. This old somewhat battered example on the left, is Transcaucasian, or from NW Iran.

It apes a slightly different embroidery style on the right.

*

Slide 14 left

*

JSlide14left*

Slide 14 right

*

JSlide14right*

Slide 15

*

JSlide15*

Slide 15: Zeikhur weavers also produced floral and sometimes quite abstract designs, on the left, probably at first for a Russian market.

Stylized roses on the right were a favorite.

*

Slide 15 left

*

JSlide15left*

Slide 15 right

*

JSlide15right*

Slide 16

*

JSlide16*

Slide 16: The reasonably reliable identifier for Zeikhur weaving is the pair of borders, left, especially the two-toned inner one. It seems likely that border conventions changed over time.

The inner border concept may be derived from the type of rug seen, right. 

*

Slide 16 left

*

JSlide16left*

 Slide 16 right

*

JSlide16right*

Slide 17

*

JSlide17*

Slide 17: There are contemporary versions of old rugs, like this Bijov, woven in the Caucasus with handspun local wool and natural dyes.

They are based on existing rugs. Is a good reproduction as interesting as an original?

It depends on the buyer.

(This is the end of Mike’s illustrated lecture.)

We had arranged for a number of rugs in the Zeikhur group to be brought in and Mike moved to treat them next.

(Click three times on images below to get a larger version)

(Identifying numbers are not always consecutive)

BI1

*

BI6*

Comment on BI1: Zeikhur cross design rug, meant to be a repeat design. Charlie Ellis thought the design was Ukrainian in origin. The floral borders are not traditional, probably as a result of export market demand.

*

Details of BI1:

BI1a

*

BI6a*

BI1b

*

BI6b*

BI1c

*

BI6c*

BI2

*

BI7*

Comment on BI2: Cross design with traditional borders. Sometimes these rugs have ivory fields.

*

Details of BI2:

BI2a

*

BI7a*

BI2b

*

BI7b*

BI2c

*

BI7c*

BI3

*

Hnew7

*

Comment on BI3: An unusual cross design rug with end borders with different background color.

*

Details of BI3:

BI3a

*

BI8a*

BI3b

*

BI8b*

BI3c

*

BI8c*

BI3d

*

BI8d*

BI3e

*

BI8elion*

BI4: The lion may be European origin, but also exists in ME art.

*

Hnew2*

Comment on BI4: A short vase design rug. It looks almost like a sampler.

*

Details of BI4.

*

(Color differences are from different cameras0

*

BI4a

*

BI2dfocus*

BI4b

*

BI2efocus*

BI4c

*

BI2efocus*

BI4d

*

BI2b*

BI5

*

Hnew3*

Comment on BI5:  An unusual field design for a Zeikhur. The border on green is rare and quite sophisticated.

*

Details of BI15:

*

BI5a

*

BI3a*

BI5b

*

BI3efocus*

BI5c

*

BI3dfocus*

BI6

*

Hnew4

*

Comment on BI6:  Standard Zeikhur borders, but with unusual dark wool warps and dense structure. Field design is taken from a class of Transcaucasian kilims.

*

Details of BI6.

BI6a

*

BI4a*

BI6b

*

BI4c*

BI6c

*

BI4d*

BI6

*

BI15*

Comments on BI6:  Palmette design on dark brown, which is almost all corroded away. The field design is taken from large carpets, but simplified.

*

Details of BI6:

BI6a

*

BI15e*

BI6b

*

BI15f*

BI6c

*

BI15d*

BI6d

*

BI15g*

BI7 Finishes are intact, colored pile is unworn, which shows the power of dark brown dye corrosion.

*

BI16*

Comments on BI7:  Treated in lecture above.

*

Details of BI7:

*

BI7a

*

BI16a*

BI7b

*

BI16d*

BI7c

*

BI16c*

BI7d

*

BI16e

*

BI8

*

BI14*

Comment on BI8: Treated in lecture above.

Details of BI8:

BI8a

*

BI14a*

BI8b

*

BI14d*

BI8c

*

BI14c*

 

B19

*

H13m*

Comment on BI9:  Apparent older tile design rug with design elements looking closer in style to embroideries, but old style does not always mean the rug is older.

Details of BI9.

BI9a

*

H14mlowercorner*

BI9b Note partial intact end finish

*

H14a*

BI9c

*

H14b*

BI10

*

BI10*

Comment on BI10: Zeikhur tile design with palmettes introduced. These weavers could often could innovate.

Details of BI1o.

*

BI10a

*

BI10a*

BI10b

* BI10d*

BI10c

*

BI10f*

BI10d

*

BI10e*

BI11

*

H12m*

Comment on BI11:   Fragment of a tile design rug, with strong color but one synthetic, which helps date it.

*

Details on B11.

BIIa

*

BI22a*

B11b

*

BI22b*

BI14

*

Hnew12*

Comment on BI14:  Fragment of a European inspired field design, but with some local design input.

Details of BI14.

BI14a

*

DSC_0103a*

BI14b

*

DSC_0104b*

BI14c

*

DSC_0105c*

BI15

*

Hnew13

Comments on BI15:  Zeikhur-like rug with sumak bag-derived field design

Details of BI15.

BI15a

*

DSC_0107a*

BI15b

*

DSC_0109b*

BI15c

*

DSC_0108c*

BI16

*

Hnew14

*

Comment on BI16:  European market design called “French Rose” in translation. Reflects market demand for these weavers.

Details of BI16:

BI16a

*

DSC_0113a*

BI16b

*

DSC_0112b*

BI16c

*

DSC_0111c*

BI17

*

Hnew11

*

Comments on BI17:  May be a Zeikhur, with an unusual field design.

Details on BI17.

*

BI17a

*

Hnew11a*

BI17b

*

Hnew11b*

BI17c

*

Hnew11c*

BI18

*

Hnew19

*

Comment on BI18:  Typical Quba with mini ascending palmettes. Joe McMullan had a similar rug in his collection that is dated the equivalent of 1856.

Details on BI18.

BI18a

*

H19amlowercorner*

BI18b

*

H19amfield*

BI18c

*

H19amborder*

BI19

*

Hnew17*

Comment on BI19:  Zeikhur cross rug. This was a very popular style in this weaving area.

Details of BI19.

BI19a

*

DSC_0126a*

BI19b

*

DSC_0127b*

BI19c

*

DSC_0128c*

BI20

*

Hnew18*

Comment on BI20:  Diamond-shaped forms. May be from a bit further north than Zeikhur.

 

Details on BI20.

BI20a

*

DSC_0129a*

BI20b

*

DSC_0130b*

BI20c

*

DSC_0131c*

BI21

*

Hxm*

Comment on BI21:  Bijov in a short format. A very stable design, surprising because it is so complex.

Details on BI21.

BI21a

*

Hxma*

BI21b

*

Hxmb*

BI21c

*

Hxmc*

BI22

*

H22m*

Comment on B22:  Another Zeikhur rug design that can be traced clearly to an embroidery pattern.

Details of B22.

B22a

*

DSC_0116b*

B22b

*

DSC_0115a*

B22c

*

DSC_0117c*

B22d

*

DSC_0119d*

A last rug was a little off-topic, but too good not to treat.

BI12

*

Hnew5*

Comment on BI12:  Terrific Persian Herati design Shirvan. Note that the border varies from the original Persian workshop model. Probably this rug was woven under controlled conditions. 

*

Details of BI12.

*

BI12a

*

H2amfield*

BI12c

*

H2bm*

BI12d

*

H2amlowerdetail*

Mike took questions

*

Mike3questions

and adjourned his program.  The usual movement to the front of the room began.

*

After1*

After8*

After9*

After3

*

After11*

After6*

After5*

Mike has been interested in and investigating Zeikhur rugs for a long time.  He wrote a very substantial article on them in 1992 in Hali, 62, pp. 84-95.  It’s worth looking at. 

At the beginning, I also mentioned Mike’s curating of a New England Rug Society exhibition “To Have and to Hold.”  You can enjoy an on-line version of this exhibition using this link: http://ne-rugsociety.org/gallery/bags/index.htm

I want to thank Mike for designing and presenting this program, and for considerable subsequent work in preparing this virtual version.  Thanks also to Jim and Connie Henderson.  Jim took and provided me with many photos, and Connie took notes.

I hope you have enjoyed this authoritative look at this interesting group of quality Caucasian rugs.

Regards,

R. John Howe

Alan Donaldson on “The Natural Idea”

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2016 by rjohn

On June 18, 2016,  Alan Donaldson,

D8a

gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program entitled “The Natural Idea.”

Alan is a retired professor of Textile Design at the North Carolina State University.  His early training in textiles was in Scotland.  He then worked in the textile industry in the U.S.  He is a skilled photographer and a weaver who works with both traditional hand looms and electronic Jaquards.  He has had a wide experience in a number of fields related to his textile design work too extensive to detail here (for example, he was a resource for a while to the Xerox Corporation).

(Note:  You will be able to see larger images of those in this post by clicking three times on them and are encouraged to do so.)

Alan began:

*

D3*

Throughout the history of product decoration, images from nature have been used more than any other source of pattern and design.

This is especially true in the world of textiles – whether it be pictorial or in textural form, as is seen in the 400 year-old Jacobean fabric below.

*

Slide1 image*

I am going to present you with a series of nature photographs I have taken.  In each case, I will also show you a textile I have woven that was inspired by a given photograph.

Here is the first pair and example.

On the right below is an image of some flower heads.  On the left is a fabric of silk, wool and Reindeer hair, that is modeled after them.

Slide2nt*

Here are a closer image of the flower heads,

*

Slide2right*

and, below, the unusual fabric of fabric of silk, wool and Reindeer hair.  The properties of these three materials work to  let the fabric simulate the flowers.

*

Slide2left*

Here is the next example. The Fuchsia heads on the left were the inspiration for the fabric on the right.

*

Slide3nt*

Here are larger images of this comparison.

*

Slide3left*

Slide3right*

The next example asks you to work a bit.  What is the “secret, hidden” element in this photo that gives it life? (click three times on this image to get a larger version)

*

Slide4nt*

Give up?  I think it is the small vertical highlight shown in the blown-up image below (start at the bottom).

*

Slide4secret*

I felt that this feature of this photograph was critical and so worked it into the fabric of my woven piece.

*

Slide5nt*

 

Alan took us into his next comparison.

*

D5

The inspiring nature photo is of a ripe wheat field, near Whitekirk Church, in East Lothian, Scotland –

*

Slide6top*

full of rhythm, and repetition of shape and color.

*

Slide6bottom*

And, below is the woven permutation.

Slide7

A larger image of the twill.

Slide7left

*

Next, a simple wayside weed that inspired the fabric for a wedding dress.

*

Slide8nt

*

Below are larger images of the weed and the wedding dress fabric.

*

Slide8left

*

Slide8right*

Even the humble Goldenrod, below,

*

Slide9nt*

metamorphoses into this shimmering silk.

Slide10nt*

Sometimes words are not much needed.

Slide11*

Again, two inspiring photos of Thistledown.

*

Slide12*

And a resulting pile fabric.

 

Slide13*

This close-up shot of a budding Maple, reminded me

*

Slide14left*

so much of Velvet.

Slide14right

*

Slide15*

Larger inspiring image.

*

Slide15left*

and the resulting favorite textile.

*

Slide15right*

“Seasons of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness…”  (Keats)

*

Slide16nt*

But, can anything really best the ultra-spectacular New England fall?

*

Slide17nt*

Weaving inspired by these images.

First “Autumn Glory” (House of Alain LaLonde, Paris)

*

Slide18left*

A New England ‘study.’

*

Slide18right

*

Below, “Spanish Mosaic” my professional tour-de-force, in 100% pure lana virgen.

*

Slide19nt2*

Floral source,

Slide20left*

interpreted for a high-class men’s suiting fabric.

*

Slide20right*

The brilliant colors, up-close, fade to rich, blue-grey from a distance.

*

Slide21*

Slide22*

A knot in an old door in the image below

*

Slide23right*

inspires this Jacquard textile.

*

Slide23left*

A close look at this Jacquard fabric.

*

Slide24*

Sometimes, I’ve been attracted to pictorial renditions of inspiring nature photographs.

This is photo I’ve entitled “The Red Hot Tree.”  It is one I took in East Lothian, Scotland in November, 1964.

*

Slide25nt*

And this is my Jacquard representation of this same scene.

*

Slide26nt*

Here are three photos of restless water,

*

Slide27top*

ever flowing, constantly moving,

*

Slide27lowerleft*

finding its destiny.

*

Slide27lowerright*

And this is a textile such images inspired.

*

Slide28nt*

Two photos of bubbles,

*

Slide29left*

Mighty-Fine!

*

Slide29right*

And here is a textile they inspired,

*

Slide30left*

chosen for a cover in December, 1971.

*

Slide30right*

There are a lot of old castles “Over There.”

*

Slide31left*

This one got me weaving.

*

Slide31right*

Of Castles and Cathedrals!

*

Slide32left*

Close-up (below) of a high-class men’s suiting fabric interpreted from the great stained glass window (above) in Exeter Cathedral, England.

*

Slide32right*

But there is also Mother Nature’s unbelievable stained glass window!

*

Slide33left*

That inspired my own compartment-ed textile version.

*

Slide33right*

I’ve done it more than once.

*

Slide34*

Slide35*

Larger image of the Jacquard.

Slide35right*

Slide36*

Slide37*

Slide38*

The sun takes a long time to go down in these northern climes…

*

Slide39nt

*

The old photograph, below, was in the house where I was born and is here, still.

*

Slide40nt*

And here is my recent Jacquard interpretation.

*

Slide41nt*

The sun is still sinking in the western sky,

*