The Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution holds a large ethnographic collection from Maritime Southeast Asia. This Dyak basket was collected not long before 1906 by W. L. Abbott on the Landak River (a tributary of the Kapuas River) in present-day South Kalimantan, Indonesia on the island of Borneo. It is catalog number E244256.
Note the wood panel rim and the basketry-woven body. Abbott claimed that women produce the basketry sections with men doing the final woodwork.
A huge number of associated Dyak baskets collected by Abbott were exhibited by the Smithsonian at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco, California in 1915, but this example appears to have been left behind (based on the published checklist for the exhibition published in The Exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California, 1915 (San Francisco, CA: Smithsonian Institution, 1915). (See page 95. This volume is available in the Internet Archive here.) The curator-author of the Panama-Pacific catalogue wrote of the exhibition’s “Arts of the Dyaks of Borneo” installation:
The basketry of the Dyaks is unrivalled for strength, fineness, variety and skill in construction. Rattan and bamboo, tough and resistant, are materials capable of being readily and evenly divided and splints of any length can be easily made. Many of the specimens combine joinery work with basket weaving and the knots, loops, windings, and other fastening off show marvelous ingenuity. (Smithsonian 1915, 93).
This description (my guess is that Otis T. Mason is its author) certainly is illustrated by the basket pictured here.
For earlier posts in this series on Asian packbaskets at the Smithsonian, see here (Japan) and here (Philippines).
Here I present another of the Asian packbaskets that I examined in the ethnology collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. (See here for a previous post.) This example is catalogue number E402450. It was collected in the early 1960s in Koishiwara, Fukuoka Prefecture as part of a larger post-war systematic collecting effort that aimed to improve coverage of Japanese culture in the National Museum of Natural History’s collections overall.
As a tool of work, this example is exceptional. It is very sturdy and well-executed, with a range of impressive features, such as the strong-but-comfortable twined straps, the careful inner attachment bar for the straps, reinforcements in the inner bottom, finely executed rope, and a sturdy rim.
For an exceptional study of basketry from a different part of Japan—one that devotes significant attention to packbaskets, that is based on a different collection at the NMNH, and that is now accessible in a open access edition from the Internet Archive, see A Basketmaker in Rural Japan by Louise Allison Cort and Nakamura Kenji (Washington: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1994). This volume focuses on the life and entire basketry repertoire of Hiroshima Kazuo. It is an impressive exhibition catalogue evoking a rich cultural practice and a talented individual. I wish that we knew more about the maker of this basket from Koishiwara.
An overall look at 402450.
The front of the basket.
Top strap attachment inside the basket.
Inside and bottom of the basket.
The rope tied off at the front top of the basket.
While the coming week will be diverse and full as always, I have one big hope–that many friends, colleagues, campus citizens, and community members will come out for the opening of Quilts of Southwest China. The exhibition opens next Saturday (January 21, 2017) from 2-4 p.m. This is a project that we (a big, bi-national we) have been working on since 2013. If you would like to learn more about the project, you can also come out on Friday at noon for a talk (“Curating Quilts of Southwest China”) by co-curator Lijun Zhang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. (Lijun is also a research associate of the MMWC and an IU Ph.D. graduate).
I give here the invitation (everyone is invited!). Below the invitation, I share some links for more information on the exhibition.
Read about Quilts of Southwest China in the Bloomington Herald Times.
Read about Quilts of Southwest China on the Art at IU Blog.
Purchase the Quilts of Southwest China catalogue at the MMMWC store or from the IU Press.
See you at the museum!