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Posts from the ‘Textiles’ Category

Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China at #AFSAM19

I am here using a blog post not to share current news, but to get an older document online and linkable. What follows is the short (public) and long (unseen, for peer-review) abstracts from the panel “Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project” presented at the 2019 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting (October 17, 2019, Baltimore, Maryland). My intention is to link to this post from a new (February 2020) page for the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” (sub-)project. An earlier post on the panel appeared here.

Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

In a three-year phase of the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, researchers from six museums have collaborated in a binational program of ethnographic research in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In this panel, project participants will report on the research, sometimes emphasizing textile practices such as embroidery and basketry, sometimes focusing on heritage issues, sometimes discussing the lessons of the collaboration. The presenters will share their findings in accessible ways but China specialists may wish to know that research has taken place among the Dong people of Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County and the Baiku Yao people living in Nandan County.

Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

In a three-year phase (2017-2019) of the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society, researchers from six museums have collaborated in a bi-national program of ethnographic research in two counties in northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In keeping with the larger project of which it is a part, this museum sub-project has focused on questions of cultural heritage policy and practice. The researchers have paid particular attention to various local textile practices in local Yao and Dong communities, considering these practices in their own terms and in relation to the ways that they are being impacted by such heritage practices as cultural tourism, master artist designations, eco-museum development, and formal training initiatives. In this panel, project participants will report on aspects of the joint work, sometimes emphasizing studies of such textile practices as weaving, embroidery, and basketry, sometimes focusing on heritage phenomena, sometimes discussing the lessons of the joint work. In most instances, presenters will touch on all of these aspects in varying degrees. Reporting on a period of field research recently completed, the presentations will be an early stage in a process that will lead to formal publications drawing on the research project. The presenters welcome feedback on these early reports of work recently concluded. The presenters will share their findings in ways that will be accessible to those without knowledge of Chinese ethnography. Specialists may wish to know that the research team’s work has taken place among the Dong people of Sanjiang County, particularly those living in and around the town of Tongle and among the Baiku Yao people living near Lihu town in Nandan County. These communities are home to the Sanjiang Dong Eco-Museum and the Nandan Baiku Yao Eco-Museum, key institutional partners in the research collaboration.

Sources on the larger collaborations that contextualize this specific project include volumes by J. Zhang and Song (2017) and MacDowell and L. Zhang (2016) and an overview by Lloyd (2017). Relevant works in material culture studies include books by Formoso (2013) and L. Zhang (2010). Studies of cultural heritage topics of relevance to the panel include Chio (2014) and a volume edited by Bumenfield and Silverman (2013).

References Cited

Blumenfield, Tami and Helaine Silverman, eds. 2013. Cultural Heritage Politics in China. New York: Springer.

Chio, Jenny. 2014. A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Formoso, Bernard. 2013. Costume du Yunnan. Nanterre: Société d’ethnologie.

Lloyd, Tim. 2017. “The Inside Story of the AFS China-US Project.” AFS Review. June 12, 2017. https://www.afsnet.org/news/349609/The-Inside-Story-of-the-AFS-China-US-Project.htm

MacDowell, Marsha, and Lijun Zhang, eds. 2016 中国西南拼布 | Quilts of Southwest China. Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities.

Zhang, Juwen and Song Junhua, eds. 2017. Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Cooperation | 文化对话:中美非物质文化遗产论坛. Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press.

Lijun Zhang. 2010. China Folk Art Crafts. Beijing: China Agriculture Press.

The schedule of presentation from the conference program follows:

Diamond Session: Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

Sponsored by the American Folklore Society, the Folklore and Museums Section, and the Transnational Asia/Pacific Section

Sarah Junk Hatcher (Indiana University), chair

8:00 The Fabric of Life: Baiku Yao Textiles in Huaili Village
Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art)

8:15 Field Research on Dong Textiles in the Tongle Area of Sanjiang County
Miaomiao Fan (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi)

8:30 Mijiu and Mai Wup: Trilingual Fieldwork and an Indigo Dying Method
MicahJ.Ling (Indiana University)

8:45 Imagination and Enlargement: Daily Performance and Life History in Ethnographic Video
Xiaoyan Liang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi)

9:00 Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
C.KurtDewhurst (Michigan State University Museum)and Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University)

9:15 Building a Museum Collection of Work Baskets in Northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Jason Baird Jackson (Indiana University) and Lijun Zhang (George Mason University)

9:30 A Rice Basket: Basketmaking in a Baiku Yao Community (Film Screening)
Jon Kay (Indiana University)

9:45 discussion

Hertz - The Fabric of Life

The title slide from Carrie Hertz’ presentation to the #AFSAM19 panel.

Material Culture Studies among the Baiku Yao of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region at #AFSAM18

I am here using a blog post not to share current news, but to get an older document online and linkable. What follows is the short (public) and long (unseen, for peer-review) abstracts from the panel “Material Culture Studies among the Baiku Yao of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region” presented at the 2018 American Folklore Society Annual Meeting (October 18, 2018, Buffalo New York). My intention is to link to this post from a new (February 2020) page for the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” (sub-)project.

Material Culture Studies among the Baiku Yao of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

In this Diamond session, participants will share preliminary results from ongoing field research among the Baiku (White Trouser) Yao people of Nandan County in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Presentations will explore aspects of local Yao material culture, with a special focus on fabric arts and basketry. The presenters share an interest in the ways that these craft activities are being impacted by such cultural heritage practices as master artisan designations, cultural tourism, and eco-museum-based community documentation projects. The field research is one part of the American Folklore Society and China Folklore Society’s joint Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.

Material Culture Studies among the Baiku Yao of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

In this Diamond session, participants will share preliminary results from ongoing field research among the Baiku (White Trouser) Yao people of Nandan County in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Presentations will explore aspects of local Yao material culture, with a special focus on fabric arts and basketry. The neighboring villages of Huatu, Manjiang, and Huaili, where the panelists have pursued joint field research under the auspices of the American Folklore Society and China Folklore Society’s joint Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, are communities with a high level of engagement with cultural heritage initiatives, the most visible of which is the Nandan Baiku Yao Eco-Museum, with which the researchers have partnered. The presenters share an interest in the ways that craft activities are being impacted by such cultural heritage practices as master artisan designations, cultural tourism, and eco-museum-based community documentation projects.

Kurt Dewhurst will present an overview of the team’s 2017 work in Guangxi and situate it in relationship to the larger projects of which it was a part. Jason Baird Jackson and Lijun Zhang will report on the team’s studies of bamboo basketry among the Yao, tracking baskets from making to marketing to household use. Miaomiao Fan and Marsha MacDowell will discuss Baiku Yao textile arts, characterizing the status of textiles, especially clothing arts, inside and outside the local community. Xiaoyan Liang and Jon Kay will both report on aspects of the video documentary work pursued during the December 2017 fieldwork, offering general reflections arising from the specific experiences of each filmmaker.

While some studies of the Baiku Yao have been published in Chinese ethnological scholarship, English-language studies are rare and focus mainly on Baiku Yao participation in eco-museum development (Nitzky 2012, 2014; Yi 2013). Within the larger literatures on the Yao peoples in the Southeast Asia Massif, Yao textiles have received considerable attention, but those of the Baiku Yao are distinctive and little documented (cf. Pouret 2002). English-language scholarship on basketry among the Yao is nonexistent, a situation that holds largely for the minority nationalities of Southwest China as a whole. These peoples and their diverse and impressive utility baskets are largely left out of surveys of Chinese basketry (Kwan 2010, but see Fei and Chang 1945). Sophisticated treatments of Yao culture, society, history, and circumstances in modern China by Western scholars have not yet taken up the circumstances of the Baiku Yao specifically (ex. Litzinger 2000) and the Baiku Yao situation has similarly not been considered in the context of larger comparative discussions of the region and its peoples (Chio 2014; Scott 2009; Turner, Bonnin, and Michaud 2015). Future work by the binational team aims to bridge Chinese-language and English-language scholarship on the Yao and their neighbors and, as in this panel, to begin introducing English-speaking audiences to the Baiku Yao. The team also aims to further connect its studies among the Baiku Yao to wider Chinese-Language and English-language work on cultural heritage (ex. An and Yang 2015; Hafstein 2012; Noyes 2017; Song 2015; Zhang 2014).

References Cited

An, Deming, and Lihui Yang. “Chinese Folklore Since the Late 1970s: Achievements, Difficulties, and Challenges.” Asian Ethnology 74, no. 2 (2015): 273–90.

Chio, Jenny. A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014.

Fei, Xiaotong, and Tse-i Chang. Earthbound China: A Study of Rural Economy in Yunnan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945.

Hafstein, Valdimar T. “Heritage.” In A Companion to Folklore, edited by Regina F. Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem, 500–519. Blackwell Companions to Anthropology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

關善明 [Simon Kwan]. 中國竹籃 [Chinese Basketry]. Hong Kong: 沐文堂美術出版社 [Muwen Tang Fine Arts Publication], 2010.

Litzinger, Ralph A. Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Nitzky, William. “Mediating Heritage Preservation and Rural Development: Ecomuseum Development in China.” Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development 41, no. 2–4 (2012): 367–417.

Nitzky, William. “Community Empowerment at the Periphery? Participatory Approaches to Heritage Protection in Guizhou, China.” In Cultural Heritage Politics in China, edited by Tami Blumenfield and Helaine Silverman, 205–32. New York: Springer, 2013.

Nitzky, William David. “Entanglements of ‘Living Heritage’: Ecomuseum Development in Rural China.” Dissertation, Arizona State University, 2014. http://hdl.handle.net/2286/R.I.25920.

Noyes, Dorothy. Humble Theory: Folklore’s Grasp on Social Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.

Pourret, Jess G. The Yao: The Mien and Mun Yao in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002.

Scott, James C. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Song, Junhua. “An Analysis of the Current Situation and Problems of the Digital Protection of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Cultural Heritage, 6 (2015):10-23.

Turner, Sarah, Christine Bonnin, and Jean Michaud. Frontier Livelihoods: Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017.

Yi, Sabrina Hong. “Examining the Suojia Ecomuseum and the Nandan Ecomuseum in China.” In ACAC 2013 : Proceedings of the Asian Conference on Arts and Cultures, 168–77. Bangkok, Thailand: Srinakharinwirot University, 2013. http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30055238.

Zhang, Lijun. “Living with/in Heritage: Tulou as Home, Heritage, and Destination.” Dissertation, Indiana University, 2014.

The schedule of presentation from the conference program follows:

Material Culture Studies among the Baiku Yao of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Sponsored by the American Folklore Society, the Folklore and Museums Section, and the Henry Luce Foundation

Carrie Hertz (Museum of International Folk Art), chair

8:00 Collaborative International Museum Fieldwork: Joint Documentation and Learning
C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum)

8:15 From Maker to Marketplace: Aspects of Basketry Among the Baiku Yao
Jason Baird Jackson (Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University)

8:30 Continuity and Transformation: Basketry, Personal History, and Community Life
Lijun Zhang (Anthropological Museum of Guangxi)

8:45 A Probe into the Art and Inheritance of White Trouser Yao Textiles
Miaomiao Fan (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi)

9:00 Baiku Yao Textiles in the Marketplace: A Quest to Understand Traditions and Adaptations
Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State University Museum)

9:15 Ethnographic Documentary and “Return Visit” Methods in Guangxi
Xiaoyan Liang (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi)

9:30 Craft and Videography: An Ethnographic Approach and Collaborative Method
Jon Kay (Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University)

9:45 discussion

IMG_0608

A portion of Manjiang village, a Baiku Yao community, viewed from above. December 14, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

#AFSAM19: Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China

Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County E

A title slide showing key project sites in the Dong areas of Guangxi and Guizhou.

Shreds and Patches has been quieter than usual as I work my way through a really complicated semester. In the midst of the jumble of unforeseen circumstances, there are some good things actually happening according to plan. One of these was the most recent in a series of panels at the American Folklore Society Annual Meetings reporting on the work of the museum partners in the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project. Earlier this month, at the start of the 2019 meeting in Baltimore, members of our group, presented a panel on “Material Culture and Heritage Studies in Northern Guangxi, China: Ethnographic Reports from the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.” This is the panel abstract:

In a three-year phase of the China-U.S. Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, researchers from six museums have collaborated in a bi-national program of ethnographic research in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. In this panel, project participants will report on the research, sometimes emphasizing textile practices such as embroidery and basketry, sometimes focusing on heritage issues, sometimes discussing the lessons of the collaboration. The presenters will share their findings in accessible ways but China specialists may wish to know that research has taken place among the Dong people of Sanjiang County and the Baiku Yao people living in Nandan County.

Carrie HERTZ (Museum of International Folk Art) presented on “The Fabric of Life: Baiku Yao Textiles in Huaili Village.”

Hertz - The Fabric of Life

A title slide related to the textile arts of the Baiku Yao people of Nandan County, Guangxi.

FAN Miaomiao (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi) presented in absentia on “Field Research on Dong Textiles in the Tongle Area of Sanjiang County.”

Micah J. LING (Indiana University) shared her paper “Mijiu and Mai Wup: Trilingual Fieldwork and an Indigo Dying Method.”

LIANG Ziaoyan (Anthropology Museum of Guangxi), also presenting in absentia, shared her paper “Imagination and Enlargement: Daily Performance and Life History in Ethnographic Video.” Her paper focused on her experiences in our work in Sanjiang County.

C. Kurt Dewhurst (Michigan State University Museum) presented a paper that he and I, with help from ZHANG Lijun (George Mason University), worked on together titled: “Notes on Basketry among the Dong People of Sanjiang County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.”

I (Jason Baird Jackson, Indiana University) presented a paper for which Lijun was co-author. It was about “Building a Museum Collection of Work Baskets in Northern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.” The paper focused on the collection of baskets assembled for the collections of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

AFS2019 Jackson and Zhang C (Slides)

A slide evoking in basketry collected for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

The session concluded with a presentation of a film by Jon Kay (Indiana University) titled “A Rice Basket: Basketmaking in a Baiku Yao Community” It is now viewable online on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/QrD_-lrB9UY

This session, and one that preceded it in 2018, will be a springboard for more sustained writing by many project participants. We have learned much during our collaborative work in Guangxi. I thank many the local people in Nandan and Sanjiang Counties who have taught us and our hosts and partners at the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum, and the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi. Special thanks also go to The Henry Luce Foundation, the China Folklore Society, and the American Folklore Society for their support of the broader projects of which ours museum and material culture efforts are just a part.

 

 

 

A Cooperative Craft Survey in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Part 1

A note on photographs. Here just a few photographs from the first day of our May 2019 travel in Yunnan are presented. It will take time to work through all of the images that were made during the travels described in this post. When a fuller report is ready, the team will share additional images.

In May, after the conclusion of the Seventh Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage (where our focus was Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies), I was part of a group of American museum folklorists who traveled to the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in China’s Yunnan Province. A spin-off project from the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, our group was very generously hosted by the Institute of National Culture Research at Dali University in the city of Dali (Figures 1-2). Together with members of the Institute’s faculty, we traveled throughout the prefecture meeting Bai craftspeople working in a range of material forms. From them, we learned about their craft disciplines and about their experiences participating in formal intangible cultural heritage initiatives. This opportunity to learn from talented makers in Yunnan offered a wonderful comparative experience, pointing to commonalities and differences with northern Guangxi, where our group has been pursuing collaborative studies with partners from the Anthropology Museum of Guangxi, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum.

Institute of National Culture Research Discussion Photograph (Size Reduced)

Figure 1. Dr. CUN Yunji, leader of the Institute of National Culture Research at Dali University, hosts a discussion on heritage research. Participating were faculty, researchers, and students from the Institute and visitors from the three participating institutions in the United States (Michigan State University Museum, Museum of International Folk Art, and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Indiana University. May 23, 2019. Photograph courtesy of the Institute of National Culture Research.

A full account of the Dali-area craft survey is in preparation and I am hopeful that we can share it later. Here my aim is to thank our very generous hosts and interlocutors.

Dali University Institute of National Culture Research Group Photograph (Size Reduced)

Figure 2. Members of the Institute of National Culture Research, Dali University together with the visiting team from the United States. May 23, 2019. Photograph courtesy of the Institute of National Culture Research.

During our time in the Bai region, our bi-national team visited with a silversmith, a wood carver, a ceramicist, an embroiderer who also makes elaborate fabric figures and miniature dioramas on ethnographic topics, two tie-dye artists, and two basket makers. In each case, these craftspeople maintained active studios and most guided the work of many students, apprentices, and junior colleagues. Nearly all were recognized as masters on some formal level (national, prefectural, county, etc.) within China’s system of intangible cultural heritage recognition, promotion, and safeguarding. We also attended a key calendrical festival of regional importance and visited the Three Pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple near (old) Dali (Figures 3-5). While old Dali was our home base, we traveled to many towns and villages and spent one night in old Shaxi. We enjoyed traveling with our colleagues from Dali University and holding discussions with them on areas of shared research interest while visiting the university’s beautiful campus. Many layers of cultural history are evident when traveling in the Dali area. Long favorited by international and Chinese tourists, Dali and the whole region has an elaborate tourism economy and infrastructure, reflective of dramatic and constant change within the period of China’s “opening up” (see for instance, the research of Beth Notar). As throughout the country, one can also see Dali-specific evidence of older historical eras, from the time of the cultural revolution to the republican and imperial eras. In this region, particular emphasis is given (at present) to long-distance trade on the Tea Horse Road. Intercultural connectedness is a theme in tourism and historical consciousness that draws on the story of trade routes, the region’s religious complexity, and its distinctive place in the region’s long history.

IMG_8636

Figure 3. Erhai Lake and the Dali Basin as seen from the Dali University campus near Dali (Old Town). May 23, 2019. Photograph by C. Kurt Dewhurst.

I record here our deep appreciation for our generous and knowledgeable colleagues at Dali University and in Yunnan more broadly. Many friends in the Chinese folklore studies community assisted us making this journey. We look forward to sharing the fuller story of this trip and to thanking our partners by name in a more formal report. Special thanks go, of course, to the craftspeople who opened their studios, workshops, and homes to our team of Chinese and American scholars.

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Figure 4. A view of The Three Pagodas and the Cang Mountains. May 23, 2019. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

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Figure 5. A small glimpse of the very large Chongshen Temple and Monastery complex near (old) Dali.  May 23, 2019. Photograph by Carrie Hertz.

CFP: Quilt and Textile Studies for Uncoverings 2020

Mathers Museum of World Cultures Research Associate Janice Frisch, who is editor of Uncoverings, shares the following call for papers.

Call for Papers
Quilt and Textile Studies
Uncoverings 2020

The American Quilt Study Group is looking for papers for the 2020 issue of their research journal, Uncoverings, edited by Dr. Janice E. Frisch.

The American Quilt Study group establishes and promotes the highest standards for interdisciplinary quilt-related studies, providing opportunities for study, research, and the publication of works that advance the knowledge of quilts and related subjects.

We are interested in papers that explore global patchwork and quilting traditions, both historical and modern. Papers that explore topics that influenced the global production of patchwork and quilting are also welcome, such as those that focus on technological changes, influences from other mediums, and impacts of historical and contemporary events. Ethnographic and historic research are both welcome.

Submissions should be complete papers with abstract and end notes (the journal uses the Chicago Note system and no bibliography). Papers should be between 4,500 and 9,000 words, inclusive of notes and must be submitted by June 1, 2019.

You do not have to be a member of the American Quilt Study Group to submit a paper, but you will have to join if your paper is selected. Authors of selected papers will also need to be able to attend the 2020 AQSG Seminar in Harrisonburg, VA (Sept. 9-14, 2020) to present their work. Paper presenters usually receive grants to offset registration, hotel, and travel costs for attending seminar.

Additional information on the submission process and the journal can be found here: https://americanquiltstudygroup.org/manuscript-guidelines/

If you have questions please contact the American Quilt Study Group at: aqsg2@americanquiltstudygroup.org

The journal welcomes paper submissions by June 1 of each year, so please consider submitting next year if you are unable to meet this year’s deadline.

The following image is my own selection–Jason.

A array of small pieces of Florida Seminole patchwork in many colors and designs.

Sample Florida Seminole patchwork strips from the William C. Sturtevant Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Exhibitions Week: Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (a.k.a. Quilts of Southwest China)

The MMWC has a huge amount of exhibition related news. This week I devote a series of posts to highlighting some of these developments.

Quilt Exhibition Openging Ceremony 7

Huang Biyu introduces her work as a textile artist to visitors to the Yulin Museum, which is hosting the exhibition Quilting Art and Tradition–People, Handcrafts, and Community Life (the Chinese version of Quilts of Southwest China), March 16, 2019. (Photograph courtesy of the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi)

After a U.S. tour that saw the collaboratively curated exhibition Quilts of Southwest China move from the (1) Michigan State University Museum (East Lansing, Michigan, USA) to the (2) International Quilt Study Center and Museum (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA), (3) the Mathers Museum of World Cultures (Bloomington, Indiana, USA) and the (4) Museum of International Folk Art (Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA), the exhibition is now at its third stop in China. Titled in China Quilting Art and Tradition—People, Handcrafts, and Community Life, the exhibition has just opened at the (3) Yulin Museum (Yulin, Guangxi, PRC). It has previously been presented at the (1) Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (Nanning, Guangxi, PRC) and the (2) Yunnan Nationalities Museum (Kunming, Yunnan, PRC). The exhibition is one of several collaborative projects arising out of joint work supported generously by the Henry Luce Foundation and various other American and Chinese funding agencies. The American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society are coordinating partners for the larger effort that includes the museum partnership linking the Mathers Museum of World Cultures to the MSU Museum, the Museum of International Folk Art, the Yunnan Nationalities Museum, the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi and the and the Guizhou Nationalities Museum (Guiyang, Guixzhou, PRC). The exhibition was jointly produced by the six museum partners and was co-curated by Lijun Zhang and Marsha MacDowell.

Colleagues from the three Chinese partner museums (AMGX, YNNM, GZMN) attended the exhibition opening in Yunlin as did featured textile artist Huang Biyu, who did an artist’s demonstration and worked with a large group of local students in an exploration of Chinese quilting design. Photographs from the opening events taken by Chu Chu and Li Jie of the AMGX are shared here.

Did you miss the exhibition or would you like to do a deeper dive into the world of minority textiles in Southwest China? The bilingual catalogue edited by Marsha MacDowell and Lijun Zhang is available from Indiana University Press. Find it on the press website here: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808361

Thanks to our friends at the AMGX for managing the Chinese tour of the jointly produced exhibition and thanks to the staff of the Yulin Museum for hosting it. It is tremendous to think that a jointly produced exhibition that first opened at the MSUM in 2015 is still traveling and reaching new audiences.

 

 

Picturing Change, Seeing Continuity: Hmong Story Cloths

It is a new year and a new semester at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and that means new exhibitions! There are new exhibitions still to open and other new exhibitions that are now open and worthy of discussion here, but I begin with a note on an small but colorful and (I hope) engaging exhibition that I curated. It is titled Picturing Change, Seeing Continuity: Hmong Story Cloths. In it, we present a new collection that colleagues and I made during October 2017 in St. Paul (Minnesota, USA).* The exhibition explores cultural history and the current state of Hmong American story cloths through the work of two Hmong textile artists living the in the Twin Cities.

The ten embroidered, dyed, and appliqué pieces in the collection and the exhibition were made by Sy Vang Lo or her sister Khang Vang Yang. Both are White Hmong and experienced the dramatic Hmong American history shaped by difficult moves from Laos through Thai refugee camps to the United States. We met and spoke with Mrs. Lo at her excellent shop in the Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul and I here express our thanks for the considerable amount of time that she spent with us educating us about Hmong life in Minnesota and in Southeast Asia as well as about her work as a textile artist and businesswoman.

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Thanks also go to all of the museum staff and students who worked on this exhibition and our other spring 2019 offerings. From registering and cataloging new collections to designing and installing exhibitions to promoting and programming them, there is a lot of behind the scenes work in everything that the museum does.

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If you are curious about the textiles, please come see the exhibition open through July 26, 2019. If you would like a food tour of Hmongtown Market, Saveur Magazine published one in 2015.

*The group that visited Hmongtown Market and met with Mrs. Lo were myself (Jason Jackson), Jon Kay, Lijun Zhang, and Carrie Hertz. We were in Minneapolis for the 2017 American Folklore Society meetings.

 

Fieldwork: Highlights from the Textile Group

This post in the recent series on December 2017 research and travel in Guangxi, China was written by Carrie Hertz, who also provided the photographs.

In this post, I complement Jason’s series of field reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) on our December 2017 trip to China with some highlights from the research team focused on Baiku (White Trouser) Yao textiles.

The textiles most visible in daily life are traditional baby carriers and women’s dress. December 15, 2017.

Textile making traditions are extraordinarily strong in Huaili village. In most households you can find a floor loom, an indigo dye pot, and a cache of tiny silkworm eggs. Because of the damp climate, most families hang their laundry out to dry. Strung out like banners across rooftops, balconies, pathways, and side yards, the clotheslines offer a visual inventory of typical wardrobes.

Daily dress combines traditionally made and mass-produced garments. Most women have several sets of indigo-dyed skirts, aprons, jackets, and tunics in regular rotation, the finest serving as festival dress when new, and as daily wear when faded. With age, the natural red dyes of embroidered skirt hems bleed, creating a beautiful ombre effect, and the appliqued silk felt disintegrates, taking on a feathery appearance.

A beautifully aged skirt hung out to dry. December 17, 2017.

Each garment represents countless hours of skilled labor, spread out throughout the year. Winter, while fields lie untended, is a busy time for textile production. Throughout the village, small groups of women huddle around fires on their front stoops, busy with embroidery or winding spools of cotton.

Lu Xiao Mei works on her embroidery while visiting with Li Xiu Ying and Wang Lian Mei holding her baby. December 15, 2017.

Winter is also a good time for warping looms. Women help each other, taking over the village courtyard. It takes the better part of a day to set up warp poles and wind the approximately 80 meters of thread in a spiral pattern around them.

The tree sap used to draw intricate resist patterns on clothing is harvested in winter. The bark is scarred and glistening where people have gouged it with their knife blades.

December 14, 2017.

We had the great fortune to spend two days with a recognized master textile artist, He Jinxiu. She is considered the most skilled and knowledgeable needleworker in Huaili village and teaches embroidery and resist dyeing to all of the girls attending the local primary school. At her home, she brought out stacks of textiles that she was currently working on as part of a yearly cycle of production. Together we inventoried these materials, along with the tools, techniques, and terminology important to their creation. We diagrammed garment patterns. We filled notebooks with the local names for various motifs and their significance.

The home production of textiles is supplemented with supplies and finished goods purchased in the Lihu Town market. Alongside the many stalls stuffed with factory clothes and accessories, vendors sell silk embroidery thread, stylus for batik, and bolts of undecorated, hand woven cloth. A large area is devoted to selling indigo. One half kilogram costs about 6 RMB. In addition to being an important venue for textile sellers and makers, market days are for dressing up, for looking and being seen.

 

We also had opportunity to interview Li Xiu Ying, the primary textile producer in her family. For most of her life, her mother made her clothes, but now she makes clothes for her mother, using the skills her mother imparted.

Li Xiu Ying wears a handmade needle case hanging from her belt. Her nail beds are ringed with blue from indigo dye. December 15, 2017.

With Mrs. Li, the textile team examined a traditional burial cloth, part of the ecomuseum’s permanent collection. Every household hopes to always have a few of these on hand. When villagers die, the cloth is laid over the body and a series of smaller cloths, thirteen layers for men and fourteen for women, cover the face.

A woman’s burial face cloth made by He Jinxiu is now in the collections of the Museum of International Folk Art.

 

He Jinxiu holding up a woman’s burial face cloth that she made, now in the collections of the Museum of International Folk Art. December 17, 2017.

The textile research team feels incredibly grateful to those who shared their time and knowledge with us. These brief highlights merely touch upon what we learned and experienced during our visit.

Carrie Hertz is Curator of Textiles and Dress at the Museum of International Folk Art and a participant in the China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.

Fieldwork: Introduction (12/13-18)

Skip ahead six paragraphs (bypass those marked with an hash mark #) if you want to go straight to the start of the fieldwork stories. If you would like to know why my colleagues and I were in China doing fieldwork, start here at the beginning. (After this post, I will do one or two more with some fieldwork highlights.)

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Manjiang village, a community within the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum. December 14, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

# The China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project is a binational collaboration linking the China Folklore Society and the American Folklore Society. It has been underway formally since 2007 and has included multiple project phases and, in these phases, various sub-projects. A wide range of funders have supported the project and its work and a great number of Chinese and American scholars and practitioners have participated in its activities. Among U.S. participants, special attention is often given to the Henry Luce Foundation, which has been particularly generous in supporting several phases of the project (Lloyd 2017).

# Two sub-projects occurring in two different phases of the project have a specific museum focus. Between 2013 and 2016, a sub-project titled “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Ethnographic Museum Practice” brought together six museums of ethnography—three from the United States and three from Southwest China. These museum partners organized two “Forum on China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage” events, pursued professional exchanges of staff members, traveled together to visit local communities in the home regions of each museum, and undertook a joint exhibition and catalogue project. The resulting exhibition—Quilts of Southwest China has been touring the United States. The bilingual catalogue is distributed in the United States by Indiana University Press. These are just the formal highlights of the project. A wide range of spin-off projects and collaborative relationships also arose from this joint work (Dewhurst 2017; Du 2017; Indiana University 2013; Lloyd 2017; MacDowell 2017; MacDowell and Zhang 2016; Zhang 2017).

# A new phase of the larger project began in 2017 and it also includes a museum-focused sub-project. The new project builds on relationships and experiences arising in the preceding effort. Between 2017 and 2019, the “Collaborative Work in Museum Folklore and Heritage Studies” sub-project is bringing together researchers from the three U.S. museums (Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Michigan State University Museum, Museum of International Folk Art) with colleagues affiliated with the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (AMGX), as well as that museum’s partners in two local ecomuseums: the Nandan Baiku (White Trousers) Yao Ecomuseum and the Sanjiang Dong Ecomuseum.

# The workshop (discussed in posts 6 and 7) was another formal part of the project, but the most crucial activity is ethnographic fieldwork in two communities—those associated with the two ecomuseums in Nandan and Sanjiang counties in Northern Guangxi. The December 2017 trip was for the first of four fieldwork efforts. On this trip, our local hosts and partners were the staff at the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum.

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A pet bird in a basketry cage in Huaili village. December 14, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

# In a Chinese context, an ecomuseum is a local museum framework that encompasses a community or group of communities, often associated with a single ethnic group or “nationality.” In Nandan County, the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum is embraces three contiguous villages near the town of Lihu. These three villages are situated within a wider area where “White Trouser Yao” people reside. White Trouser Yao is a designation for a particular group of Yao people distinguished by the white knicker-style pants worn as part of local men’s dress. Ecomuseums are somewhat hard to explain in a North American context because they are not limited to a fixed museum building (although they often include gallery spaces and other buildings used for museum functions). In formal terms at least, an ecomuseum is a way of characterizing an entire community or group of communities. The ecomuseum framework then becomes a organizational strategy for cultural heritage activities, including documentary work, cultural preservation activities, and perhaps also cultural tourism. The closest analog in the U.S. would be the situation found in some Native American communities where a “tribal museum” may have a museum building but may also facilitate a range of cultural preservation activities throughout the community. Wikipedia characterizes ecomuseums as follows:

An ecomuseum is a museum focused on the identity of a place, largely based on local participation and aiming to enhance the welfare and development of local communities. Ecomuseums originated in France, the concept being developed by Georges Henri Rivière and Hugues de Varine, who coined the term ‘ecomusée’ in 1971.[1] The term “éco” is a shortened form for “écologie”, but it refers especially to a new idea of holistic interpretation of cultural heritage, in opposition to the focus on specific items and objects, performed by traditional museums.

The nature and potential of ecomuseums is a key research concern of our partners at the Anthropological Museum of Guangxi (more on that later).

In a few final post or two, I will offer some highlights of our fieldwork experience. Here I explain our topic and circumstances.

While in Nandan County, the project participants stayed in rooms connected to the offices of the Nandan Baiku Yao Ecomuseum. This offered our group the opportunity to reside in the village cluster where the museum is centered without necessitating staying spread among various host families. The simple guest rooms at the museum were created with this sort of visiting research use in mind. The arrangement meant that visitors and locals could interact meaningfully from early in the morning to late in the evening without being a burden to local families nor introducing the disruption and social separation that would have accompanied staying in a hotel distant from the communities at the center of the research. He Jinxiu, a Baiku Yao woman who is active in the work of the museum, a civic leader in the community, and a noted textile artist, was engaged to cook for the visitors with the help of a younger woman in her family and another younger woman Li Xiuying who is also a noted local textile artist. This arrangement was very appropriate to local norms and was generously arranged for by the local museum staff and supported by the AMGX. I know that the other American participants join me in expressing deep appreciation for the generous hospitality extended to us by all of our partners in the project and by the members of the contiguous villages of Huatu, Manjiang, and Huaili in which the ethnographic investigations were undertaken.

Over the course of the research visit, the participants broke into three teams. Two of these teams focused on the nexus of textile arts and cultural heritage practices that are at the center of the project. These two research teams were made up of researchers from the American museums, from the AMGX, and from the Baiku Yao ecomuseum. Work by these teams was pursued in a mixture of English, provincial Mandarin, and the local Baiku Yao language.

One of these two teams focused on fabric arts; the other focused on bamboo basketry and the related practice of incorporating woven bamboo into architectural structures such as wall screens, fences, and basketry-walled granaries. The fabric arts group documented weaving practices, indigo dying, embroidery, the making and use of clothing, and silk production. The basketry group was able to document the making of an elaborate basket from start to finish (in photographs, video, notes, interviews), inventory baskets found in two households, and document over fifty basketry types in active use. This group also interviewed a basket trader, recording the full range of types in his inventory with names, prices, uses, and other data.

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Bamboo harvested and stored for use in basket making at the home of Li Guicai in Huaili village. December 14, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

The third project team, comprised of members of the AMGX staff with assistance from the Baiku Yao ecomuseum staff focused on documenting the work of the project as a whole, with the goal of being in a position to produce articles and documentary video chronicling the work of the international partnership. The three American museums also each made collections during the course of this work.

Much was learned and many questions for future research have been identified. The research concluded with travel to Nanning and, for the Americans, home to the US beginning on the 18th. In final post(s) I will share a richer glimpse of Baiku Yao cultural life and the people whom we we met.

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Jon Kay (R) and Li Guicai (L) at Mr. Li’s home in Huaili village. December 14, 2017. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson.

References Cited

Dewhurst, C. Kurt. 2017. “Building Connectivity: China-US Folklife Collaborations.” In Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Communication, edited by Juwen Zhang and Junhua Song, 189-98. Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press.

Du, Yunhong. 2017. “Ten Years: China-US Museum Collaborations in Retrospect.” In Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Communication, edited by Juwen Zhang and Junhua Song, 214-18. Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press.

Indiana University. 2013. “IU’s Mathers Museum One of Three U.S. Institutions to Collaborate with Chinese Museums.” Accessed January 16. 2018. http://archive.news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2013/11/mathers-museum-collaboration.shtml

Lloyd, Tim. 2017. “The Inside Story of the AFS China-US Project.” AFS News. June 12, 2017. http://www.afsnet.org/news/349609/The-Inside-Story-of-the-AFS-China-US-Project.htm

MacDowell, Marsha. 2017. “Reflections on Collaborations: The Quilts of Southwest China Project.” In Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Communication, edited by Juwen Zhang and Junhua Song, 199-207. Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press.

——— and Lijun Zhang, eds.The Quilts of Southwest China. Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities and Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Xie, Mohua. 2017. “My Two Stories.” In Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Communication, edited by Juwen Zhang and Junhua Song, 208-13. Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press.

Zhang, Lijun. 2017. “My Involvement in the Museum Exchange Projects.” In Metafolklore: Stories of Sino-US Folkloristic Communication, edited by Juwen Zhang and Junhua Song, 221-27. Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press.

Congratulations to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on the Publication of Navajo Textiles Volume

Congratulations our colleagues at in the Department of Anthropology at the the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on the publication of the new volume Navajo Textiles: The Crane Collection at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (Denver: Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2017). It is a beautiful volume contextualizing a beautiful collection of Navajo textiles. Kudos especially to the contributing authors, photographers, and everyone else who brought the project to life.

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