Textiles provide a window to the history, culture, and contemporary life of diverse societies around the world. We will explore how textile traditions have evolved, particularly as related to trade routes, raw material availability, modes of production, enterprise scale, societal organization, religion, and ritual celebrations. We will investigate answers to these questions: From where did the vibrant reds, deep blues, and glowing yellows used in textiles originate? How does motif symbolism vary across the world? Who is allowed and not allowed to learn a textile craft? What factors contribute to the sustainability of some of the world’s most exciting textile traditions? How do textile artisan enterprises achieve viability in the increasingly competitive global market for hand-produced products? Our ports of call offer opportunities to examine first-hand some of the world’s finest resist-dyed, block printed, woven, embroidered, beaded, and quilted textile traditions in Asian and African countries. An initial overview to textile fibers, dyes, and fabrications will provide needed background for class investigations.
Field WorkCountry: Myanmar (Burma)
Date: February 21, 2017
In this field class, we have been invited to meet with the founders and leaders of two textile groups in Yangon that are making significant contributions to the maintenance and innovation of Myanmar textile traditions. We will have opportunities for lively discussion with our hosts about factors that contribute to and inhibit evolution of the traditions. At the first visit to the Yoyamay Textile Gallery, Khun Shwe and Pa Mang will introduce us to the subtle differences in the textiles from various ethnic groups in Myanmar and discuss product development for international markets. At the second visit, Mai NiNi Aung, Mai Nilar Win, and their family will welcome us to their Son-Tu Showroom where they are focused on revival of the richly colored, highly symbolic weavings of the Chin people in northern Myanmar. In between the two gallery visits, there will be time to browse the many retail stalls carrying textiles and other Myanmar crafts in the large Bogyoke Market. Lunch will be taken at a local Yangon restaurant. The day will end with a visit at dusk to the spectacular Schwedagon pagoda complex, to assess the extensive use and functions that textiles play in Buddhist practice and to view sunset over the golden pagoda spires.
1. Understand design, production, use, and meaning of woven textiles for the Chin people of Myanmar.
2. Compare and contrast the approaches of two textile development organizations for reviving and promoting textiles within Myanmar and in the global market.
3. Become familiar with textiles in the many retail stalls of a large market catering to tourists.
4. Assess the contributions that textiles make toward the setting, environment, and practice in Buddhist temples.