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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 19, 2008

Textiles as cultural expressions

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

UH student Aya Watanuki works on an exhibit as part of the Textile Association Symposium that will be coming to Honolulu. "Writing With Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities," at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa Art Gallery, is just one of 29 exhibits city-wide that address "Textiles as Cultural Expressions." Curated by Tom Klobe, the show, which includes more than 500 pieces, runs through Nov. 30.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Anna Peach, "The Moment of Transition," plant fiber on clothing, 2004.

The Contemporary Museum

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When Textile Society of America members converge on Honolulu for their 11th biennial symposium next week, they will find themselves immersed not only in textiles, but in the many cultures of Hawai'i. A city-wide program of exhibits called "Textiles as Cultural Expressions" will offer insight. For both symposium attendees and Island people, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A volunteer committee of 27 textile and arts enthusiasts has pulled together 29 exhibits city-wide, each exhibit offering a message about our culture. Honolulu has broken all records for participation, with attendees representing 32 states and 19 foreign countries.

Carol Bier, president of the Textile Society of America, said the organization includes professors, museum curators and conservators, educators and fiber artists.

The symposium coordinators, Tom Klobe and Reiko Brandon, hope to dispel the myth of Honolulu as simply sand and surf.

"We want Hawai'i to be known for its great cultural resources," Klobe explained.

Fiber arts traditions are engrained in Hawai'i's ancient, modern and contemporary cultures. These exhibits offer a rare opportunity to learn more about our cultural heritage through viewing objects worn and utilized daily by Island people, from immigrant plantation worker to honored ali'i.

"We're doing this so that local people will learn the importance of textiles in our culture," Klobe said. "Textiles tell us about ourselves. There are codes in the way we dress. We use textiles as a way of signifying special events in our lives: weddings, baptisms, graduation, funerals."

For the 29 participating museums and galleries, the symposium offers an opportunity for national and international recognition. "This is all a collaboration to make something great happen in Honolulu," Klobe said with obvious pride. "Together we can make something happen that's bigger than any individual institution or organization."

Textile collections offer a unique challenge to curators. Unlike ceramics or sculpture, for example, they cannot be exposed to light for any length of time because they easily disintegrate. That's why so many textile collections reside in vaults and are seldom seen by the public.

In the next few weeks, however, a wide variety of collections can be seen, from carpets of 17th-century Mughal India (East-West Center Gallery) to a smoking jacket made by Queen Emma for Kamehameha IV (Queen Emma Summer Palace).

Kapa, batik, kimono, Victorian gowns, Korean pojagi (wrapping cloths), Hawaiian lauhala, Tongan ngatu, Samoan siapo, Marshall Island kili bags and Hawaiian kapa moe are among treasures from the past that will be shown throughout the city.

In addition, many of the Islands' most talented textile artists will show creations in local galleries.

Modern textile arts extend beyond clothing. Handmade papers, sculptures created from fibers and intricately dyed and manipulated pieces often take textiles into the realm of fine art.

Working on the symposium has been a full-time job for Klobe and Brandon, both of whom are retired. But they wouldn't have it any other way. "We decided there was no point in doing it unless it will be talked about by TSA members for 10 years. It had to be superlative," Klobe said.

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Institutions and galleries are hosting exhibits in conjunction with the Textile Society of America's 11th biennial symposium, which launches Tuesday. All are open to the public and free, unless otherwise noted:


• Writing With Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities, University of Hawai'i-Manoa Art Gallery, Sunday-Nov. 30; www.hawaii.edu/artgallery.

• bodyWHERE, The Commons Gallery, Department of Art and Art History, U.H.-Manoa, Sunday-Oct. 3; 956-5260.

• Threads of Hawai'i, Room 112 Gallery, Miller Hall, U.H.-Manoa, Monday-Sept. 30; 956-2234.

• Ancient Customs, Ancient Stories: Lampung Ceremonial Textiles and Objects, Hamilton Library Bridge Gallery, UH-Manoa, Monday-Oct. 31; 956-2849.

• Fields of Flowers: Mughal Carpets and Treasures, East-West Center Gallery, U.H.-Manoa, Sunday-Dec. 31; www.eastwestcenter/artsevents.org.

• Pride and Practicality: Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawai'i, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, through Sept. 27; $3, free for JCCH members; www.jcch.com.


• Blue and White: Indigo-Dyed Japanese Textiles; Bright and Daring: Japanese Kimono in the Taisho Mode; Earth and Sky: Chinese Textiles from the Academy's Collection; Indonesian Batik from the Christensen Fund Collection, all through Oct. 5; All About Textiles, through Aug. 9, 2009, Honolulu Academy of Arts; free only to symposium attendees; www.honoluluacademy.org.

• Tattered Cultures: Mended Histories, The Academy Art Center, 1111 Victoria St., through Sept. 28; www.honoluluacademy.org.

• Design in Asian Textile, Robyn Buntin of Honolulu, 848 S. Beretania St., through Oct. 5; www.robynbuntin.com.

• The Passionate Purse, The Gallery at Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., through Thursday. www.gwcfineart.com.


• Fundamental Fiber: Lauhala, Tapa & Quilts, Mission Houses Museum, 553 S. King St., through Jan. 3, 2009; free only to symposium attendees; www.missionhouses.org.

• Intertwine: A Selection of Hawai'i Fiber Art, Hawai'i State Art Museum, 553 S. King St., through Jan. 17, 2009. www.state.hi.us/sfca.

• Contemporary Fiber Art of Hawai'i, The Contemporary Museum at First Hawaiian Center, 999 Bishop St., Sept. 26-Jan. 13, 2009; www.tcmhi.org.

• Twists and Turns — Contemporary Textiles in Hawai'i Today, The Exhibit Space at 1132 Bishop St., second-level lobby, through Oct. 30; www.firstfridayhawaii.com/directory/current/996.html.

• Threads of Hope, an exhibition of the UH-Manoa Costume Collection, presented by Hawai'i Fashion Incubator, Aloha Tower Marketplace, Tuesday-Oct. 31; www.hawaiifashion.org.


• Fiber Hawai'i, Hawaii Craftsmen, The ARTS at Marks Garage, through Oct. 11; www.hawaiicraftsmen.org.

• WeARTables, Hawai'i Handweavers' Hui, Louis Pohl Gallery, 1111 Nu'uanu Ave., Tuesday-Oct. 18; www.louispohlgallery.com.

• iterate reiterate re, thirtyninehotel, 39 Hotel St., through Oct. 5; www.thirtyninehotel.com.


• Beaten to Basted: A Collection of Kapa and Quilts presented by the Daughters of Hawai'i, Queen Emma Summer Palace, 2913 Pali Highway, ongoing; www.daughtersofhawaii.com.

• Women in Black, Gallery on the Pali, First Unitarian Church, Sunday-Oct. 31; 595-4047, http://home.hawaii.rr.com//uuchurch/gop.htm.


• Ili Iho: The Surface Within, Bishop Museum, tomorrow-Jan. 11; free only to symposium attendees; www.bishopmuseum.com.


• Pacific Island Textiles as Status, Wealth, Geneaology, Supernatural Protection, Outrigger Waikiki Hotel lobby showcase, 2335 Kalakaua Ave., through Oct. 10; www.OutriggerWaikikiHotel.com.

Reach Paula Rath at paularath@aol.com.