Curated by Vancci F.C. Wahn and featuring three textile artists and four documentary filmmakers from three different Indigenous nations in Taiwan, Indigenitude, will be on show as part of British Textile Biennial 2023. This exhibition of artworks and film explores Taiwanese indigenous participatory textile practices.
Indigenitude aims to demonstrate how the ancient craft of collaborative textile weaving in communities that use homegrown fibres like ramie and banana fibre, mixed with chemically dyed materials, woollens and cotton to make durable colourful textiles, was transformed by colonialism, capitalism and globalisation during the 19th and 20th centuries. In todays society, this is now a source of creativity for contemporary Indigenous artists to embody their cultural values within new participatory artworks.
We spoke to Vancci F.C Wahn to find out more about Taiwanese indigenous textile practices.
Can you tell us more about Taiwanese indigenous participatory textile practices?
Participatory Indigenous textile making is the contemporary, democratised, and radicalised variant of the traditional practices. It flattens the hierarchy based on seniority and craftsmanship, widens the connection from familial to community, and encourages innovation initiatives from members as this form of production is more about the balance between creative concepts and art praxis. However, it still follows the basics of textile making.
Traditional Taiwan Indigenous textile making are done within households in a collective and collaborative manner as it involves a series of cumbersome tasks to complete the process. It is a strictly top-down master-apprenticeship model, executed in a religiously atmosphere as they believe Tminum (‘weaving’ in pan-Atayal languages) is the way for women to pay respect to the holy spirits and serve as the everyday life moral code. The practices of weaving are considered sacred and secular simultaneously and therefore rigorous. Very few innovations are allowed, except for certain pattern designs and colour palettes. And these newly designed and self-defined visual and material became these women’s individual identity and traces of their lives embodied on textiles which later will be passed down to their family members.
Image: 31 participants at the Weavers Web Exhibition opening at the Indigenous Cultural Development Centre, Council of Indigenous Peoples, on 27 May 2023. Photo credit: Dai, Ing-Wei, Pingtung Times. Image above: Artist Hana Ke. Image above: Artist Hana Keliw and the Atolan Weavers in the making of Micekiw (2014- ongoing). Photo credit: Lee, Yun-Yi.
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