From a distance, the textiles on display at the Lowe Art Museum’s newest exhibit, “Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia,” may seem simple. But up close, every stitch reveals a piece of Southeast Asian feminine culture.
“What we’ve really tried to do with this exhibition is to make the lives of the women who make the cloth the central focal point of the exhibition,” said Roy Hamilton, senior curator of Asian and Pacific Collections at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, at an opening reception of the exhibit. The exhibit is on display through March 29.
Hamilton spoke about visiting Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor and the Philippines to capture the essence of eight “master weavers” through film. The video of the women speaking about their craft is played next to the textiles.
In traditional Southeast Asian culture, weaving is considered a woman’s practice and skilled weavers can attain a high social status.
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“I had no idea that textiles could give us such a great perspective of their society as a whole,” said Mireya Jusado, a student at the University of Miami majoring in international studies and anthropology, who was at the exhibit opening.
For Luisa de Jesus from East Timor, weaving means preserving her clan’s culture through her patterns. No other clan is allowed to use her patterns, which are based on a snake’s skin. She spoke of this in the video.
For Rambu Pakki and Rambu Tokung, two Indonesian weavers, weaving means protecting their pahudus, a book-like device made of sticks and stones, which holds their proprietary patterns.
The weavers’ stories add another dimension to the textiles, Hamilton said.
“I felt that there was no power in a traditional setting. There’s no way to capture how [the artists] feel by just hanging the work,” he said.
The exhibit complements the Lowe Museum’s vast textile collection and the University of Miami’s gender studies program, said Jill Deupi, director and chief curator at the museum.
“We’ve never had a textile show which has its prime focus built on a documentary source. This is different for us,” she said.
The textiles themselves are the product of generations of mastery by the weavers, shown through the videos.
“There’s no substitute for experiencing any art, but especially art like this where you need to see the fine details whether it’s the weaving or the wax carves on the batik. No photograph can do them justice,” Deupi said.
If you go
What: “Weavers’ Stories from Island Southeast Asia’’
Where: Lowe Art Museum, 1301 Stanford Dr., Coral Gables
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday, noon-4 p.m., through March 29.
Cost: General Admission is $10, senior citizens and non-UM students are $5, and the museum is free for Lowe members, University of Miami students, faculty and staff, and children under 12. Admission is free on Donation Day, the first Tuesday of every month.
For information: Call 305-284-3535 or visit www.lowemuseum.org.