At Weaving Stories, you’ll have a vibrant encounter with one of the oldest and most intimate forms of art. From birth to death, we are swaddled, wrapped, or shrouded in cloth. Textiles not only protect and adorn our homes, our sacred spaces, and our bodies but also communicate identity, status, and faith.
This exhibition brings together nearly 45 outstanding examples of textiles from dozens of communities in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, most dating to the 19th and 20th centuries — the vast majority of which have never been exhibited before — to explore how fabrics were woven into the daily lives of the peoples of Southeast Asia. Fascinating archival photographs and multimedia displays illustrate how these textiles were made and used.
Although only one of the works on view is overtly narrative, a garment by artist Milla Sungkar depicting the devastation of the 2004 Aceh earthquake and tsunami, all of the textiles in the exhibition tell a tale: of identity, faith, status, and women as artistic innovators.
Weaving Stories guides you through the textile traditions of island Southeast Asia to reveal some of the myriad stories behind these fabrics, prized then and now for their complexity, creativity, and dramatic beauty.
The exhibition also tells stories about how cloth was made. You’ll be able to touch samples of fabrics, to understand how the garments on view felt to the wearer, and watch videos demonstrating traditional processes. And you’ll get close-up view of several of the textiles with a magnification station.
While so many of the fabrics surrounding us today are disposable, the works on view in Weaving Stories hold value because of the people who made them, their beauty and skillful execution, their connection to family, or their connection to faith. They tell stories that are as varied as the region’s hundreds of weaving traditions and as universal as cloth.
Image: Ceremonial textile (tampan), approx. 1700–1800. Indonesia; Lampung, Sumatra, Paminggir people. Cotton. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Gift of M. Glenn Vinson and Claire Vinson, 2021.59. Photograph © Don Tuttle.