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Transnational Ikat installation view

Transnational Ikat installation view

Transnational Ikat:
An Asian Textile on the Move

Research by Holy Cross Prof. and students is basis for display of Southeast Asian Textile Exhibit

The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross will feature an exhibition of Southeast Asian textiles titled "Transnational Ikat: An Asian Textile on the Move" from Jan. 24 - March 1, 2013. The exhibition is curated by Susan Rodgers, the W. Arthur Garrity Sr. Professor in Human Nature, Ethics and Society in the sociology and anthropology department; with research assistance from student docents Hana Carey '13, Tricia Giglio '14, and Martha Walters '14. The curator and docents will give an opening talk titled "Transnational Ikat: Fieldwork Discoveries about an Asian Textile on the Move" on Thursday, Jan. 24, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. in Rehm Library. An opening reception will take place in the gallery following the talk from 5:30 -7 p.m.

Indonesian weavers are known for a technique called ikat, which means "to tie" or "to bind off."  When a warp or weft is stretched on a frame, strands of palm leaf or raffia are used to bind bundles of thread together to form patterns, or motifs. These include stylized animals, plants or images of spirits. When the threads are dyed, the bindings resist the color and subtle patterns emerge before the cloth is woven. 

With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the dean's office, Rodgers and her students conducted fieldwork in Bali, Indonesia, and Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia in the summer of 2012 to explore the exhibition's themes. At Threads of Life NGO in Bali, the team learned the ikat dyeing and tying processes, focusing on natural dyes. They also performed interviews with traditional weavers working at the Tun Jugah Foundation, Kuching. The Foundation was established in 1985 to "preserve and promote" the arts and folklore of the Iban peoples of Sarawak and has a special interest in preserving knowledge about the Iban's great pua textiles.

According to Rodgers, "Southeast Asian ikats are among the world's greatest cloth arts and are very much  'textiles on the move' today: moving across borders from Southeast Asia to other parts of the world, moving from ritual use to American fashion wear and other marketplace forms, moving from Asian villages to international museums and art collecting circuits." 

This exhibition of ikat cloths from Indonesia and Malaysia displays over 40 of these remarkable textiles, both in their deeply ceremonial forms and in their vibrantly commercialized versions. The exhibition focuses on ikats from eastern Indonesia, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Malaysia's Sarawak and will highlight five historical examples of ikat textiles donated in 2010 by Anne and John Summerfield to the Cantor Art Gallery's permanent collection.

Reservations for guided tours of "Transnational Ikat" for Holy Cross classes, groups, and off campus visitors are available by contacting Paula Rosenblum, gallery coordinator, at 508-793-3356 or

In conjunction with the exhibition the team jointly authored a website that offers an overview of their research experience as well as an in-depth view of ikat textiles today. The website will be launched January 24, 2013 and accessible at the following address:


Threads of Life


  • Thursday, Jan. 24, 4:30 - 5:30 p.m., Rehm Library: Talk by curator Susan Rodgers and student docents, "Transnational Ikat: Fieldwork Discoveries about an Asian Textile on the Move"
  • Thursday, Jan. 24, 5:30 - 7 p.m., Cantor Art Gallery: Opening reception
  • Thursday, Feb. 14, 4 - 5 p.m., Rehm Library: Talk by Carla Jones, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, "The Edge of Modesty: the Ethics and Aesthetics of Indonesian Islamic Fashion". The event is co-sponsored by the sociology and anthropology department and the Asian Studies Program.

Continuing in the Cantor Resource Gallery through March 1

Community Threads: Seven Hills Saori Weaving Project

The Saori Weaving Project at Seven Hills began several years ago when a few individuals took classes with Mihoko Wakabayashi, an artist and proprietor of Saori Worcester, and the organization then became a Saori pioneer coaching site.  Seven Hills purchased accessible and adaptable looms and staff members completed the full Saori beginners course to become Saori Coaches. The "Community Threads" exhibition is the result of many hours of weaving, sewing, planning, serendipity, creativity and community collaboration between Seven Hills and the Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross.


Transnational Ikat installation views