Discovery through translation: Endangered textile traditions – Dr Keireine Canavan

Monday morning’s lecture was simply fascinating. Given by Dr Keireine Canavan, the lecture explored her career through textiles, highlighting on the different degree’s she specialised in; woven textiles, knitted textile design and applied computer application, and how these led her to the work that she has been doing with weavers in the Middle East for the past 11 years. Keireine took us through the different places that she visited in the Middle East, Malaysia, Gujarat, Kuwait and Morocco, and the different methods and traditions that the weavers there incorporate into their fabrics.

In Malaysia they used the traditional Iban Dayak wrap technique to make their Pua Kumbu’s; traditional woven blankets that are created at birth and are made to stay with the owner through all the stages of their lives. The blankets are used for special occasions and depict their lives and culture. Using backstrap looms, the pattern for the Pua Kumbu is dyed onto the threads using a resist technique, which looks extremely difficult but completely worth it, the results are stunning and exceptionally intricate.

Gujarat is the home of traditional Salvi Patola silk weaving; historically the weavers only created fabric for royalty, but a newer tribe broke away. The method for dying the thread is similar to the method in Malaysia, where they are bound before being put into a bath for resist dying. Only two Patola weaving groups left in the world, creating the most beautiful silk weavings that take over 5 months to create.

The Al-Sadu is an ancient traditional weaving art form, used to create Garta/Injad, which are huge tents that house the Nomadic tribespeople who weave them. Made from goats hair, and dyes that are collected from the dessert, spices like henna and cumin, the women of the tribes weave the thread together, creating symbols that depict their lives and traditions, as well as their surrounding environment. The technique itself is passed down from person to person, nothing is written down or recorded, and there are only eight master weavers left in the whole of Kuwait. What I found most interesting about this tribe, is that everything is kept ready to move, their wealth is shown in the fabrics and jewellery they wear.

I enjoyed hearing about Brocade Weaving from Morocco, how a place full of stunning colour and culture inspired one man to re-start the old traditions of brocade weaving, making him the only brocade weaver in all of Morocco.

Each of these weaving methods are fascinating to behold and create stunning and individual creations. Keireine’s work has helped to keep these traditions and technique around, making sure that the methods of resist dying and weaing are preserved.



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