CLOTH THAT GROWS ON TREES
December 6, 2006 to April 15, 2007
Curated by Max Allen
Opening reception: December 6, 6:30 to 8:00 pm – remarks at 7:00
TORONTO – November 2006. In tropical lands where the climate is too hot for the production of wool, silk or cotton, people do not make cloth by weaving it, but rather by pounding it from the bark of trees. Bark-cloth has been used, around the equator, since the dawn of history. But if you’ve never heard of this remarkable invention, you’re not alone. This is the first major exhibition in a Canadian museum of the Cloth That Grows On Trees.
Distinct cultures from Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and Oceania all developed the same response to the need for textile coverings in an extreme environment. Cloth That Grows On Trees speaks to astonishing levels of ingenuity while still highlighting the universal human experience. The techniques required to coax useable cloth from tree bark are powerful examples of resourcefulness.
Cloth That Grows On Trees features beautiful and wearable bark-cloth garments, two-metre tall funeral masks, ceremonial regalia and contemporary bark-cloth art.
Drawn in large part from the permanent collection of the Textile Museum of Canada, bark-cloth is rich with cultural narratives. Bark-cloth surprised and intrigued the scientific explorers from Europe who came to the South Pacific islands in the 18th century. The great English explorer Captain James Cook, in this three Pacific voyages beginning in 1769, collected many samples of bark-cloth, and the artists and botanists in his crew recorded its techniques and uses. Young Queen Elizabeth II’s first royal tour took her to the islands of the South Pacific. She was given a “red carpet” greeting with fabric that was neither red nor a carpet. It was actually bark-cloth rolled out for Her Majesty to walk upon.
The production of bark-cloth is alive and well today in some areas and is disappearing in others as imported woven cloth and clothing takes its place. Even though the everyday use of bark-cloth is vanishing, its use as a cultural marker is thriving. Always an industry of self-expression, bark-cloth adornment is a living and breathing contemporary art practice that is closely connected to nature. Cloth That Grows On Trees presents the work of three contemporary bark-cloth artists (Lila Gama, Jean Magreat Hoijo and Nerry Keme) whose pieces are so intertwined with the environment they are both dazzling to the eye and nurturing to the soul.
To RSVP for the opening please call 416 599 5321 x2230
Hope to see you there,
Textile Museum of Canada
55 Centre Ave (Dundas & University)
Toronto ON, M5G 2H5
416 599 5321 x2239