Communication Through Texile
J. Fatima Martins
Traditionally, to evoke the gods, the Iban and Dayak women of Malaysia’s Sarawak and Indonesia’s West Kalimantan region wove “power” textiles called “pua kumbu” and “kain kebat.” These women were revered as important “bards” and teachers. To place these cultures into a context, the Iban and Dayak are located on the island we know as Borneo, one of the places known for ancient ritual “headhunting.” The ceremonial cloth depicts mighty spirit guides and religious language, as well as motifs and designs referencing the animal life and people of the community and surrounding tropical forest.
Yinka Shonibare’s cameo exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art features contemporary artwork narratively engaged with the historical personage of Admiral Lord Nelson. Curated by Martina Droth, its focus is on the artist’s “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle,” commissioned for the Fourth Plinth series and first shown in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2010.
The exhibit gives a view of the making of the sculpture. It includes the preliminary model for “Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle” plus films, related photographic work and the artist’s 18th century-period-inspired costumes, which function within narratives. Audiences will also notice the visually prominent use of wax resist fabrics, associated with contemporary Afro-centric identity, in the ships sails, costumes and other aspects of Shonibare’s revisionist aesthetic.
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