jump to navigation

The Fabric of Their Lives February 24, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in History, Other Arts.
Tags: , , , ,
trackback

Today we went to the small northern town of Kijoka, which is renowned for the production of bashofu textiles. This 8-century-old art form is now preserved by some badass octogenarian women who still create this unique cloth without mechanical aide (minus a simple loom).

It’s a collaborative process between a whole community of women, and it starts with these banana (basho) trees. The fibers from the trunks are stripped and separated into coarse threads.

The fibers get boiled down in special solutions of wood ash, rice gruel and awamori (Okinawan sake). Below they are dyed with Okinawan indigo grass, but most are kept the natural brown.

Weaving into designs like this is a very tedious task. In one year, a single woman could produce only enough cloth for three kimonos.

It’s no wonder the Japanese government deemed bashofu an “Important Intangible Cultural Property.” I did wonder, though, how so many people are motivated to put so much time and manual labor into such a small (albeit beautiful) end product.

But this celebrated folk art, just like Okinawa’s folk music, reflects a sense of communal functionality and cooperation. I figure as long as you’ve got good company, you could dedicate yourself to anything — especially if it’s preserving a cultural tradition.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. jonobr1 - February 25, 2010

“I figure as long as you’ve got good company, you could dedicate yourself to anything — especially if it’s preserving a cultural tradition.”

Words to live by!

2. The Okinawan Music Business « oki yo! - March 29, 2010

[…] not gaudy like court or religious artwork, with a subdued color palette in visual arts (like bashofu versus bingata). It’s playful and unpretentious, and the same goes for Japanese folk […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: