TEXTILE ANIMAL TRAPPINGS

OF INDIA AND CENTRAL ASIA
A flowering in arid lands
An Exhibition at Birdwood House Totnes
Monday 24th to Saturday 29th May 2021 10am - 4.45pm
It is a gathering of textiles made to decorate working animals, which has been collected over a number of years whilst travelling overseas. Some of the larger animal covers and camel head dresses have been purchased from Oxford and London collections.

a selling exhibition

It is a gathering of textiles made to decorate working animals, which has been collected over a number of years whilst travelling overseas. Some of the larger animal covers and camel head dresses have been purchased from Oxford and London collections.
As single pieces removed from their original contexts they may appear quite alien, perhaps gaudy, to the western gaze. Yet, despite most pieces being just 50 to 70 years old, as a collection they offer a glimpse into the tradition of animal dressing for village ritual as well as animal dressing for overland and seasonal migration.

My interest in decorative animal trappings from these historically distant lands and much romanticised lands has sprung from a longstanding affinity with the animal kingdom, the lot of labouring beasts, the resourcefulness of indigenous peoples in harsh environments and my sense of wonder at the variety of materials and skills used in the making of these diverse pieces.
My first purchase was a pair of indigo-dyed cotton braided bullock veils decorated with moon shells from a dealer in Bhujodi, outside Kutch, India. It was not a planned purchase – they hung on a nail at the back of a single-storey dwelling lit by oil lamp. Whilst the textile dealer picked and draped heaps of embroidered and woven and stitched cloths for both human and home I was transfixed by the bullock veils. It was inexplicable and moreover within two days I had also bought a pair of similar bullock veils dipped in madder with cowrie shells and an ochre braided camel harness with handmade turquoise glass beads.

The collection currently comprises about 120 items from a pair of woven short-pile camel knee pads from Turkmenistan to a good number of bullock horn covers some beaded, some embroidered and the finest embroidered are made by the Banjara. The embroidered horse headdresses of Sindh are exquisite. There are many ply-split braided camel tangs in both cotton and brown and white goat hair with symbols and representational pictures of village life.

There is one common feature in all – the amulet, which can appear as an attachment such as bells, beads, feather, horse hair or it can appear as an image woven or stitched into the surface. The threats historically to livestock, people, and goods in transit were numerous – tribal attack, disease, drought, winds of such severity, they could take life. Survival was key. The presence of shisha (mirror) would not only protect from the bad, but attract the good through its convex reflective surface.

This exhibition is a celebration which stems from admiration and wonder. There will be photographs to accompany the exhibits.