Autumn is all about the moshing up of layers and textures and weaving of cultures. This Renaissance girl with a crown of braids – or is she a Greek god or a Wall Street activist ? – greeted me in the front yard today. That got me thinking…about artful weavings…
These textiles are like talismans to me. i brought them home from Kuala Lumpur. They’re called Kebayas and the Malaysian Airline stewardesses wear them for their elegant uniforms. Deeply coloured and heavy to carry, these fabrics left a trail of golden silk threads behind when I carried them outside to be photographed against a black oak.
This sari might have been woven out of these Japanese maple leaves. But it was actually created by the amazingly talented sari weavers – unsung artists every one of them – in the muddy slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Young architects took me there one afternoon during my trip to Dhaka to review the stunning National Assembly parliamentary complex by the great American modernist Louis Khan. It was there, in a shanty room barely sheltered from the rain, that I tried on my first sari, and, later, back home, (in a very different world) wore it to the Maharaja gala at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Another one of my most beloved saris from Dhaka hangs like a luminous veil in our rustic Canadiana room. The pain-staking weaving of gold and silver brocade called Jamdani is unique to the Dhaka sari weavers. The patterns of geometric flowers follow a 2,000-year old tradition and are created entirely by memory. Now my Jamdani takes up pride of place in my home in Toronto, a city that embraces a healthy mosh-up of world cultures.