More than clothing
I sometimes think our capability to produce textiles and fabrics should be considered one of the hallmarks of humanity, setting us aside from other animals. We learned early enough to tap animals and plants to protect ourselves from the elements, and then develop all kinds of processes to produce textiles and fabrics. These processes should actually be considered art forms: weaving, knitting, crocheting, braiding, knotting (also known as macramé) and tatting (a type of knotting to produce lace).
From drab drapes around the body, we moved on to apparel (I’m including head gear, scarves, footwear) designed with meanings and vested with all kinds of social functions: declaring one’s status, catching attention (in more ways than one), even providing comfort, like food. Societies, too, have rules on how to wear clothing and accessories, as well as what to wear and what not to wear and who can wear what.
This is leading me to Habi, the annual crafts fair of the Textile Council of the Philippines that the group just had last weekend at Glorietta. It’s an event my kids have come to look forward to — an annual pilgrimage of sorts, a visual feast that can’t be duplicated on their iPads. I remind them many of the textiles are produced using old traditional technologies that had almost disappeared.
There, they get to see and feel all kinds of textiles and learn to tell the difference between inabel (Ilokano for weaves) made out of pure cotton and cotton blends (with rayon, for example, or polyester). Every year, we also see how new designs are moving our revived textile industry forward.
At Habi, too, they get to see the other uses of textiles and fabrics besides stuff you wear: mats and carpets and interior décor and bags. Have you ever thought about the sacks used for rice, flour and other food items? They’re textiles, too, some natural and others synthetic, and there are entrepreneurs who have been upcycling them into shirts and blouses.
At one point, I ran into Maribel Ongpin and Laida Lim, two of the grand women behind Habi, and they were beaming with pride as they held the New York Times and pointed to a front-page article about the Frieze Art Fair in London, which brings together 165 art galleries and which this year is recognizing, in a big way, weaves as art forms. There, among the featured woven art pieces, was one of Pacita Abad’s textile pieces, as well as Cian Dayrit’s “countercartography,” which questions how indigenous peoples are portrayed in the west.
I was proud to tell Maribel and Laida that this year, UP Diliman is focusing on textiles to celebrate our Science and Society month. For the opening ceremony, the organizers had me wear an indigo-dyed piña barong, with sleeves rolled up (we were doing that long before President Duterte) and a zipper instead of buttons — a wonderful modification for senior citizens like me!
Here are some of the activities we have lined up:
Just last Monday, the College of Architecture had an activity around geotextiles, which is the use of textiles for soil conservation and protection.
From Oct. 22 to Nov. 5, we have an exhibit of textiles and fabrics at the College of Home Economics, and an interactive outdoor art exhibit called Space and Ephemerality, with hammocks and recordings of UP’s bird calls, at the College of Architecture. On Oct. 18, Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., we have lectures on the use of digital (yes, computerized) looms, part of the Corditext project of UP Baguio and UP Diliman. This will also be at the College of Home Economics, CDC Auditorium.
On Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., we have a lecture on mathematics and weaving (!) at Room 207, Palma Hall (AS Building). On Oct. 25, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, we have Space and Indigo, an activity around textile dyeing at the College of Architecture. Indigo will probably be the color of the day, producing a different kind of blue. Our faculty members at the clothing tech department (yes, we have such a department!) of the College of Home Economics are still looking for natural dyes to produce maroon.
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