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PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2014 4:44 pm 
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‘BORO: Fabric of Life’

Exhibition of Japanese Boro textiles at MUDE (Museu do Design e da Moda) in Lisbon, Portugal - 10 Oct. 2014 to 08 Feb. 2015
Rua Augusta Nº24 - 1100-053 Lisboa, tel: 218 886 117 / 218 171 892 ... fe_46.html Tuesday to Sunday / 10H-18H, closed on Mondays.

Whilst in Lisbon for the opening of Peter ten Hoopen’s ‘Woven Languages: Indonesian Ikat Textiles’ viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2522 I was very fortunate to learn from Peter and his wife of the striking exhibition of Japanese boro textiles at the Museu do Design e da Moda – MUDE in downtown Lisbon just off Praça do Comércio and the water front. This exhibition overlaps the complete period of ‘Woven Languages’ and is very well worth a visit.

The boro textiles are the complete opposite of the mainly ceremonial heirloom Indonesian ikats on display at Museo do Oriente. They were created between 1850 and 1950 from fragments of cloth patched and over-patched. Some are woven from shreds of fabric. There are 50 textiles on display: mainly futon covers, kimono (for wearing) and kimonos for sleeping under. Sadly there is currently no catalogue (but one may be available at in November 2014 – see comment later in this review) but there were hand boards in either Portuguese or English listing the individually numbered exhibits giving some information and a some large dual-language background information posters on the walls with a few very evocative old photos of similar textiles being worn for working in the fields or fishing.

These were textiles created out of desperation for comfortable clothing – i.e. not bast fibre – made from mainly cotton using fragments of cloth from garments already very well worn by higher orders of the Japanese population. The boro textiles were used by peasant farmers and fisher-folk. Nevertheless, although they may have been made from the cast-offs and the very last remnants of fabric they were clearly valued fragments and put together to create as much of a thing of beauty as it was possible to create from the available material.

The exhibition was hung in a warehouse style gallery with bare concrete walls and floor and exposed and pitted metal pillars. The greyness and lack of any pretence was totally in keeping with the subject on display. I found the hues of mainly various shades of indigo but with some flashes of red, orange and, of course, white where printed or ikat fabrics were used, very evocative and moving.

The majority of the ‘BORO: Fabric of Life’ textiles were from the collection of New York based ‘Sri Threads’ gallery owner, Stephen Szczepanek, who also co-curated the exhibition.

Shown adjacent to the boro textiles and part of ‘Raw Japan’, the title covering both exhibits, was an exhibition ‘Naked Shapes’ of basic items made largely of post-war objects made in Japan using repurposed aluminium scraps.
Currently on the Sri Threads website are lots of photos from the two ‘Raw Japan’ exhibitions at MUDE and a statement from Stephen Szczepanek saying that: “MUDE plans to publish a catalog on “Raw Japan” which should be available in early November.” I also found on-line some information from a previous display of the same 50 textiles in France: ... c-of-life/

Before visiting the boro exhibit I went around the MUDE permanent collection of Francisco Capelo Collection acquired by the City of Lisbon shown on the ground floor. “Initiated during the 1990s, it is an exceptional collection both in Portugal and in the international scene. Furniture and small objects reflect the major designers and movements from 1937 to the end of the twentieth century. Clothing, footwear and accessories shape the history of fashion during the same period, introducing the main authors and the major changes of silhouette.” I found it an interesting trip down memory lane (and some items pre-dating me) calling forth many exclamations of recognition.

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on-line tribal textiles resource
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