Thursday, January 8, 2015

Woven Universes: Math, Method, Meaning, and Magic in Philippine Indigenous Textiles

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Philippine indigenous textiles are not just objects of beauty and inspiration. Their threads, colors, motifs, and patterns reveal stories about the weaver’s culture and the surprisingly methodical work that goes into these fabrics. They showcase intricate ornamentation, meticulous patterns, and mythical stories linked to the world of magic and spirits. With careful study and analysis, textiles unveil a complex, mythic, and minute universe.

Currently on view at Yuchengco Museum is Woven Universes: Math, Method, Meaning, and Magic in Philippine Indigenous Textiles, an exhibit of close to 40 fabrics and clothing from the collection of Floy Quintos. On exhibit until February 2015, Woven Universes highlights the traits inherent to the creation and usage of the textiles woven by various indigenous peoples from all over the Philippines.

From owes (blankets) from Abra province to pis (scarves) from the Sulu archipelago, each piece of fabric has been specially analyzed and annotated by scholars and academics from different fields: Art Studies professor Dr. Norma Respicio of the University of the Philippines Diliman, Mathematics professor Dr. Ma. Louise Antonette De Las PeƱas of Ateneo de Manila University, Mathematics professor Dr. Agnes Garciano of Ateneo de Manila University, Mathematics professor Dr. Debbie Marie Versoza of Ateneo de Manila University, and Social Anthropology assistant professor Dr. Analyn Salvador – Amores of University of the Philippines Baguio.

The Tausug pis yabit from the Sulu archipelago, the Yakan seputangan from Basilan island, and the Itneg pinilain and binakol from Abra province show how weavers working in difficult conditions have produced precise and meticulous designs that show an intuitive knowledge of mathematical symmetry. Motifs and meanings are revealed and explained in a mandaya wrap skirt from Davao Gulf and an Itneg horse-and-rider blanket from Abra province, while a set of bark cloth ritual textiles from the Gaddang of Mountain Province show how textiles were instrumental in connecting to the world of magic and spirits. Sophisticated methods of ornamentation are explored in the Maranao of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur and the Maguindanao malong, the Tausug kandit from Sulu archipelago, and pieces from the Bagobo of Davao del Sur and the Gaddang of Mountain Province.

Indeed, woven universes—complex, mythical, and minute—exist in each of the masterpieces by anonymous Filipino weavers.

Exhibit catalogue, lecture series

Yuchengco Museum will offer an exhibit catalogue and a public lecture series to supplement Woven Universes. The exhibit catalogue will be available at the museum’s Books & Gifts Corner by February 2015. The Saturday afternoon lecture series, which will feature speakers from disciplines ranging from mathematics to ethnography, will be held in February 2015 as well.

Woven Universes: Math, Method, Meaning, and Magic in Philippine Indigenous Textiles is on view at Yuchengco Museum from December 2014 to February 2015. The museum is located at RCBC Plaza, corner Ayala and Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenues, Makati. Museum hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (632) 889-1234 or visit

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