Fab­ric of life

Quilts of South­west China

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Quilts of South­west China,

south­west China, a land of moun­tain­ous ter­rain and iso­lated ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, women practiced the craft of quilt­ing well into the 20th cen­tury, mak­ing blan­kets, bed­cov­ers, and baby slings. These vil­lages and farms, pop­u­lated by mem­bers of hun­dreds of eth­nic mi­nor­ity groups, be­came eas­ier to ac­cess as mod­ern­iza­tion took hold af­ter the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment gained power in 1949, with the build­ing of roads and fac­to­ries. It also be­came more con­ve­nient for lo­cal peo­ple to buy mass-pro­duced goods. The quilt­ing tradition faded — though it did not dis­ap­pear — as many younger women, whose fi­nan­cial fu­tures lay out­side the home or even the vil­lage, did not want to develop the dis­ci­pline re­quired for fine needle­work. His­tor­i­cally, quilts were of no par­tic­u­lar value or in­ter­est to col­lec­tors, or to ur­ban Chi­nese, be­cause the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment fa­vored progress and as­sim­i­la­tion over the tra­di­tional hand­i­work of its eth­nic mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions. But the gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent em­pha­sis on pre­serv­ing the in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage of these groups in the face of in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion has given life to a tourist econ­omy in which these quilts have be­come quite mar­ketable.

open­ing at the Mu­seum of In­ter­na­tional Folk Art on Sun­day, July 9, is the cul­mi­na­tion of a three-year col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween three mu­se­ums in the United States and three in China, spear­headed by the Amer­i­can and Chi­nese folk­lore

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