Fabric of life
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