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(Annual Sinton Lecture) Ryukyu Bashofu: Banana Fiber Textiles of Okinawa

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Kana Taira will discuss the history of Kijoka bashofu, and the traditional techniques used today by the bashofu craftspeople.

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Bashofu cloth is made from the bast fibers of the Okinawan ito-basho, a variety of banana tree. For centuries this weaving tradition thrived among people of all walks of life on the Okinawan islands. But after World War II, with changes in lifestyle, Bashofu nearly died out. However, in the village of Kijoka, Ogimi, noted for its Bashofu production from before the war, local women led by weaver Toshiko Taira put their passion and dedication into reviving this unique Okinawan weaving tradition. Working together, they established the Kijoka Bashofu Kumiai.(Kijoka Bashofu Association), whose goals were to both revitalize the traditional techniques and to train new generations of weavers. Today the Association produces the renown bashofu kimono and other textile products and trains weavers who come from all over Japan to study there.

Kana Taira will discuss the history and post WWII revival of Kijoka bashofu, the weavers and traditional techniques still used today, and the bashofu kimono and other products being produced by these bashofu craftspeople. She will explain the entire process, from cultivating the fiber to using an ikat hand-bound resist dye method (which enjoys a long legacy in Okinawa), to finishing the woven cloth.

Richly evocative of the southern islands, the fabric has won high praise well beyond its home and is globally recognized as an important traditional craft. In 1974, The Association for the Preservation of Kijoka-Bashofu was designated a national Important Intangible Cultural Property. Association leader Toshiko Taira was individually distinguished as the guardian of this important cultural asset, an honor popularly known as “Living National Treasure,” in 2000.

The annual Sinton Lecture is made possible with the generous support of The Carol Walter Sinton Fund for Fiber Arts Studies


		(Annual Sinton Lecture) Ryukyu Bashofu: Banana Fiber Textiles of Okinawa image

Kana Taira is a granddaughter of Toshiko Taira, an Okinawan master of Bashofu (banana fiber) textiles and a National Living Treasure in Japan. Kana grew up in Kijoka, the heart of Okinawa’s famous bashofu weaving tradition. Learning the intricate bashofu weaving techniques takes decades. But for Kana, surrounded by weavers, Kana began learning this art while still a small child; it was part of her childhood play and the daily life around her. Seeing her grandmother and mother working to preserve bashofu’s techniques and its culture, Kana gained a deep interest in these efforts and decided to further her study of bashofu at university. She received degrees in International Studies and Anthropology from universities in Japan and Australia. Studying, living and traveling in foreign countries has made Kana rethink the immense value of Bashofu within a broader global context. She is passionate about sharing the uniqueness and sophisticated techniques of Bashofu worldwide.

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