Rijswijk TEXTILE BIENNIAL 2023 – Images of Power

Jan Kath, Gwen, Jep and Diana with Lily, wool and silk on cotton, 375×250 cm

Once Again it is time for the Textile Biennale at the wonderful Rijswijk Museum. This year the theme of protest (propaganda?) seems to dominate. When, as an art student my friend wept because she could not afford the usual white wedding dress I created one out of old white newsprint. I placed a fan under it so the bags billowed out and won 1st prize at the end of year show. At the wedding it was her mother who wept because my friend had forgotten the fan. At the time it was just a creative adventure for both of us. This could have been seen as a critique of materialism.

This year’s show had a mix of woven, patchwork and some printed works. Badru Temitayo’s vast colourful portraits of powerful people were stunning in their perfection. It made me wonder though how Putin deserved a place amongst those who have suffered abuse or have campaigned against abuse of power.

I especially loved Senzeni Marasela’s, simply hand-stitched cartoon-like dainty white handkerchiefs. They depict the tragic story of the ‘Hottentot-Venus’, a unnamed South African woman, enticed to Europe by her master to be exhibited circus-like because of her large rear, typical of her Khoikoi culture.

Jacobo Alonso’s shows his created beautiful designs based on the life-saving, wafer-thin ponchos handed out to immigrants and bombed out Ukrainians. They hang majestically, reminiscent of ancient Egyptian or Japanese Emperors’ cloaks. There are more protest works, such as blood-red trilogy about the recent banning of abortions in USA states.

The largest works show a typical smiling American family in their home, assault rile proudly held. The other is an almost Bruegel-like tapestry by Mercedes Azpilicueta, recounting the story of a woman who fled to South America in the 16th century to live as a man.

The ideas, the messages are there. Due to the technical ease and automation of weaving large tapestries these days, I miss the human hand, the mistakes, the irregularities. So, I especially appreciated Boyce Magandela’s images of homeless people standing in line, painted simply on an old plaid. His other work, seen from a distance, was his almost photographic embroidered portrait of Nelson Mandela, his countryman and hero. But getting close to it, it was a mangle of threads – incredible. Not to be missed.  Astrid Burchardt  28th June 2023