Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kimonos and Coincidence

It's funny how The Fates can bring people together with interesting stories to share.

I was at Michael's today, picking up the framed kimono that my Grandfather brought back from the Phillipines after World War II. As I was looking at the kimono, now framed and hanging beautifully (see picture below, sorry about the flash in the picture) a woman asked me where it came from. I gave her what information I had, and she informed me that she was from the Phillipines. Apparently the lion with a swirl motif is common to Mindanao, which is from the southern phillipines, and the kimono is made out of a traditional indonesian silk Batik. It is definitely Philipino in its fabric art and style, but the kimono pattern is obviously Japanese.

At that time, the Phillipines were occupied by Japan, and they attempted to integrate the culture by making traditional dress. She thinks that based on the size and coloration that it was a man's kimono, although my research indicates it is the informal kimono of a single woman (based on the length of the sleeve compared to the height). She didn't really know why it would be so, that the style would be of a woman's kimono, but the fabric be what in that time was masculine. The lions are masculine, there are no orchids in the flower patterns (they appear to be carnations) and orchids were the most feminine flower. Also the lattice pattern is more masculine.

So what can we conclude from masculine fabric made into a feminine garment? Was it some wealthy man's lounge robe, and he had no idea that the cut was feminine? A philipino woman with tastes in fabric that tended to be more masculine but still wanted to display her marital status in the length of her kimono sleeves? A geisha's danna visiting the philipines who wanted to bring back something interesting and different, chose fabrics he liked, and then was killed or captured by my Grandfather's platoon who then took this and the two other kimonos from him?

If only fabric could talk.

Additionally, one of Jeff's coworkers is from indonesia. She confirmed that it is

a batik silk, that it's gorgeous, that it is a masculine fabric because purple was viewed as a masculine fabric in most Asian cultures, and that the lions are a chinese symbol, like fu dogs, and the flowers are very Indonesian. I'm just happy it's safely preserved in my house, and Jeff and I will hang it after Thanksgiving.

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