Fabric of Life

Altmann, Karin (2016). Fabric of Life: Textile Arts in Bhutan – Culture, Tradition and Transformation, Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH. ISBN: 978-3-11-043795-9. Softback, 435 pp., extensive glossary, bibliography. Price: €49.95.

There are very few books about the textile tradition of Bhutan and this book totally makes up for this deficiency. It is clear from this in-depth and extensive study that textiles are an important part of the everyday and spiritual life (Buddhism) of the Bhutanese. It is worth noting that the weavers are women, while the few embroideries, patchwork  and appliqués  are made by men. This is because in many cases locally produced woven textiles are regarded as secular, while embroideries are part of the religious life - imported textiles from China and India have long been used for a wide range of religious items basically because they were regarded as more expensive and exotic. The book looks at and explains many aspects of the Bhutanese textile world and includes fascinating historical and modern details and information. There are many illustrations that really help to tell the story of Bhutanese textiles, clothing and religious life.

Recommendation: A must for anyone who is interested in Bhutanese life and culture, those working in (northern) Indian subcontinent textiles and indeed those interested in the relationship between daily life objects and the spiritual world. The main problem is that there is no index to help navigate through this fascinating study.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

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