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Art of the Zo: Textiles from Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh

November 11, 2015–March 20, 2016

Behold exquisite weavings of the Zo people of South Asia, from ceremonial tunics, wrap skirts, and mantles to loincloths, capes, and blankets.

This exhibition offers a look at beautiful woven textiles of the Zo people of Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh. It spotlights traditional weavings worn for daily life and ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and feasts of merit. Patterns, techniques, and local variations are closely examined, revealing the extraordinary beauty and craftsmanship of these distinctive creations.

The Zo consider weaving to be the highest form of art. They believe their textiles confer status to the weaver and document his or her status in this life and the afterlife. Art of the Zo presents how these woven treasures are made and worn, and features 20th-century examples from specific locality and cultural divisions, such as the Northern Chin; Southern Chin; Asho; and Khumi, Khami, and Mro.

A talented Zo weaver is prized by her community for her skills. Using the most basic of looms, she can create textiles that range from unpatterned indigo-dyed cloth and simple, colorful stripes to complex weaves that could be mistaken for embroidery. Although most Zo have adopted Burmese and western attire, some embrace traditional weaving techniques in an effort to preserve their culture.

This exhibition draws from the Museum’s collection of Zo textiles and loans from Barbara and David Fraser, authors of Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh (2005). In addition to tunics, wrap skirts, mantles, loincloths, capes, and blankets, the exhibition includes a loom with a partially woven cloth next to a finished example from the Museum’s collection. A video presentation, photographic details of selected works, and graphics of specific weave structures further demonstrate the virtuosic skill of Zo weavers.

Main Building


Support for this exhibition is provided by The Coby Foundation, Ltd.


Dilys E. Blum, The Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles with consulting curators Barbara and David Fraser

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