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Batiks Collected by President Obama's Mother on View at the Textile Museum this Summer
Sarong (lower body wrapper) Java, north coast. Batik patterning on cotton. Ann Dunham Collection.
WASHINGTON, DC.- For two weeks only this summer, batik patterned textiles from the collection of Ann Dunham, President Obama’s mother, will be on view at The Textile Museum. This marks the final stop in a national tour of the exhibition A Lady Found a Culture in its Cloth: Barack Obama’s Mother and Indonesian Batiks. Washingtonians and visitors to the nation’s capital will not want to miss this unique look at the Obama family and the Southeast Asian culture from which these fabrics originated! A Lady Found a Culture in its Cloth will be on view at The Textile Museum August 9-23, 2009. The Textile Museum is presenting the exhibition in coordination with the Embassy of the Indonesia and co-hosting a gala event with the embassy at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Saturday, August 8. The exhibition is made possible with the support by President Obama’s sister, Maya Soetoro Ng, and her family.

Ann Dunham loved and collected many handcrafted objects, including textiles. As a teenager, she wove wall hangings in earthy shades of brown and green for her own enjoyment. After marrying Lolo Soetoro and moving to Indonesia in the 1960s with her son Barack Obama, she was naturally drawn to the vibrant textile arts of her new home. She began to amass a collection of Javanese batiks — fabrics patterned by using a wax-resist process — from which this exhibition is drawn. These textiles were readily seen on city and village streets in this Southeast Asian nation at that time.

Her interests in batik patterned cloth were complex. She did not acquire rare or expensive pieces, but rather contemporary examples that were an expression of a living tradition, patterned with both classic designs and those of passing fashion. The lives of the batik makers also fascinated her. While earning degrees in anthropology from the University of Hawaii in the 1970s and 1980s, she focused on how to help craftspeople, like those creating batik in Indonesia. She worked with the Ford Foundation in Jakarta and later with USAID and the World Bank, guiding projects beneficial to poor women through micro and small enterprises. She eventually set up microcredit projects all over Indonesia as well as in Pakistan and Kenya.

The wide variation in the batiks on view in this exhibition reflects the range of colors and patterns that captured her imagination and provides a window into Indonesian culture.

Textile Museum | Barack Obama | Indonesian | Batiks | University of Hawaii | Lolo Soetoro | World Bank |

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