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PH Embassy Mounts T’nalak Exhibit in London Fashion Week

A traditional t’nalak mat serves as a fitting backdrop to a T’boli tiger’s eye beaded necklace and a T’boli blouse embellished with handcrafted mother of pearl beads.  All artefacts were brought to London from Mindanao for the exhibition.  Photo courtesy of Stacy Garcia

26 February 2019 LONDON—The Philippine Embassy in London mounted a capsule exhibit on the traditional and contemporary uses of t’nalak, the traditional woven textile of South Cotabato’s T’boli community.  The exhibit took place alongside the first Haute Culture Talks Series called T’nalak: Unravelling the Secrets of the Dream Weavers at London’s posh Kensington High Street on 22 February 2019.

The exhibit featured a mix of artefacts and photographs to vividly tell the story of how the t’nalak evolved from a sacred woven textile used mainly by the T’boli for ceremonial purposes to a much-coveted fabric in the international fashion and industrial design circles.

“By shedding light on the significance of the t’nalak to the T’boli community, we are cultivating a deeper sense of respect and appreciation for one of the Philippines’ most beautiful traditional textiles,” said Madame Linda F. Lagdameo, spouse of Ambassador Antonio M. Lagdameo.  “By providing context, we are also introducing different ways of perceiving the textile.”

The event, which took place through the patronage of Madame Lagdameo, aims to pay homage to the Philippines’ right weaving traditions and to raise greater awareness on what traditional Philippine textiles mean to the communities that have been producing them.

The capsule exhibit was curated by the Embassy’s Cultural Officer, Stacy Danika Alcantara-Garcia, who also led the discussion on the fabric and the T’boli community.

“It is fascinating and inspiring to see how new generations of designers are closely working with weaving communities in order to learn age-old techniques and design traditions,” said Alcantara-Garcia.  “When designers co-create with weaving masters and communities and when they incorporate sustainable ways in fashion, they contribute significantly in keeping this beautiful tradition alive.”

The T’boli weavers are known as ‘dream weavers’ because of their unique creative process in which the design of the fabric is woven based on images they claim to have seen in their dreams through a spirit known as Fu Dalu, the spirit of the abaca or hemp.  The T’boli community are concentrated in southern Philippines, particularly in the settlements surrounding Lakes Sebu and Seloton in South Cotabato.

Rolls of t’nalak in traditional and contemporary colours and patterns are exhibited together with brass and mother of pearl minaudiers incorporating the textile as the focal point of the design.  The minaudiers on the display are among the designs of VESTI CEO and award-winning designer Martha Rodriguez who hails from Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. Photo by Stacy Garcia

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