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These articles were excerpted from Tapestry, a weekly newsletter that examines the arts and entertainment world in Charlotte and North Carolina.

Charlotte Museum of History showcases diversity of the Philippines through textiles

“Threaded Traditions" is an exhibit featuring contemporary Filpino textiles. It is available at the Charlotte Museum of History until July 2024.
Layna Hong
“Threaded Traditions," an exhibit featuring contemporary Filpino textiles, is now on display at the Charlotte Museum of History.

The Charlotte Museum of History is marking Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANPI) Heritage Month with “Threaded Traditions,” an exhibit highlighting contemporary Filipino textiles.

This collection will be on display through July. The museum will also be delving into the history behind the textiles tonight at 6:30 p.m. with a screening of three short documentaries about the unique weaving practices across the Southeast Asian island nation.

Nolan Dahm, the museum programs and exhibits manager, hopes that visitors will gain an understanding of the breadth of the diversity in both the Philippines and here in Charlotte.

“Just like in the United States, there's regional cultures, there's regional methods of creating art,” Dahm said. “And so I hope that that's what people take away from the documentary is that the Asian community in Charlotte is diverse. But in addition, even among those communities, there's cultural differences as well.”

The U.S. and the Philippines have an intertwined history, due to American colonization of the Phiippines. In North Carolina, Filipinos are the third-largest Asian ethnic community, according to 2020 U.S. census data.

“In a lot of ways, the story that we’ve told at this museum was, sort of, literally and metaphorically black and white,” he said. “What we've been trying to do in the last few years is to really recognize that Charlotte is much more than that story. That story really is foundational to Charlotte, but Charlotte is also much more than that.”

After the documentary screenings, there will be a conversation with exhibit curator Chiara Cox, who is Filipina and based in Columbia, South Carolina. Cox works to promote her culture through art and music with the Filipino American Association of Greater Columbia (FAAGC).

For “Threaded Traditions,” Cox worked with HABI: The Philippine Textile Council, an organization based in the Philippines that aims to “preserve, promote and enhance Philippine Textiles.”

“We came up with a collection that had [items] from the north, the middle of the Philippines and the north, to show the different types of weaving traditions in the whole Philippines, not just in one area,” Cox said.

The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, but the three main regions are Luzon (the north), Visayas (the central) and Mindanao (the south).

In Luzon, there are a lot of cotton materials used, as well as beading work. In Visayas, weavers use piña, a traditional fiber made from the leaves of a pineapple. Down south in Mindanao, many of the pieces featured have Islamic influences and utilize abacá, a fiber made from banana leaves.

"Threaded Traditions" features pieces from the three main regions of the Phillippines.
Layna Hong
"Threaded Traditions" features pieces from the three main regions of the Philippines.

When coming up with “Threaded Traditions,” Cox said she wanted people to see contemporary pieces that could be purchased from Filipino weavers today. And while traditional art can be bulky and expensive, clothing is something that everyone can relate to.

“In the [American] South, we have a huge quilting tradition,” she said. “And we have Native Americans who also have their own textiles, so I thought — maybe this will be the way to promote Filipino culture in the South.”

Cox’s family is from Manila, and she began a deep dive into her Filipino culture after her grandmother died in 2019.

“With her gone, it was like ‘She’s gone, the rock to the Philippines is gone, who am I?' So I really wanted to get back into my roots,” Cox said.

She hopes that with this exhibit Filipinos, especially from the younger generation, will be proud of where they came from and want to learn more about their culture.

“The Filipinos weren’t just a colony of the U.S., we weren’t just a colony of the Spanish,” Cox said. “We also have our own tribal weaves that are so beautiful. The Indigenous people have such beautiful artwork.”

“Documentary Screening: Threaded Traditions” is on Thursday, May 23, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Charlotte Museum of History at 3500 Shamrock Drive. The event is free. More information here.

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Layna Hong is a digital producer at WFAE. She is a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, where she concentrated in graphic design and reporting.