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Sunday, March 13, 2016


 “Lao-Tai Textiles and the Mythic Imagination”

Ellison Banks Findly
Distinguished Professor of Religion and Asian Studies, Trinity College, Hartford, CT

In northeastern Laos, the powerful ritual textile emerges from the symbiotic relationship between the shaman and the weaver.   Professor Ellison Banks Findly will describe how, as the shaman chants out visual images in his trance narrative, the weaver translates what she hears into mythic, hybrid images on the loom.  In classical shamanism, one of the standard elements is an imagetic flow internal to the shaman’s visual experience.  This, and the flight of the shaman, help link the Lao-Tai tradition to other shamanic practices worldwide.  It also helps explain why the transformative ritual textile, with mythic, hybrid designs, is so central to Lao-Tai culture.  This program is in conjunction with the current Fowler in Focus exhibition, “Spirits in the Loom: Lao-Tai Textiles.”  The intriguing textiles in this exhibition, collected by Professor Findly in northeastern Laos and produced by Tai weavers, reflect religious and spiritual beliefs, incorporating Buddhist and Hindu mythology and shamanistic practices. Findly’s extensive research illuminates how women in these communities interpret the significance of the images, designs and materials in the textiles they produce and use.

Ellison Banks Findly is the Scott M. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.  She has published books on Indian painting, Mughal women, donation in Buddhism, the philosophy of plants in India, women in Buddhism, and Spirits in the Loom: Religion and Design in Lao-Tai Textiles (White Lotus, 2014).  A companion volume, Tending the Spirits:  The Shamanic Experience in Northeastern Laos, came out in winter of 2016.  She currently teaches courses Hinduism, Buddhism, and Indian and Buddhist art.



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