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Garments of Devotion and Valor: Textiles, Tabards, and Trade



I am embarking on a yearlong sabbatical blending my passion for history, textiles, and material culture with an exploration of trade networks and sacred garments. This project aims to illuminate the tabard's evolution and its significance in trade, textiles, cultural identity, and religious iconography. By examining its historical context and cross-cultural depictions during the Byzantine and Medieval periods, my study will highlight the tabard's role in symbolizing allegiance, martial valor, and spiritual protection.


The chosen regions offer a rich blend of cultures, religions, and traditions, providing a unique perspective on how these elements influenced textile production, trade, and costume. The interplay between folk, military, and religious wear will unravel historical narratives interlaced within the fabrics that clothed both historical figures and common people, emphasizing the tabard's cultural and religious significance. I am particularly interested in exploring how the tabard has been represented and utilized across different cultures and religious narratives.


This endeavor is not merely academic; it is a personal voyage aimed at uncovering narratives around identity, family, and fidelity. My fieldwork will include critical archaeological sites, studying artifacts, textiles, remnants of trading posts, museums, collections, and artisans' ateliers. Additionally, I will incorporate a practical component by creating fabric collages and reconstructed tabards based on my research, blending historical accuracy with contemporary interpretation.


Part 1 – Fall 2024: Empires in Dialogue

Exploring Textiles, Devotion, and the Tabard in Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman Trade Routes

This phase will take place in Venice, Croatia, and Istanbul, cultural centers repeatedly in dialogue through the Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman empires. These locations are rich with historical artifacts crucial to understanding the tabard's evolution in the context of trade, textiles, and cultural identity. This phase will also involve creating fabric collages inspired by the diverse textiles encountered and reconstructing historical tabards using both traditional and modern techniques.


Part 2 – Spring 2025: Hidden in the Fabric

Devotion and Identity in Spain and New Spain

This phase will continue exploring textiles, tabards, and trade into the 14th-17th centuries, focusing on cross-cultural representations of St. Michael and other figures who repeatedly appear across Abrahamic faiths. It will investigate how Crypto-Jews (Marranos) and Crypto-Muslims (Moriscos) expressed devotion under persecution in Spain and the New World. The interweaving of art, cultural heritage, and identity through their fashion will be a key focus.

Research will result in talks, articles, and a practical component expanding to include tabards made of fabric collages depicting intricate designs and patterns from these periods and regions, reflecting the syncretic nature of these cultural exchanges.


Threads of Valor and Cultural Collage

This project, "Threads of Valor," embarks on a comprehensive exploration of sacred garments, focusing on the tabard and its significance across trade networks from Byzantium to New Spain. By examining the historical and cultural contexts of the tabard, the project delves into its role in symbolizing allegiance, martial valor, and spiritual protection. This study offers a unique perspective on the intersection of trade, textiles, and religious iconography, uncovering the narratives woven into the fabric of these garments.


The accompanying "Cultural Collage" aspect highlights how tabards, textiles, and religious identity intersect across various empires. By exploring the cross-cultural depictions and uses of the tabard, this component emphasizes the garment's role in different cultural and religious narratives. It examines the influence of trade routes and the blend of traditions that shaped the production and significance of textiles and garments in Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, and Spanish contexts.

Together, "Threads of Valor" and "Cultural Collage" provide a holistic view of the tabard's evolution, tracing its journey through diverse empires and periods, and showcasing its enduring impact on cultural and religious identities.

 

-Val Ramshur

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