Blanket Stories: Textile Society, R.R. Stewart, Ancient One is a site-specific installation commissioned by the United States Department of State’s office of Art in Embassies for the new embassy in Islamabad.
The project references the historical significance of textiles in the early Muslim world, often characterized as a having been a “textile society.” R.R. Stewart was a New York-born botanist who spent most of his life traveling on foot throughout Pakistan studying the plants of the region. His impressive collection of plant specimens eventually became the basis of the country’s National Herbarium in Islamabad. The term “Ancient One” refers to the early lands and civilizations that have come to be known as Pakistan. It also refers to the Seneca word Uk’sode Gowan, meaning both “great-grandmother” and “ancient one.”
The installation will be a three-story-tall interior sculpture for the new embassy’s atrium, composed of 400 wool or other natural-fiber blankets, collected from the community and assembled into one totem-like column which will enable the intermingling of diverse narratives including American, Pakistani, Native American, Islamic, and many others from around the globe. In a multitude of colors, textures, patterns, and worn bits, the installation will evoke associations and conversations about the rich history of the textile trade as well as the importance of cultural exchange in the Islamic world.