A Small Fragment of Okinawan Bingata: Stenciled
ca. late nineteenth, early twentieth century
4 1/4" x 5 1/4", 10.5 cm x 13.25 cm
This is a marvelous, small fragment of cloth from Japan's Ryukyu Islands, or Okinawa.
Bingata, which is the name of this stencil dyed cloth, along with bashofu, the cloth woven from banana leaf stem fiber, are two of the hallmarks of Ryukyu weaving and dyeing. Not only that, they are some of the most prized cloth to hail from Japan, and its value, in Japan and abroad, is akin to gold. Bingata is a precious fabric and one held in extremely high esteem world-wide.
Bingata is a stencil dyed fabric; in many cases resist is involved, but in this case it seems color was applied directly to the cloth through stencils.
In the case of bingata cloth with a colored background, the colored pattern is skillfully applied to the cloth and then it is resisted with rice paste using a stencil guide. The background to the pattern is left open, then the entire cloth is dipped in the dye vat in order to achieve a colored base cloth.
This fragment of ramie cloth shows plum blossoms, a folding fan and what appear to be sea shells, each marvelously hand tinted.
It is not possible to express the admiration and value of bingata in Japan and throughout the world. For those of you who appreciate the textiles of Ryukyu, this small fragment is precious.