The Royal Asiatic Society presents:
Aisa Martinez (British Museum) – Omani Costumes
‘Dress studies’ is a relatively new academic field whose major theories and case studies emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Joanne Eicher, one of the earliest scholars, states that clothing and dress are part of a complex system of symbols and meaning. Kuchler and Miller (2005) argue that clothing is a living part of culture and society, expanding upon Appadurai’s ‘social life of things’ (1988). The lecture will explore how regional styles of Omani dress reveal the individual wearer’s age, wealth, socio-economic status, and religious or ethnic affiliation. Elements and details in a garment’s shape, colour, use or non-use of certain embellishments and materials, go beyond the individual wearer and serve as evidence of trade routes and commodities integral in Oman’s place within the western Indian Ocean trade network.
Aisa Martinez began her journey in studying dress and adornment in the Arabian Peninsula in 2007 during a Fulbright research fellowship in Muscat, Oman. She volunteered with the Centre for Omani dress, cataloguing a growing dress collection of pieces from nearly every corner of the Sultanate of Oman. She completed her MA in social anthropology in 2010 at SOAS, focusing her studies on Omani men’s national dress and national identity. She also helped organize the British Museum’s 2011 display on Omani silver jewellery and costume. From late 2011 until early 2014, she was a research fellow with the London Middle East Institute at SOAS, focusing on embroidery and embellishment in Saudi women’s dress. During this time, she spent three months doing fieldwork and travelling around Saudi Arabia. She is currently a project curator with the ZNM Project at the British Museum.
Introduction by Sami de Giosa (RAS):