Now open – Lubaina Himid: Lost Threads

Lubaina Himid: Lost Threads
19 January – 21 April 2024

The Holburne Museum is delighted to present Lost Threads by Turner prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid CBE (b.1954). Lost Threads is one of Himid’s most expansive and dramatic works and will be installed in three locations across the museum.

Weaving and flowing across the front façade and around the permanent collections, Lost Threads sees 400m of vibrant Dutch wax fabric pieces transform the spaces of the Holburne Museum. Reflecting the movement of the oceans and rivers that have been used to transport cotton, yarn and enslaved people throughout history, Lost Threads traces the paradoxes of textile production and circulation by engaging with its material implications.

The vibrantly coloured and intricately patterned fabric in the installation dominates West African markets. It is now globally recognised as quintessentially “African” although the cloth was originally forged by Dutch colonial companies attempting to mechanically reproduce handmade Javanese batik cloth in Holland. When this failed to take off in Southeast Asia, Dutch traders began to sell the cloth in West African markets. The patterns were modified to fit local tastes and quickly became popular, ultimately becoming an essential everyday consumer good. However, today the majority of Dutch designs available on African markets are low-cost reproductions made in China, such as the fabric used in Lost Threads which exposes the role of colonisation in the formation of cultural identity.

Though recognised as ‘African’ cloth, these textiles have a complex lineage and identity that reflects a historic and continuing flow of labour, trade and money. Building on her belief that textiles are about people, Lost Threads continues Himid’s exploration into the making of clothing and histories of colonisation, female labour, migration and globalisation, and asks: How do we see multiple things at once? How do we thread different histories through a space? How do we open up conversations to engage with the complicated history of colonialism today?

Lubaina Himid said: “When I develop creative interventions in historical buildings, I’m doing a lot of the work with fabric or found objects, but the building also does a lot of the work. Audiences may already know about local history or the collection and come with lots of their own knowledge – I invite them to have a conversation with me through this artwork, to experience a different view of the history that threads its way through the museum.”

The installation of the work, which was originally shown in East Lancashire as part of the British Textile Biennial 2021, is the first to be overseen by Layla Gatens, the new Curator of Contemporary Art at the Holburne.

Holburne director, Chris Stephens, said: “We are delighted to present Lubaina Himid’s Lost Threads, a powerful and ambitious installation which opens the Holburne’s contemporary art programme for 2024. Spread across the museum, the exhibition will offer a unique opportunity for audiences in the South-West to engage with Lubaina’s rich artistic practice and to consider the questions the piece raises about global movements and the legacies of colonialism.”

The exhibition opens on Friday 19 January.
Book your tickets in advance or pay on arrival. Free entry for Members.


Lubaina Himid, Lost Threads. Photo Jo Hounsome