Alexandra Drenth
Press release:

Exhibition 'Talking Threads' opens 8 June in Wereldmuseum Rotterdam

Talking Threads opens on 8 June 2023. With this exhibition, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam shows the enormous variety of embroidery, largely from its own collection, made by people all over the world. It focuses on the comprehensive significance of embroidery as decoration, as a cultural expression, as a language through which stories are told and as an expression of group and individual identity. Talking Threads puts the spotlight on the often unknown makers whose hands created and keep creating all those beautiful works.

Wereldmuseum Rotterdam's exhibition addresses developments in society in recent years. People have rediscovered crafts as a meaningful activity and as answers to the growing need for slow living: living more attentively, in the present moment. The museum's collection provides a great source of inspiration and arouses awe of the technical ingenuity with which the works were made. 

The exhibition features approximately 200 embroideries. Some 170 objects come from the museum's own embroidery collection. Together they form a visual spectacle and, on top of that, they offer an unexptected depth by the underlying, less visible stories. An embroidered canvas depicting Rotterdam during World War II will be on display, as well as a selection of Chilean arpilleras, embroidered, often colourful representations of daily life, silently created by women during the dictatorship of Pinochet (1973-1990). Several contemporary artists use embroidery as a tool for communicating their messages as well. For a moment time stands still, when you look at a former Catholic cloak full of poetic embroidery by the Dutch Alexandra Drenth. And the compelling work by Indian artist Rucha Kulkarni calls attention to the unknown makers in the fast fashion industry in a most pressing way.  

The makers and their environment

To embroider, you do not need much: a needle, a thread and a piece of fabric. But there are variations to these basics, the exhibition shows. People use whatever is available. Leather, plastic and tree bark, work well as a base. Porcupine quills and animal or human hair can be used to stitch. The same goes for the motifs, which often derived from the natural environment or from cultural traditions, and are constantly revised by all kinds of influences. Embroidery played a major role in showing one's position in the community. Specific luxury materials such as gold and silver thread were applied to textiles by specialists and worn by members of the elite. The embroideries in the exhibition have their origins in Suriname, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Japan and Iran, among others. They tell us about the world as materialisations of cultural, religious, political, social and personal stories. 

The people behind the embroideries

The hands that attentively embroider often belong to women. Their names are usually unknown. With unimaginable skill and creativity, they embroider to make the world a bit more beautiful, to explain or contradict. To tell stories that should not be forgotten. With the impressive works made with love, patience and resilience, Talking Threads in Wereldmuseum Rotterdam shows that this art is of all times and very much alive.  

Talking Threads - Embroidery
8 June - 22 October 2023, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam 


note to the editors, not for publication:
If you have any questions, please contact Zdenka Fieggen, press officer with NMVW and Wereldmuseum at