Textile Society of America



Willian Nassu

Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Willian Nassu.


Bilingualism has always been a constant in my life. My father’s side of the family migrated from Japan as my surname suggests, whereas my mother is of Polish descent. But while my father comprehends Japanese and my mother grasps some Polish, I was denied learning either languages. Since I was born and raised in Brazil, I have Portuguese as my first language, and acquired English as my second. The ability to use these two languages – sometimes mixed and other times switching – along with this multicultural background, has had some ripple effects. The first one was an inclination to experience life in a native English speaking country, which led me to move to Australia after I graduated from college, and more recently to Savannah. The second relates to how Portuguese and English are connected inside my mind, more specifically how lexical representations from my native language affect and are affected by my second language.1 A third consequence was me being an assistant translator, which resulted in a varied lexicon in both languages. It is interesting to note that the present research only came to life as a result of those three aspects described above operating together. While taking a Textile History course with Professor Jessica Smith in the Savannah College of Art and Design back in the fall of 2014, I came across a lexical inconsistency (or mental word representation that did not match) regarding the word chintz and the Portuguese word chita. My curiosity to better understand these words in both languages was the tip of the iceberg of what followed. In this paper, I will first explain such inconsistency. I will then describe the historical route and evolution of chita as a textile. Finally, I will argue that, although many believe chita and chintz to be the same fabric, chita became a Brazilian textile due to its singular design and, most importantly, to its connection with national identity.