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 Post subject: Serpents and Crocodiles
PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:40 pm 

Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 176
Location: east coast
Hi Everyone. I am posting a very large Iban pua from the Baleh area in Sarawak, Malasia on Borneo. The motif is the naga snake who is ruler of the underworld and his crocodile son Ribai. They are very common dayak images because of their putative protective powers. If you look carefully, each white headed serpent appears to be covering a smaller black headed one which I am supposing to be its consort.

The pua probably dates to the middle 1900's and is of handspun cotton and native dyes. The piece is so large that I have not been able to photograph it very well yet.

I am also posting a door with almost the same imagery. In both cases these powerful spirits were confined within borders and had food accessible for them to eat to obviate their emerging and pouncing on humans. The peoples believed that these were actual spirits and not representations. The door was collected in Kalimantan sometime in the mid 1900's and is of ironwood. According to my information, the door is from the Bidayuh Iban who used to be called the "Land Dayaks" in distinction to the "Sea Dayaks" because of the latter's association with pirating.

I am interested in finding other similar motifs from anywhere in the world, on textiles, carved, or what not.

Thanks to all.

File comment: 115" x 61". Handspun cotton, native dyes. Baleh Iban.
monumental crocs and nabau.jpg
monumental crocs and nabau.jpg [ 173.36 KiB | Viewed 5721 times ]
File comment: 57.25"x 27.5" Ironwood. Chief’s door from a Kalimantan Bidayuh longhouse (rumah)
borneo door.jpg
borneo door.jpg [ 192.92 KiB | Viewed 5721 times ]

 Post subject: crocodile motief
PostPosted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:28 am 

Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:18 am
Posts: 93
Hi John,

Here are two references that you might like to look up.

Fox, James J., 1979. Figure shark and pattern crocodile: the foundations of the textile traditions of Roti and Ndao. In Mattiebelle Gittinger (ed.) Indonesian textiles. Proceedings of the Irene Emery Roundtable on museum textiles. Washington: The Textile Museum, 39-55.

Tillman, Georg, 1940. De motieven der Batakweefsels. Cultureel Indië 2:7–15. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

The second author was so taken with the motif that he decided that it was the origin of all other motifs! I don't agree with him, but you may find his argument interesting.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2009 10:59 am 

Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2008 10:41 pm
Posts: 69
Location: Formerly Taipei -Taiwan, now Shanghai - China
I don't know much about the Dayak, but these two works are absolutely fantastic. Great pieces in their quality and also in their size ! Congratulations !

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2009 8:01 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:34 pm
Posts: 23
Location: Amsterdam

Look to Timor for reptilian imagery. The Timorese may believe they were born from the belly of a lizard (crocodile or gekho?). In any event, their warp ikats are rife with reptiles and birds (ducklings and chicks?).

Have fun!


Robert C. Clarke
Textile Collector and Researcher
International Hemp Association - Projects Manager
Society for Economic Botany - Life Member
Textile Society of America - Member

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