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 Post subject: The TRUE Bali Belumpong.
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 2:21 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
In his book, Iban Art: Sexual Selection & Severed Heads, Michael Heppell correctly states that "to be a bali belumpong, they will have a different design on either side of the blank space" (2005:84). Traude Gavin correctly calls it the Divided Pattern (2003:154, 214).

Many collectors have been led to believe that any Iban pua kumbu with an assymetrical mirror design in its central panel is a Bali Belumpong. Not true. Such designs are viewed by the Iban as being merely ordinary designs woven by 'lazy' weavers who took the easy route of folding the warp into two and tying the design simultaneously on two sets of warps. The true Bali Belumpong must have very different designs on either side of the blank space.

The Bali Belumpong is mostly woven by old weavers. It represents a weaver's 'final encounter' with the spiritual. It is believed that the spirit of the blank space will attempt to devour the spirit of the weaver, and she in turn attempts to 'lock' it in the blank space, and survive the completion of the cloth. It is a 'ferocious battle of two spirits', and that is why only old weavers would take this final risk at the sunset of their careers.

Is the Bali Belumpong of the highest rank in the lexicon of Iban designs and hierarchy of cloths? No. Many researchers of Iban textiles have been led to believe that the Bali Belumpong is one of the most potent designs, and therefore one of the most prestigious. This is a fallacy I must correct for the advancement of knowledge. Only weavers who do not come from high status families attempt the Bali Belumpong as it is the closest they can come to having prestige conferred upon them should they successfully complete such a cloth. For a run-of-the-mill weaver, weaving a Bali Belumpong denotes achieving spiritual maturity as her spirit has triumphed over a more powerful spirit from Sebayan (the After-Life, where all great cloths have their birth and origin). Weavers from high status families attempt other more potent designs with greater prestige associated with them (e.g. designs reserved for the Gawai Burong).

However, the Bali Belumpong is rare because not many old weavers will attempt a risky 'final battle'. Does its rarity therefore make it scientifically important for a collection of Iban material? Yes.

If you think you have a Bali Belumpong (or not), please post a photo of it in this thread and I will be happy to assist you identify it correctly.

(Dear Pamela, I have far exceeded the size limit for the photographs. I leave it in your good hands to edit accordingly. Thank you. [I just reduced the complete image in width as it was distorting the forum and, in the process, reduced the file size somewhat. I must be getting soft in my old age! - Pamela.])


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