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 Post subject: motifs
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 6:12 pm 

Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 175
Location: east coast
Greetings to all and at the risk of alienating new friends -

Since there is so much discussion about individual motifs and their possible origins, I thought I'd add my little bit.

As you many know, I am not a big fan of the presumed "Dong Son" origin of VERY ELEMENTARY graphic shapes fround in tribal cultures around the world for various reasons. Some of these reasons include my own observations that such simple graphic shapes as spirals, "keys", rhombs" etc., are often spontaneously generated by "doodlers" in freehand cursive drawings not even restricted by the generating mechanism (freehand pencil say vs weaving constrained in vertical and horizontal directions) and are also found on artifacts from cultures too far removed from the the Dong Son site and presumed influenced cultures. I believe I read somewhere (I'll try to track it down) that some of these simple motifs found on the drums were found even earlier at remote locations predating the Dong Son culture.

It also seems a bit patronizing to assume that other later peoples such as the Iban in Borneo were not intellectually capable of coming up with these simple graphic shapes on their own -

I have played with simple repetitive shapes such as simple up and down "steps" and by simple juxtaposition formed "arrows" and such almost accidentally - emergent patterns you might call them.

But in anycase, I have been intrigued by a very simple motif consisting of a circle with a dot in the center which I have noticed appears in a very wide variety of times, cultures and places. While at the museum at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia last weekend, (an excellent anthropological museum by the way) I took several photos of these dots circumscribed by circles as examples which I post. I also post a poor picture in my files of some found on what I presume is a "dibble" stick from the Iban (Mark - help me out here). The interesting thing is that these circle/dots are almost always the same size making me think there might be some object found in nature which is used as a tool but I don't really know.

I see what are clearly birds with such eyes depicted on ancient artifacts incuding the Dong Son drums (please!).

Variants of the circle/dot sometimes appear as a square with a dot or square inside.

It is most likely just my very limited knowledge but does anyone have ideas or more information?

American Indian rock paintings, scratchings, from 1000 years ago and earlier also show these elementary forms including humanoid figures, etc. I don't have permission to use the pix from the books yet but will try to get itl

File comment: note the circles with center dots elements on the stick.
dots_and_circles_.jpg [ 37.09 KiB | Viewed 3632 times ]
File comment: lots of examples in terracotta I presume.
circles with dot 2.jpg
circles with dot 2.jpg [ 29.76 KiB | Viewed 3632 times ]
File comment: This 760-750 BC Attic example shows lots of motifs including the universal swastika which is also found on American indian baskets prior to WWII. Today people cannot bring themselves to use the ancient sanscrit (?) word "swastika" so they call i
circles and swastika.jpg
circles and swastika.jpg [ 40.16 KiB | Viewed 3632 times ]
File comment: circles and dots with the background forming the circle and dot. Or alternatively, two concentric circles. Vessle is metal.
circle with dot.jpg
circle with dot.jpg [ 36.09 KiB | Viewed 3632 times ]
File comment: these circles and dots were probably pressed in.
circle with dot 1.jpg
circle with dot 1.jpg [ 20.57 KiB | Viewed 3632 times ]


Last edited by john on Fri Jul 09, 2004 6:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2004 8:09 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1989
Location: Canterbury, UK

[Thank you for your editing work! I have amended one photo from 640 to 600 pix wide (as, because the forum layout creates a margin to the left with the details of the message poster we don't get the full 640 pix width - although it seems as if we do when in the screen for creating the post and its preview screen.)]

I find these the occurrence of these designs very interesting. There is a bell ringing somewhere at the back of mind of having read something about such marks but I am afraid it is too illusive at the moment to feel there is much chance of pinning it down.

I tend to think that many of the designs and motifs in textiles are strongly influenced by the techniques of execution. I am very hesitant to see 'influences' when designs appear in many parts of the world. Having said that, there can be times when particular designs do seem to 'signpost' links between different groups. I am even more wary of interpreting designs as having particular meanings and directly representing people, animals and ideas.

John, whether your dots within circles have a special meaning or result from a particular tool or tools delivering a crisp and attractive design is something which is likely to remain a matter of conjecture.

on-line tribal textiles resource

PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2004 5:33 pm 

Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 175
Location: east coast
I am posting two Iban sungkit pieces which are clearly patola designs. The surprising thing is that so far as I know (which is not so far at that), no heirloom patola cloths have been found among the Iban. Of course they might easily have been lost from wars, fires, climate, etc. Still, these are almost carbon copies of Indian designs and do not seem to have suffered the "morphing" which results from repeated copying especially from memory.

In addition to these two patolu design sungkits, I am also posting a very rare Iban pua consisiting of "circles and dots". It appears that the warp was folded (horizontally) across the warp (above and below the center) as well as at least once vertically along the warp. Judging from the 6 humanoid figures at the top and bottom borders, there was at least one vertical fold. In any case, a mind boggling amoung of ikating was involved not to mention the skill.

This empty center design is called "Beli Belumpung" and was considered extremely dangerous for the weaver to make. Apparently this one was also used to collect heads. There is another example of this one at the Tun Jugah gallery in Kuching and owned by Margaret Linggi.

File comment: A very rare Iban ikat pua with "circles and eyes" motifs. Margaret Linggi calls it Beli Lelikut (name found in oral tradition songs "timang" of the Iban)

74" x35"

pua eyes.jpg
pua eyes.jpg [ 188.54 KiB | Viewed 3602 times ]
File comment: An Iban sungkit shoulder cloth most likely. A Indian patolu design.

77" x 16"

connesseur sungkit.jpg
connesseur sungkit.jpg [ 286.89 KiB | Viewed 3602 times ]
File comment: An old Iban Sungkit pua. All natural dyes and handspun thread. Deep rich red/maroon.

The design is obviously from an Indian patolu.

About 7' x 4'.

iban sungkit patola.jpg
iban sungkit patola.jpg [ 139.98 KiB | Viewed 3601 times ]

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