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 Post subject: Iban Kain Bidang
PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:50 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 02, 2007 7:58 am
Posts: 10
Location: Malaysia
Hi all....

You might have read about this posting in the 'book" thread but maybe this thread will be more suitable.

In any case, I have recently purchased two Iban kain bidang which I attached the pictures below. I have read the article written by one of our forum members in the magazine "Arts of Asia" and noticed that the borders are different. As you can see, my examples are multicoloured while the examples in the article are mainly brown/red in colour.

Can anyone identify why is there a difference? What about the motifs? Is there any meaning to it?

I know that the talismanic Pua is filled with meaning but the kain bidang is less symbolic than the Pua. However, the motifs are quite similar.

Thanks!


Attachments:
iban_kain_bidang2w.jpg
iban_kain_bidang2w.jpg [ 69.07 KiB | Viewed 9655 times ]
iban_kain_bidang1w.jpg
iban_kain_bidang1w.jpg [ 67.95 KiB | Viewed 9655 times ]
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:44 pm 
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Dear Edwinooi,

I saw with pleasure the two bidang you posted. According to the literature Iban women use the same motives for bidang (or kain) as for the pua. The difference is just that bidang have not the religious meanings, nor the ritual functions as pua.
Unfortunately I can’t identify the pattern of your skirts.
Regarding the border stripes I share your interrogation. Literature is not so precise and it is not clear to me if the borders are a kind of signature of the weaver. On the first book by Traude Gavin, we can notice than, on some photos the pua display for the Gavai festival, side to side (so we can guess, belonging to the same family) have the same borders. May be John who is the specialist of Iban textiles on the forum knows about.
Whatever, I post a bidang my wife offered to me for Xmas. It comes from the Batang area, near Kalimantan frontier. The weaving is very tight and ikat strangely looks like Sumba Hinggi!
Gérard


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File comment: Bidang from Batang near Kalimantan border
Bidang from Batang near kalimantan border.jpg
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 Post subject: Kain Bidang
PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 7:12 am 
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Location: Malaysia
Hi Gerard;

Thank you very much for your information. It is great to meet another collecter of Dayak textiles although I would fairly new in this field.

I have not bought any books related to Dayak textiles yet and would certainly plan to do so in order to appreciate and investigate more about what I have bought.

It would be great to know whether the borders are of any importance or whether it a signature of a family or weaver? Based on what I have understood, borders of the kind I have shown is usually from the mid 20th century unlike earlier examples which would have borders like you have attached below or from examples in the arts of asia articles. Do you agree?

In any case, it would be great to get some more input from another expert like John or yourself on this kain bidang.

Thanks.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:33 pm 
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Hi Edwonooi

It is always a great pleasure to get in touch with an Iban textile amateur.
Certainly the stripes may be informative regarding the age of the textile. But the age of textile is always difficult to establish with some precision. Number of surely dated Iban textiles is not so large (See in the Pagan tribes of Borneo (1912) or The Natives of the Sarawak (1922) or the well-known reprint catalogue of the Cambridge museum and also the book by Edric Ong which gives samples from one family whose weavers are known. But I guess that this kind of colourful borders on the kain you posted are rather recent and you are probably right saying post-1950’s.
According to my files (I keep pictures of items on sale on the web) such coloured stripes may be from the area of upper Rajah River.
Best regards.
Gérard


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:24 pm 
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Greetings Edwinooi, Gerard and lovers of Ibanic textiles,

I don't have much to add to the excellent comments already made regarding borders and patterns on ikat skirts woven by the Ibanic women of Borneo.

A couple of thoughts as they occur to me however.

Although there is a move towards replacing the word "bidang" with more precise terms such as "kain kebat" when referring to skirts patterned by the ikat ("kebat" in iban) techinque, I find this not very helpful when wishing to refer to skirts in general which are patterned by several techniques: ikat, sungkit, pilih, sulam, etc. So although, as Trude Gavin points out, "bidang" is simply an iban language classifier for anything "flat" and not a translation of "skirt", I prefer to use it as a general reference to skirts because: 1 - it has been so used since literature reference was made to them over 100 years ago; 2- even many Iban women had become accustomed to using it to refer to skirts; 3 -no other Ibanic word seems to be used for this in the literature. "Kain" of course is simply the name for any type of fabric.

Although some motifs are found on both pua and skirts, I have yet to see an iban skirt from Sarawak with serpent or crocodile motifs which would probably have been considered totally inappropriate because of the power they represented. And while the "leech" motif is common on skirts, I have only seen one pua so far with an all leech pattern. So I think we must be a bit careful in making general statements that pua and skirts share the same motifs.

As for borders - it is my impression that border styles can be quite denotive of different ibanic groups as per my article in Arts of Asia regarding 3 ibanic groups in Kalimantan. I have not made a study of borders among the ibans of Sarawak, but I do not believe they are simply a matter of choice or "signaure" of a weaver but rather would conform to the general style of the group and therefore likely a geographic region.

Along with many others, I find the skirts woven by the Kantu' women to show the most creativity and elegance in design.

I agree with comments that Edwinooi's skirts are probably mid 1900's although again, certain styles and patterns could apparently be quite stable over several generations.

Also I encourage Gerard to continue his files as a way to build up information with the usual proviso that the source of the information is always in question. I have done the same with information I have gleaned from books and other sources, keeping it all in spreadsheets for ease of reference and manipulation.

Gerard's posted skirt from the Kalimantan border region is worth a larger picture if he could repost it up to the maximum the forum allows. It is a very attractive skirt. I would like to take a closer look it it. Gerard - do you know anymore about it - age, materials, dyes, etc? I believe some of the weavers in the Sintang area of Kalimantan are weaving again under Fr. Jacques Maessen's encouragement. I have seen pictures of some of the better pieces and they are quite impressive.

It's nice to learn that Gerard and Edwinooi are lovers of these fascinating cloths also. There are a number of us out there and the forum is an excellent way to get and keep in touch.

-John

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John


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 Post subject: Kain Bidang
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 3:08 pm 
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Hello John & Gerard;

Thank you so much for your responses. It has certainly shed light to a lot of my queries and certainly provide a better understanding of these wonderful skirts.

I have to agree with both you gentlemen that the borders of the kain bidang is usually denotive of the origins of the weaver. I have recently met another collector of Iban textiles who said that the kain bidang I had are possibly from the outer regions of Borneo closer to the cities where the tribes who made it possibly had contact with the British. Her theory which I found very interesting was that colourful borders such the one I had was influenced by the "Union Jack" of the British when they were colonising Sarawak. The Ibans incorporated the colours into their kain bidang. Conversely, less colourful borders are generally originating from tribes who inhabit the inner regions of Borneo. Do both of you agree?

Additionally, she also mentioned that apparently the borders also denotes the societal ranking of the wearer. When there is a white stripe on the border, it usually denotes that the wearer is of someone important and the further out the white stripe from the centre, the more important she is. Is there such a thing where the border in addition to indicating where it is from, it also indicates the wearer's status?

This is getting interesting. Hope to hear from both you. Thanks.

PS I just bought a copy of Traude Gavin's The Women's War Path...Looking forward to reading it and hopefully contribute more!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 6:43 pm 
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Edwin

I think that Traude Gavin's more recent book (2003) 'Iban ritual textiles' published by KITLV Press is particularly worthwhile although not such a visual feast as 'The Women's Warpath'. (There are a lot of photos but the majority are black and white and smaller than 'Warparth'.) It is based - with some updating including the conclusion(s) - on her doctoral thesis. I found it particularly interesting as it includes more about technique and the effect that technique has on the designs and that designs may have names as labels - almost an aide memoire or identifier to the Iban woman - but may not necessarily be symbolic or coded. Patterns have titles and labels. Titles may indicate rank (the rank of the weaver related to the complexity of the pattern) and the label as an identifier of the pattern. Overall the patterns are essentially decorative and decorative concerns are what primarily guide the weaver. Much of her conclusion in contrary to some of the established thought e.g. Haddon.

I have read the book through once and dipped in and out several times. I know that I need to read it through again now that I have an idea of the whole to absorb it properly. It is quite hard work (back and forward to check the references to different photos) but well worth it. Most of the comment is on pua rather than the skirts.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 6:50 pm 
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Interesting theory about the colored borders being mimics of the British Union Jack. It is suggestive but I have some reservations about it. The Union Jack colors - like those in the American flag - are red, white and blue. The colors in the bidang borders include green and yellow. The orignal native colors are red, white and blue-black anyway.

Further, colored borders are fairly recent (early to mid 1900's?) but the British had a strong presence in Sarawak beginning in the mid to late 1800's. One would have expected such mimicking to have arisen much earlier.

I would be more stongly inclined to believe that it is simply the ready availability and ease of use of commercial dyes and threads with strong colors not available from native materials. Generally, commercial dyes and threads were more readily available closer to trade centers and easier trade routes. Consequently weavings from the Baleh area are more conservative in retaining native materials.

The use of such strong "foreign" colors once they became available is common to other cultures. The American Navajo indians for example began weaving blankets with colors and pattens which became termed "eye dazzlers" using bright commercial dyes traders brought in from the East coast of the US back in the early 1900's with the introduction of the railroad across the US. Collectors, tourists and others generally disliked these strong "artifical" colors and patterns in the blankets because they did not "look native" and consequently those blankets were not much valued and until fairly recently, they could be bought for hardly anything. Now there has been a pronounced change and old "eye dazzlers" can command a very hefty price. Mutatis mutandis.

Then there are the stories about the colors in borders indicating the status of the weaver. I have read or heard that white OUTERMOST borders in pua could only be used by the highest status weaver but I have not found the supported source of this statement. But in any case, I have never heard the same for bidang. Pua of course (as well as weavers) had "ranks". Again I suspect that border colors in bidang had more to do with regional conventions than the status of the weaver. This may make some sense because many bidang (as well as pua) with or without colored borders are not very well done technically. One would expect a high status weaver to also be an accomplished one (barring hand, finger and eye infirmities).

As an aside, I have observed on the vase majority of bidang I have ever seen regardless of the area, that the very,very outermost color, sometimes only a few threads wide and difficult to see unless you look closely, is red. I don't know why.

But again, the aesthetics of collectors are not always those of the artist/maker. See my above comments on "eye dazzlers". Obviously the weavers liked these strong colors (as well as commercial thread) very much. They brought in a new color palate as well as being incredibly easy to use compared to the uncertain compounding of native dyes. It required the influence of eastern traders in the US to get the Navajo to "tone down" their weavings to bring them in line with what collectors and tourists wanted.

It was only the highly conservative cultures (among American Indian or Iban) which retained the collector-prized "native" look.

But I also strongly encourage more emphasis on the analysis of the art and aesthetics of the weavings in addition to the anthropological.

To me , the best Iban weavings strike deeper into the heart and soul of the prepared viewer than those of other cultures. I am not sure why but I have my guesses. Much like religious paintings of the Renaissance.

I would be interested in what others think as well on this issue.

Sorry this got so long winded.

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John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 8:43 pm 
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I would add a few more thoughts to the colored borders - Union Jack comments.

Once colored threads became available, it was only natural that they would be used in borders and as stripes. Self colored threads would not of course fit into the main design unless designs (and motifs) were completely altered. And because of what was mostl likely their attractiveness and prestige (trade materials) they were given some prominence by making the stripes wide. bidang and pua has striped borders for a long time prior but usually they were not so wide or prominent relatively. So the apperance of colored striped borders is more or less a natural evolution.

Here by the way (the second one) is a pua with colored borders somewhat like those of the bidangs posted. It would appear to be from the Saribas area although it is on the large side for a Saribas pua. Perhaps more toward the Baleh area which is characterized by very large pua.

The borders are commercial threads with handspun, native dye threads in the main field. Techinically very well done. Some of the curls make two complete revolutions indicating a very accomplished "ikater".

And here also is a pua with the "white outermost border stripes". I apologize for the poor quality photo.

-John


Attachments:
File comment: iban pua with white outermost border stripes.
iban pua 89.jpg
iban pua 89.jpg [ 93.03 KiB | Viewed 9530 times ]
File comment: pua with self colored border stripes.

90" x 51"

pua with colored borders.jpg
pua with colored borders.jpg [ 88.8 KiB | Viewed 9530 times ]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:18 am 
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Location: Paris
Hi all,

Much work and few health kept me away from the forum and I am just reading by now all this exchange.
It such a pleasure to share the passion for Iban fabrics with you and, also to read John’s clever comments. I would like first to react to john wish to emphasis the esthetical approach. I do agree. It’s a condition to recognize Iban weavers as artists. With the Pua from Saratok area I formerly post on the forum, I modestly try to point out the esthetical quality (in my sens) of this pua despite of some “heterodox” characteristics. Specially I was interested in the stripes that I read as an abstract painting: an exercise of equilibrium and rhythm to respond to the problem of how to “finish” or how to pass from the motif to the void.
Stripes or borders are certainly an area discharged from ritual concerns (except in the way suggested by Traude Gavin that borders keep closed the powerful motif of the centre) and thus are space more for esthetical concerns and pleasure. Of course with a greater freedom for the bidang. For this reason, I would think that colourful stripes could be a question of fashion and pleasure. We can find example at the Hmongs for instance of such a taste for fluorescent colour threads.
I promise to you, John, that in a next post I’ll try to develop my own guesses about the “deeper strike on heart” of Iban ikat. But I would be glad to read yours!

Another interesting note by John is about difference between pua and bidang. Indeed it would be very interesting to make a wide comparison of patterns use or not for both. It is something I never read mentioned in the literature. I would also note that we sometime can observe an asymmetry or a false symmetry of the stripes in bidang that I never met on pua. Obviously it can be explained by the way bidang are worn.

I am presently reading Traude Gavin recent book and I want to thank Pamela who formerly called my attention on it. It is the most extensive and precise I read on the subject and I find answer where usually I remained with questions. But, like Pamela, I’ll have to read it more than once!

To be continued...
Gérard


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