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 Post subject: 'Textiles from Borneo'
PostPosted: Sat Oct 05, 2013 9:17 pm 
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Textiles from Borneo: Iban, Kantu, Ketungau and Mualang Peoples - Collected by Heribert Amann. Concept and text by Heribet Amann; contributions by Brigitte Khan Majilis; black and white photographs by Hedda Morrison. Published by 5 Continents Editions, Milan 2013. ISBN 978-88-7439-651-1.

This week I chanced up the recently published book referenced above. For anyone interested in the textiles of Borneo, especially Ibanic, it is mouth-watering! Beautifully produced and printed. Very many ikat textiles but also considerably more examples of sungkit and pilih than are usually seen. There are also some interesting twined bands which I have not seen examples of before.

Heribert Amann, a classical violinist now retired, has collected textiles over 30 years. The majority of the textiles in the book were collected in the 1980s, many of them directly in the field particularly in the Saribas when 'the facilities of modern life had not yet fully arrived'. On several trips Amann travelled up the Katibas river to Rumah Api, the last longhouse on the Katibas as well as up smaller tributaries as far as Bangkit, Janan, and Tekalit. The photos by Hedda Morrison (held at Cornell University) were taken in the 1950s and 1060s when she spent over 15 years in Sarawak together with her husband, a government district official. There are some very striking images, many showing the textiles in context and in various stages of production. Four of the textiles have been carbon dated with the oldest, a pua kumbu from the Mujong river, C-14 dated as early 17th century.

Amann collected the textiles from an artistic rather than ethnographic viewpoint. His collection criteria are:
I personally consider three criteria in evaluating the quality of an Iban textile: colour, ikat and design. The first two rely on technique and skill, while the third also depends upon inspiration and creativity. The colour should be a deep red, obtained from the roots of the morinda citrifolia tree (see pua nos. 10, 11 [the one C-14 dated to the early 17th century] 12 and 14). It can only be achieved by a lengthy mordant process in which the cotton thread is treated and dried and then immersed in a dye-bath before being hung up to dry. the process is repeated until the desired colour has been achieved and this is an arduous and time consuming task. the ikat work requires trying the design onto the warps prior to weaving with great skill and precision in order to avoid a blurred pattern. The design can be a copy of an existing pattern, a variation or a completely new composition, which requires great technique and imagination."

Major patterns are identified but there is no attempt at giving them particular meaning - which I find a relief as there are very opposing views on this score. There are some broad indications of dating recognising that families may hold textiles made by their forebears and Amann cites forum member Vernon Kedit writing of textiles made by his grandmother. Vernon's 2009 paper - Restoring Panggau Libau: A Re-assessment of the 'Engkeramba' on Iban Pua Kumbu - in the Borneo Research Bulletin is cited in the bibliography as are two articles (2006 - Ceremonial Skirts of Kalimantan's Mualang, Kantu and Ketungau - and 2010 - Jewels of the Kantu: Ikat Weaings from Kalimantan Barat) in Arts of Asia by forum member John Kreifeldt. I was also intrigued to read that Amann met his wife at the home of fellow textile collector and forum member Georges Breguet!

I was unable to resist this large format and very heavy book (I nearly injured myself carrying it home!) The images speak very strongly whether of the people or the textiles. As a textile collection it is stunning and we are privileged to be able to share it via the book. There is a reference to some of the textiles now having a home in Yale University Art Gallery.

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