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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 4:37 pm 
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I have a batik sarong given to me in Indonesia in the late 70's. I was told it was dyed in human blood. In some remote villages of Indonesia the elderly when they died, were bled for dyeing purposes. This practice apparently ended around 1960. To scientifically test this sarong would mean cutting into it which is not what I want done. The blood was obviously mixed with substances and probably heated, the fabric is very soft with wonderful butterfly motifs and beautifully woven and also has the intitials WE moven in together with a number which looks like K122.

This is an ikat weave. Has anyone heard of human blood being used for dyeing in Indonesia? What would the significance of the intials and code be? Where can I find out?


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:48 pm 
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I have not heard of ikat textiles being dyed in blood - human or otherwise - in Indonesia.

Could you post a photo of the the whole textile? I am wondering whether the textile might be from Sumba. The detail shows ikat - binding for the resist - and dyeing as you say at the end of your post rather than batik - wax as the resist - which you mention at the beginning The purple dye, if natural, would be morinda citrifolia over-dyed with indigo. There are some different depths of colour that could suggest some over dyeing.

I don't know enough about Sumba textiles to be able to relate the initials and numbers to a location.

One book that comes to hand is 'Decorative Arts of Sumba' and pages 36-38 deal with dyes. (Published by the Pepin Press in 1999, ISBN 90 5496 050 7).

Possibly other forum members may be able to make comments.

I have moved this thread from 'Tribal Textile Shopping' to 'General' as this seems more appropriate.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 3:42 am 
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Thank you for your reply Pamela. This sarong has become such a mystery to me. I am attaching a photo of the full item. Do these 'tube' sarongs have a special name?


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 Post subject: From Savu
PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 5:59 am 
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May I humbly suggest that this sarong seems to be from Savu.

Bill


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 Post subject: ikat
PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 6:04 am 
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Would anyone know what the 'WE' and what looks like K122 would mean?


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:59 am 
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Bill

Do not be humble at all Bill! I quite agree, now seeing the whole textile, that it is from Savu!

Fuzzy, the key book that you need to get hold of is 'Ikats of Savu: Women Weaving History in Eastern Indonesia' by Genevieve Duggan, published in 2001 by White Lotus Press ISB 974-7534-67-3.

There are two main matrifocal origin groups in Savu called hubi (literally 'blossom'), the Hubi ai (greater blossom) and hubi iki (lesser blossom) tracing back to two sisters Muki Babo and Lou Babo. "Each Savunese can trace her/his progenitrix line back to one of the two ancestresses. The hubi have formed sub-groups in the course of time: wini (literally seeds). The hubi membersip is especially relevant in the context of marriage and funerals." (Ikats of Savu, page 9, 'Hubi: the matrifocal origin groups.)

Page 27, chapter 4, The Female Costume in of 'Ikats of Savu' says: "For tiruals, women traditionally wear a tubeskirt (ei) that covers the torso and is tied on the right side. A ei is tied on the left side is only for a deceased person." Duggan refers to the textiles as 'tubeskirts' in English.

In colours your tubeskirt does not seem to be the original, traditional colours naturally dyed. These colours would have been morinda citrifolia and indigo. The greenish/turquoise colour in yours looks as if it is a chemical dye.

Different styles distinguish the two different moiety and there is a third developed to allow more freedom which is of neutral design.

Pages 31-32 deal in detail with the dyes used and there is absolutely NO reference to blood - human or animal - being used. Duggan spent considerable periods of time in field research in Savu and the quality of her research is such that I am sure there is no way that she would shy away from reference to human blood had this been used. Having met her when she gave a talk at the Horniman Museum in London a couple of years ago before a special Savu textile exhibition I am sure that she would be totally truthful to her research. The book forms the basis of her MA research at the University of Heidelberg and she subsequently obtained her PhD from University of Gottingen. She continues to carry out research in Savu.

Page 73, Chapter 8, The Future of Savunese textiles: "Like other islands, Savu experiences a new trend in weavings. Textiles are made less and less for rituals since most of the Savunese are now Christian. Today, textiles are made for commercial purposes and increasingly a source of income since international art markets are interested in "ethnic art". commercial weavings are made with industrial yarns and most of the time with synthetic dyes. Beginning in the late 1980s rough copies of Savunese weavings were made in Java and Bali on semi-automatic looms by people who did not understand the rules applied for motifs and composition of Savunese textiles. In a desperate attempt to compete with the low price of industry Savunese weavers started to produce fast and cheap weavings on their home made back-tension looms. Now many motifs are new creations and not linked to any tradition on the island. Ikats weavings often are tailored to accommodate the modern taste...."

I really would commend the book to you. The book is currently available via White Lotus http://www.whitelotuspress.com

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:27 am 
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Thanks again Pamela for the information. I have found an email address for Geneviève Duggan and have sent her a couple of pics. I guess I'm just too curious about it because I fail to see why I'd been lied to. I didn't buy the sarong, it was a gift.

If anyone can provide me with an email address for the Indonesian Nasional Museum I'd be awfully grateful too. I've sent 4 emails to various Indonesia museums and they all bounced back undeliverable.

This is really hard work!!!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:46 am 
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You may find it difficult to get a response from Geneviève Duggan - is that email address at National University of Singapore (nus)? I believe others have found it very difficult to get a response from her.

I don't think necessarily that you have been 'lied to' but rather some over enthusiasm or even misunderstanding. The only use of blood that I have heard of in connection with textiles is in S W China on certain Miao or Dong indigo textiles where reputedly ox blood or egg white (or both) may be used as part of a mixture - then beaten - to give a shiny finish to a dark (many dyed) indigo cloth so that it has a particularly bronze/reddish glow. However, even that has been queried as indigo has certain reddish tints in it. In certain head hunting cultures it may be that textiles become stained with blood - i.e. used to wrap heads in as some pua in Borneo have been used. This is all addressed in the literature. In many cultures, including some in the Indonesian archipelago, menstruating women may not work on indigo dyeing as this was thought to contaminate/bring ill fortune. I don't think that blood would be a very good fast dye, stains do, after all, fade with washing. I suppose with the right mordant it might 'fix'.

I hope that you will share any results of your research with us here on the forum.

best wishes,

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 8:05 pm 
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I agree that the blood from the deceased story may have been in good faith, although I think it is unlikely. It would be interesting to put together a thread of outrageous claims that have been made by sellers regarding textiles.

Bill
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Last edited by Bill Hornaday on Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:03 am 
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:) Thanks Pamela and Bill - I'll definitely keep you posted.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 11:11 am 
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I received a reply from Genevieve Duggan! She is unable to access attachments with emails and asked that I resend the pics at a later date however she did say she has "no expertise in dyes using human or other types of blood".

Hmmm, where does one find an elderly Indonesian woman, skilled in the art of dyeing and weaving, who could possibly tell some secrets?


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:22 pm 
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I have seen lettering on other Indonesian ikats - that didn't always make sense, also backwards letters. I suspect that the "K122" was intended to be "KISS".

Regards, Larry


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 1:34 am 
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Are you suggesting that the weaver was a heavy metal fan?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:14 am 
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Nope, just that "WE KISS", whatever the source, makes more sense than "WE K122", and could maybe be a couple of words that the weaver picked up or saw and incorporated in the design.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 11:42 am 
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I doubt very much that its meant to say WE KISS. Why would an Indonesian weave English words into the sarong? It's definitely K122.

There are a number of references on the net to dyeing with human blood in Indonesia, they basically say "...a cloth that, because it is supposed to be dyed with human blood...", "...Ikat weaving, the wafts, dyed with human blood made the cloth as valued as “the price of a new Mercedes Benz...", "...Reddish, dark brown, blue-black, and tan backgrounds, once dyed in human blood...", "...Threads were once dyed in human blood..." etc etc.
So it seems there was such a practice.

Can anyone help me in contacting the Nasional Museum of Indonesia? I would very much like to chat to the curator, but cannot get through to Indonesia, and the phone answering message is in Indonesian - who know's what it says.

The sage goes on, but it is interesting.


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