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PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 8:23 pm 
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Location: Portugal
Dear all,

Over the last few days I have read Vernon Kedit Jolly's fascinating article on anthropomorphic motifs, engkaramba, on Iban pua (Restoring Panggau Libau: a reassessment of engkeramba' in Saribas Iban ritual textiles (pua' kumbu')) in which he thoroughly refutes Traude Gavin's tenet, published in her in many respects admirable The Women's Warpath, that these human shapes on Iban cloth are fairly meaningless: space fillers, jokes of the weavers, etc. He makes clear that, rather the contrary, these human shapes are very important, representing gods, heroes and other mythological figures - protected from being known by outsiders by not refering to them by their proper names. Instead they are called 'just a figure' or even 'a scarecrow', engkaramba, so that outsiders will be sent off their trail, and will not try to dig deeper into their significance.

I was very happy to read this article, originally published in the Borneo Research Bulletin, but available online (sans images) at the Free Library: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Restoring+Panggau+Libau:+a+reassessment+of+engkeramba%27+in+Saribas...-a0228122209, because I have a few pua with engkaramba myself, and when I first read Gavin's verdict that these were actually insignificant pieces, I felt rather dejected. In fact when I acquired them I had been excited about seeing them have human figures, as in most traditional cultures depictions of humans are highly meaningful. In fact the sellers invariably asked more money for pieces with anthropomorphic motifs than for those without.

So, after reading Kedit's article I felt not just a sense of relief, but in fact an immense joy, because now I had confirmation that these cloths were not just beautiful and immediately appealing because of their humanity, but also deeply meaningful - as I had originally assumed. Please look at these piece (Vernon, John, are you watching?), and share what you know about their origin (which Iban group, which river system), and any other information you may have.

More later....

Enjoy,
Peter


Attachment:
File comment: Pusaka Collection No. 038
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File comment: Pusaka Collection No. 001
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File comment: Pusaka Collection No. 037
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tmp2.jpg [ 488.77 KiB | Viewed 10025 times ]


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File comment: Pusaka Collection No. 140
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File comment: Pusaka Collection No. 75
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ikat_075.jpg [ 379.15 KiB | Viewed 10025 times ]

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2013 5:58 pm 
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I am indeed watching Peter. Some very nice pieces. It took me awhile to log on but with Pamela's invaluable and patient help, here I am.

I have the same feelings about "figures" pua. Also I can't believe a weaver would spend so much time and exactness on weaving things that have no meaning and wouldn't advance her status. You will note that one or two pieces are similar to the ones you show.

I will post several pieces I have with figures and tell you what I know about them. They will probably be in reverse order.

1.Baleh pua' – 96” x 61” 72 threads/in x 14 wefts/in. (L/W =1.57) 2,196 threads per half or as originally strung. No borders.
Monumental handspun, native dyes. Probably 1950's or somewhat earlier. Male and female figures opposed head-to-head. Most likely depicts the cultural heroes and role models: Keling (male, great warrior) and his wife Kumang (beautiful, great weaver and bringer of design dreams to weavers.) Probably a popular design in the Baleh area because the figures and some of the motifs are pictured and discussed in the Diaries of Monica Freeman (Borneo Research Council). (p.s. It's a terrific read even if you don't particularly tend to these pieces.)

2. Pua 5 Ikat textile, figures, 6 across, edge stripes, red/pink, yellow, blue white. Human Figures. About 18 rows of human heads and bodies or partial bodies. Difficult to count because of intricacy. One row of reptile like figures with "food" in stomachs. Black mouths. red/brown field. All handspun including borders. Saribas area based on fineness and striped borders. Probably late 19th century early 20th. Extremely fine warp. My very first purchase. From Richard Yong in Kuching 1997.

3. Spirit pua – Ikat pua' from the Baleh area. Ngemah-Bangkit Rivers, Sarawak, East Malaysia, Late 19th-Early 20th century. Homespun cotton and natural dyes. A fine large Iban ikat pua kumbu or ceremonial blanket of unusual design, color and superior quality from the Ngemah-Bangkit rivers, Sarawak, East Malaysia.. This design is intimately interwoven with dreams and the ethos of headhunting. The central figures are some form of dream envisioned antu, giant ghostly creatures of power, protection and influence that are often associated with deities or one's ancestors. This blanket's patterns could have only been woven by a weaver of both technical skills and mental prowess as the design pattern entails some risk to weave given the nature of its subject matter. The central figures are well-detailed, their bodies covered in scales and their heads skull-like. [fFom Vicki Shiba's description. The Pua Kumbu's attribution is from Steven Alpert, who collected it there in the 1970's. It was sold to a private collector. Steve mentioned that it is a very fine and unusual pua in pristine condition.]

4. Pua' 91 - All handspun including borders. natural dyes except possible borders. outer borders red white black yellow red. Kenyalang stripes in inner borders. "Unique pua". Six rows of anthropomorphs. second row third figure hand has one little black dot. The right bottom figure face has minor stain on it, it has no repair in very good condition. ages at least 90-110 years old??. From a wealthy family before in the long-house. It's a master piece. This type of pua always in full figures in the pua but the same figures or motif, but this piece is in 9 rows and in different figures. It's a very unique piece. cherry red field. Saribas area. 25 wefts x 56 doubled warps/inch. According to Vernon Kedit: It's the rare Bali Mensuga (The Blanket of Headdresses ). Rare in the sense that not many weavers wove it. It displays female deities wearing the headdress. Such a blanket would be used at weddings and joyous festivities as an "invitation" to the gods to grace the occasion. It's similar to the one in the Haddon & Start book plate XXXIV, pua 35.923 (see pages 111,112), There are no ritual prohibitions to weaving this pattern, and any competent weaver may attempt it.

The description of it being used for weddings and joyous festivities agrees with H&S “according to the Catalogue of the Lady Brooke collection in the British Museum, pua' with anthropomorphic patterns are use at the Dayak feasts.“ (p. 106)

So that's it. Perhaps we will hear from Vernon - that national treasure store of knowledge about things Iban.


Attachments:
File comment: Pua' 91 - 78” x 33” 112/in x 25/in (2.364) 1626 threads per half or as originally strung
pua-91w.jpg
pua-91w.jpg [ 233.06 KiB | Viewed 9997 times ]
File comment: Spirit pua – 88” x 58” 88 warps/in x 15 wefts/in (L/W = 1.52) 2,194 threads per half or as originally strung
Spirit-puaW.jpg
Spirit-puaW.jpg [ 190.86 KiB | Viewed 9997 times ]
File comment: 2. Pua' 5 - 77” x 31” 152/in x 21/in. (L/W=2.484) 1,389 threads total as strung for ikating main field +ikat borders
pua-5w.jpg
pua-5w.jpg [ 231.05 KiB | Viewed 9997 times ]
File comment: Baleh area pua' – 96” x 61” 72 threads/in x 14 wefts/in. (L/W =1.57) 2,196 threads per half or as originally strung. No borders
Baleh-pua-fgrsW.jpg
Baleh-pua-fgrsW.jpg [ 185.95 KiB | Viewed 9997 times ]

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2013 6:51 pm 
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Hi John,

Thanks for your detailed response. Very helpful. I think by now we can safely bury the notion Traude Gavin brought into the world that the 'engkaramba' and 'just faces' are relatively meaningless. It reminds me of Cora Dubois's work on Alor in the 1930s which originally was much respected, later largely debunked. Dubois managed to collect a lot of details about the people's daily lives, but failed in her interpretation of many of her observations because she had either misunderstood or was the victim of intentional disinformation. It seems much more likely - as you say, and was also written by Vernon Kedit - that in fact these anthropomorphic figures represented figures of great import, and that weaving these representations required the skills and mental stability of a highly evolved weaver.

When I look at the pua's you have posted, first of all I am amazed by the similarity between your 'Spirit Pua' and my Nr. 038. It is not often that we see real similarity between puas, due to the creativity of the Iban, and the great number of regional vernaculars, all a little different. (I just got Herbert Amann's Textiles from Borneo, dealing with Kantu, Keetungau and Mualang Iban, and found not a single cloth that is similar to any of mine, which are mostly Saribas.) This is the first time that I have seen a cloth that is even remotely similar to my Nr. 038 - and the similarity is not remote, or limited to the overall look, but extends down to the level of various details such as the skull-like faces and scale covered bodies. Interesting to learn which river system it is from, what it stands for, and who field collected it. Steve knew what he was doing, didn't he? I have to assume that my cloth originates in the same river system, perhaps even in the same settlement. In mine the borders are executed as separate narrow panels. Is that the same on yours?

Another thing that strikes me is the sheer beauty of your Pua 91. Very refined styling of the female figures, and of the way they are fitted into the overall design. I love to see the different styling of the heads, with and without headdress / hairdo. The weaving is also exemplary. Sans pareil! (Question: what are Kenyalang stripes?)

Your Pua 5 shows some similarity to my Nr. 037, in the way the field is divided, and in the way a top row of figures is used. It also strikes me that the headdress / hairdo of the figures on the top row of my piece are done in the same style as those on the 6th and 9th row of your Pua 91. I assume, again, that this must indicate origin in close proximity; and that the figures on my cloth are also female. For a first 'strike' this was a very good one. You didn't start with the dredges! I am still puzzled what the other creatures on my cloth represent. They appear to be lizards as well, do you concur?

Your Baleh area pua is a very strong one as well. Such self assured styling, such intensity! Did you actually do a thread count?

And yes indeed, let's hope that we shall hear from Vernon on this!

Cheers,
Peter

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PUSAKA COLLECTION: ONLINE MUSEUM OF TRADITIONAL INDONESIAN IKAT TEXTILES


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:09 pm 
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Hi Peter - I was composing a response but somehow deleted it. Hint to moderator. Is it possible to have some sort of recovery button for cases like mine or a "save" button? (More work for mother)

Anyway - I had been concurring with you about Traude but saying that she is willing to admit a change. She previously had problems in her "Woman's Warpath" accepting the sungkit "dancing figures" as figures at all because of the strange "faces", but later allowed that they were figures. Still her book will stand along with Haddon & Start as a go-to book.

As for the similarity between your No. 038 and my Spirit pua - they are remarkably similar but that may be for several reasons. One is that I believe there were more that one or two fairly similar weavings in the Baleh area. The Baleh area was settled by the iban considerably after the Saribas area. I think that certain patterns considered "powerful" or necessary for certain important uses naturally were repeated. And since they are not all that old, there had not been sufficient time for "poetic license" to develop. I would expect to find other similar ones in that area although maybe not so close. Anyway - it is always interesting to speculate when there are such close matches. I am using "Baleh area" in the widest possible meaning.

I believe that my borders were woven and not sewn in. Usually the sewn borders are because the Baleh area pieces that are so large compared to Saribas that the main field was about the width of the backstrap loom and so borders had to be done separately and sewn on. A number of my Baleh pieces have sewn borders for that reason. Is yours wider then mine? I am really taken with the simple power of Baleh pieces.

Actually a mystery to me is how and why Baleh weavings became so different from the Saribas area in so short a time.

Kenyalang is the Iban name for the rhinoceros hornbill which they take as their "war bird" and which has tail feathers of white except for a narrow band of black. The Iban wore those feathers as part of the war costumes and others.

And I do a thread count on all my ikat pieces as well as measurements. I am trying to build up enough such detail to see what can be made of it. So far I have some tentative ability to distinguish certain areas based on such measurements. But most is supportive of what the critical eye distinguishes anyway. It's the engineer in me.

Looking forward to seeing more of your pieces. And hearing from Vernon. I think he is very busy running for some sort of government position. I know he is very involved in Iban affairs.

Keep them coming.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2013 8:52 pm 
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Hi John

Just to alert you that there is a 'save draft' button which is part of the current software. Have a look below the post window to where there are 'Preview' 'Submit' 'Save Draft' 'Cancel' buttons. However, this saving is limited as the message that comes up when you click the 'Save Draft' button says:
Quote:
"Please note that saved drafts only include the subject and the message, any other element will be removed. Do you want to save your draft now?"

This would mean than any images you have attached would not be saved. Once you click the 'Save Draft' and then 'Yes' you are told that the message is successfully saved and everything disappears!!! The only way to get it back is to start a new post and then slick the button 'Load Draft' when you will then be offered to select out of any drafts that you have previously the saved. As it says, only subject and message is saved, no attachments or embedments.

Thanks to you and Peter for some great discussion and stunning images!

Best,

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:51 am 
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Hi all, I prepared a draft reply to this post but as it wasn't finished I clicked the save button and as Pamela says it disappeared. I went back the next day to work on it and had a hard time finding it. Finally discovered that if you click on USER CONTROL PANEL (above) you get the overview section with a menu. One item on the menu is MANAGE DRAFTS. Clicking this takes you to a list of your saved drafts ( I only had the one ). You will see the titles of the saved drafts and clicking on a title will bring up that draft but what I failed to notice was ( load draft.view/edit) to the right of the title. I just clicked on the title of the draft and it came up. I spent a bunch of time working on it and when I was ready to attach photos and post it I didn't know how to get it to the post reply part of the forum. Down at the bottom of the draft there are two options: RESET AND SAVE. I didn't know exactly what reset would do and made the mistake of clicking it instead of save and lost all of my editing and additions and found out reset takes you back to the original draft you had saved with the loss of any new editing and additions. ALWAYS CLICK SAVE BEFORE YOU FOOL AROUND WITH ANY OTHER BUTTONS!!! It was late and I was tired and quite discouraged as I had lost all my editing and additions so I gave up and went to bed. I still have the ORIGINAL saved draft but must now redo all the editing and additions as well as attach photos and haven't had the time or energy yet. I suppose one should click on LOAD DRAFT instead of the title and that will probably put you on the forum where you can edit and add photos then preview and send. Live and learn!

The golden rule is CLICK SAVE FIRST and you can be sure your work is saved somewhere even if you don't know where that is. Then you can fool around with other unknown buttons till you fumble, bumble or stumble upon the hiding place of your saved draft as it is surly there somewhere!! Beware that as Pamela says only title and text are saved and any photos you may have uploaded will be lost in the void of cyberspace forever!!

Now, lets all get busy posting lots of lovely textiles like those of Peter and John as things have been a bit slow on the forum of late. Does anyone have any textiles from Sumbawa Island, Indonesia? I did a search of the forum but came up with 0 for Sumbawa. Will post some Kre Alang ceremonial sarongs when time permits.

Best regards


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 7:30 pm 
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Thanks for the advice Mac. Sorry to hear of all your lost work as I would be very interested in your comments as I'm sure Peter is.

I think I will do all my work in MSword first and then just copy it into the forum. I'm forever accidentally deleting what I wrote or writing over parts of it or something. Also I can spell and grammar check before sending it out.

And thanks Pamela for your great patience.

This would probably take the forum too far astray but I also love (especially) bamboo basketry which naturally is weaving as well. I have several quite beautiful works from Mr. Zhang Hsien p'ing whom I met in Taiwan years ago and who is a natural treasure. Although I think he is still young he apparently can no longer practice his art for various reasons. A loss to humanity. In fact there are several excellent bamboo artists in Taiwan. Some I have met and some I hope to meet someday.

Well that's enough.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:18 pm 
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Dear John, Mac and others,

Yes, as Pamela says, I am very interested in your comments, so take care with your drafts. Don't let your valuable stuff go off into electronic limbo. If you want to play it safe, edit your text in your word processor or editor, then past it in when done. Mac, are we getting your comments on line soon?

To set the record straight on Traude Gavin: it is good to hear that she is coming around on this point, because it will help us enjoy expressions of Iban culture without the cloud of wonder hanging over the depictions of human figures, which in many cultures are considered the most powerful thing to depict - and for that reason are sometimes taboo. I would like to make it clear that my criticism of Gavin's work has been limited to this particular issue, and to the issue, by now I believe settled in favour of the affirmative, of whether or not every little detail has meaning, which may be 'read' by the initiated. On my website I refer to The Women's Warpath "still one of the best sources on Iban textiles". The title alone is worth gold, as it so memorable, and makes clear in a flash the parallel, seen in many parts of the archipelago, between the virile and female contributions to a successful life, both laden with associations of prowess (think of the daring involved in preparing morinda and indigo and in using certain patterns), skill, pride, and concomitant status in the community.

Anyway, back to the cloths at hand. It is very interesting to learn about John's theory regarding the close similarity of the two 'Spirit pua'. I like the idea of the lack of time for poetic licence to have developed. I like the theory also, because it paints these pieces as more than average in terms of power - which is exactly the first impression one gets: namely that these are knock-out, in your face pieces. Very different from some of the dreamy, utterly sophisticated pieces the Iban also produce, and that, while not exactly common, are not quite as rare.

Thanks for enlightening me on kenyalang - well, attempting to enlighten me. I still do not understand exactly which part you are referring to. Is it the two stripes on the left of the below fragment?

Attachment:
File comment: Kenyalang stripes on left?
tmp1.jpg
tmp1.jpg [ 1.9 KiB | Viewed 9914 times ]

Once I know exactly what stripes you refer to I will check some other cloths to look for other occurrances. The separately woven border on my 'Spirit pua' is the only one I have observed so far.

As for Vernon, yes I do realize that he is deeply immersed in politics. More power to him! The Iban come across as very sensitive, intelligent, and of course courageous people, with a strong sense of community - all qualities that are quite welcome in Malaysian politics.

Cheers,
Peter

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PUSAKA COLLECTION: ONLINE MUSEUM OF TRADITIONAL INDONESIAN IKAT TEXTILES


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:21 pm 
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Wow, the "BIM" motif. A new motif you have never heard of before!! It is found in every ikat textile ever produced yet appears differently in each. Do I have your full attention? Is your mind racing, heart pounding with anticipation? What could this "BIM" motif be?

The "BIM" motif is the "Basic Ikated Motif" which each ikater has in her/his mind when they begin to apply bindings to the bundles of thread, for a proposed ikat textile, that have been arranged on the tying frame. Ikat is like paper dolls. A measure of economy is applied by counting, separating,and binding the threads into bundles and then folding them into layers separated by lease cords. As in paper dolls, a denominator motif, which I have named the "BIM" motif, is what is actually ikated or in paper dolls, cut.

When the dyeing is done, the bindings removed, the layers unfolded and the cloth constructed (woven), the "BIM" motif will be seen repeated a number of times in the overall pattern of the textile. As admirers of ikat textiles we tend to look at the OVERALL pattern of a textile with little or no regard for the "BIM" motif which the dyer had in mind when the ikating was done. The "BIM" motif is the dyer's-eye view of what the ikated pattern looked like. The "BIM" motif sometimes includes only half of a vertically bisected ancestor, spirit or other motif which, when unfolded, will produce a number of whole ancestors, spirits or other motifs, and depending on the arrangement of the "BIM" motif, at times leave only half an ancestor or spirit clinging desperately to each outer selvage of the pua. I would think the dyer-weaver also had in their mind an abstract image of what the overall pattern would look like when the "BIM" motifs were expanded which I guess would mean that half figures on the outer selvedges were intended.

Narrow ikat motifs used as side borders are, I believe, ikated separately from the main field motifs and I think would have 4 "BIM" repeats for a single band on each side or 8 in the case of two identical bands on each side as in Peter's pua No 037 which has a 4 "BIM" band ikated separately in between them.

I find "BIM" motifs an interesting alternative view of the patterns of an ikat textile. In some ikat textiles with complicated or greatly repeated patterns it is difficult to determine the "BIM" denominator. I have chosen this post to introduce the "BIM" motif idea as these pua contain figures which make it easier to see and determine the "BIM" denominator. A great aid is found in an ikat textile which contains one or more ikat mistakes in the "BIM" motif as it/they will be repeated by the denominator used and make the "BIM" motif easy to ascertain. Peter and John's pua are of high quality, skillfully and carefully ikated by experienced dyer-weavers, and I have found no obvious mistakes in the ikating that would serve as such an aid. I have cropped their photos to what I believe to be the "BIM" motifs. I hope they are not too small to be seen. If they have higher definition photos of their textiles which were reduced for the forum, perhaps they could crop a better "BIM" image to post.

John, may I ask about your method in determining warp thread count? I am guessing you visually count the number of threads per inch and then multiply by the width of a panel in inches. The number of threads per bundle times the number of bundles on the tying frame might give us an accurate count. As you seem very interested in the technical aspects of textile production I wonder if you know how many threads there were per ikated bundle in a given pua or kain kebat. This number probably varies from cloth to cloth depending on the fineness of the pattern, as I think fewer threads per bundle would mean fewer threads per ikat unit block and a more intricate motif.

I guess what I am thinking about and trying to determine (understand) is how an Iban woman calculates the number of threads (rounds in a circular warp) that need to be stretched on a measuring frame in order to produce X number of bundles with the same number of threads per bundle that will accommodate the tying of the "BIM" motif she has in her mind. It has been a number of years since I watched these first steps in creating an ikat textile and my observations were primarily on the islands of Flores and Sumba where the process may differ somewhat from Sarawak or Kalimantan. Are you familiar with the first steps of measuring, counting, folding and bundling the threads in preparation for ikating the "BIM" motif?

Different ethnic groups, who produce ikat textiles, have different numerical preferences for the number of times the "BIM" is repeated to produce the full motif in a textile.
I believe the Iban prefered the number 3 in their textiles, meaning, I believe, that the "BIM" motif was 1/3 of the full motif in a kain kebat skirt without vertically repeating patterns, 1/6 of the full motif in a two panel, ikat pua which does not have mirror images on the horizontal axis and 1/12 of the full motif in a pua that has mirror images either side of a central horizontal axis. If an ikat unit block, in a pua without a mirror image, is three threads wide (as you have mentioned in other posts as being the smallest or finest) this would have to be multiplied by 6 giving a bundle thread count of 18 on the tying frame. If the pua had a mirror image there would need to be 36 threads per bundle and in a kain kebat without a repeating pattern the bundle would contain only 9 threads. Does this make any sense?

I am amazed at the complicated calculations necessary to place a layer of threads on a sizinging frame, count, separate, tie them into bundles and fold them vertically and horizontally (if mirror images), using lease cords to maintain layer separation, in preparation for ikating the "BIM" motif. It is so complicated I am not sure I have all the steps right, based on the dissection of the ikat motifs and a faltering memory of seeing the process years ago in Indonesia. Can anyone with a thorough knowledge help or correct my musing?

Peter, the bottom, upside down figure in the diamond on pua 037 is most interesting. The squatting figure seems to be a female giving birth. I believe I have read somewhere that Iban women gave birth in a squatting position. The diamond enclosing this figure is most strange as it seems to have 3 sets of legs or arms. If it were a representation of the womb or birth portal or even perhaps an ancestor totem in the form of a crocodile one would expect 4 arms/legs not six. Does anyone have any ideas on this motif and figure?

All of these pua seem to have the normal 3 x 2 = 6 repeats of the "BIM" motif except perhaps Peter's pua No. 75 which may have an unusual 2 x 4 = 8 repeats. I hope the uploads of my cropped "BIM" motifs are large enough to see clearly and that they will offer an alternative view and a better understanding of the patterns in an ikat textile.

Best regards


Attachments:
Pusaka 075 BIM 8 repeats.jpg
Pusaka 075 BIM 8 repeats.jpg [ 24.32 KiB | Viewed 9897 times ]
File comment: Perhaps half a pua and of the half figure on outside selvage type.
Pusaka 001 Bim.jpg
Pusaka 001 Bim.jpg [ 84.06 KiB | Viewed 9897 times ]
pua-91w BIM.jpg
pua-91w BIM.jpg [ 38.92 KiB | Viewed 9897 times ]
File comment: This is two "BIM" repeats as it would have been folded in the center. I got the cropping wrong.
pua-91w BIM border that was ikated.jpg
pua-91w BIM border that was ikated.jpg [ 21.84 KiB | Viewed 9897 times ]
John Baleh-pua BIM.jpg
John Baleh-pua BIM.jpg [ 49.78 KiB | Viewed 9897 times ]


Last edited by MAC on Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject: "BIM" motif
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 5:27 pm 
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Here is one more photo of Peter's pua No. 140 which seems to show signs of being folded on the horizontal axis and if so would have 12 "BIM" repeats.

Best regards


Attachments:
Pusaka 140 BIM 12 repeats.jpg
Pusaka 140 BIM 12 repeats.jpg [ 16.64 KiB | Viewed 9897 times ]
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:23 pm 
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Hi MAC – yes you are correct about your “BIMs” being the result of folding. I posted an earlier explanation with a simple sketch of the folding in thirds which seems to be the most common although I have seen a recent piece with two folds (I.e., folded in half along the warp) which makes a very broad picture unfolded. It was offered to me two years ago but I passed on it so I don’t feel free to show a picture of it. I keep pictures of pieces offered whether I take them on not. I was tempted though.

I have seen skirts with two folds. Not uncommon.

I count repeats (e.g, a “3 repeat pattern”) as on the loom and not the width of a sewn pua'. Others may count differently but at some point we should all probably do it the same to avoid confusions. Skirts we would all be in agreement as I have never seen one sewn like a pua'.

I think of a warp ikatted “picture” (faute de mieux) as composed of vertical (along the warp) bundles or “strokes” from minute to as long as needed. The shortest I’ve seen are about 0.10 inch visible. The actual tie would be slightly longer with one or both ends hidden by the wefts. This also shows the skill in visualizing and tying to achieve this as the weaver must know the width of a weft to be used. Amazing.

Sometime it is difficult to spot a fold line. I call it a reflection line because of the mirror imaging on either side (across) that line. For a threefold pattern, there will naturally be two reflection lines on a pua' half. Careful study will usually reveal them. Studying the warp end borders helps. I look for slight discrepancies that are repeated.

If you look carefully for strokes on a reflection line, they will usually be about twice as wide as those not on it. This happens because once the warp has been folded (e.g., into thirds) the weaver will start gathering threads into bundles for tying. If she binds, say, 6 threads wide into a stroke at either edge of the “stack” of folded threads, she will be binding on one selvage and the edge of a fold. Therefore the stroke will be 12 threads wide across a reflection line when unfolded. But it will be 6 wide at an edge. If she really wants it 6 wide across a reflection line unfolded she would have to bundle only 3 wide. But to my knowledge they only bundled pairs of threads. Incidentally, six threads wide is a very, very fine stroke usually only seen in the finest pieces. I have seen strokes 4 threads wide but only among the Mualang in Kalimantan. In fact I take that as a diagnostic. "Wide" here means from one edge of the stroke to the other. Not a solid color.

Sometimes the weaver first binds the folded threads into standard width bundles at one end or the middle so as to facilitate matching threads for later bundling and also making a nice black/white toothed pattern across the pua'. This is where you will (almost invariably) see the double width across a reflection line.

Since the weft is (again almost) invariably an over two-under two-over two weave, and assuming a black weft, a (say) white stroke 6 threads wide will show as two whites, two blacks and two whites on one pass of the weft and then two blacks two whites and two blacks on the reverse pass. This black-white alternating on each weft pass continues along the warp for the length of the stroke leading to an expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction, etc., of the apparent width sort of as if the stroke is breathing. To the eye this looks like a smooth stroke. If the bundle is 4 wide, the stroke will sort of “shimmy” or zig-zag back and forth. But both of these are only obvious on close inspection. Most people will not even notice this.

And the fact that only a “strip” (your BIM) is really ikatted leads to the suggestion that the Iban may not interpret multiples as we do but really only one. So, say, 6 identical spirit figures across a whole pua' would be understood as really only one. As there is only one crocodile god (Ribai) there would not be 6 even if the pattern shows 6 across.

I was told my Dr. Mattiebelle Gittinger of the Textile Museum in Washington, DC that when she showed weavings to weavers expecting to get some explanation of the motifs or meaning, she said that the first thing the weavers did was to start counting threads as though they were going to duplicate it.

I count threads through a magnifying glass while looking at a scale laid on the piece. Sometimes I take a picture of the scale on the piece and then enlarge it on the computer to make counting easier. I may count in two different places and average the result to the nearest thread or if a photograph may count over two inches. I also have a piece of cardboard with a 1” square cutout which I lay on a piece and photograph for enlargement. Then I can count both warps and wefts. If she will be binding in groups of six wide, the total number of threads (minus the borders) would be a multiple of six.

If the warp layers are also folded across the warp, they will have to be folded over a supporting rod. This means it is impossible to bind at the rod so the unfolded result will show a “blank” strip across the warp. This is most often seen in the edge borders as a blank or black width. I am a sucker for borders with a really black center width as I think it a very aesthetic touch.

I think I had posted a picture of a “nabau” Kantu' pua' which is amazing for many reasons. It shows 12 pairs of face-opposed serpents, 6 pair above and 6 pair below a hypothetical fold across the warp. The above and below sets are opposed tail-to-tail with the tails touching. It appears at first like a perfect reflection of the serpents above and below a center line but not only is there no black dividing line but there is no actual true reflection immediately above and below a hypothetical line and the tails are touching. The weaver had the most amazing control of her techniques of ikating and actual weaving so as to make the serpents above and below as exact as can be imagined.

This is more than enough.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:25 am 
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John,

Thanks for your reply. It is indeed difficult to discuss the complicated procedures involved in binding the patterns of an ikat textile when there is no standardized terminology. I wonder if the Iban have terminology we could adopt. With the sharp decline in the number of Iban women who still know how to ikat, dye and weave such terminology may be on the verge of extinction.

There are a couple of points I would like to focus on in our posts. You mention that a plain, horizontal band results when the threads are folded on the horizontal axis with mirror images on either side as is often the case with side border motifs and in some pua from Kalimantan.

john wrote:
If the warp layers are also folded across the warp, they will have to be folded over a supporting rod. This means it is impossible to bind at the rod so the unfolded result will show a “blank” strip across the warp. This is most often seen in the edge borders as a blank or black width. I am a sucker for borders with a really black center width as I think it a very aesthetic touch.
John,

You state that this results from not being able to bind where the threads are folded over a fixed rod or beam. on the frame used to stretch and hold them ( the tying frame ). Once the threads are folded over this rod it would indeed be impossible to apply bindings in that area, thus leaving a section of threads unbound to receive dye. If both red and blue are dyed this section of threads would become a dark brown/black which you appreciate aesthetically. If this plain color band is red I guess it would indicate that the BIM, or repeat as you call it, was not dyed indigo but only red.

This plain band must have been a design preference of the Iban, as it is easily avoided should that be the preference. On the island of Sumba it is normal to fold the threads along the horizontal axis and produce mirror images above and below a central band of patterns called Patola Ratu. This central Patola Ratu pattern in a hinggi, however, does not have the plain horizontal band or fold line that you are fond of in pua borders. I think Sumbanese women first stretch the warp threads full length and tie the central Patola Ratu motif before folding the thread bundles on the horizontal axis. In a hinggi that has white, red, light blue and dark blue motifs on an overdyed background, opening of ties for the second color and binding of already dyed areas to reserve them from the next color or, in the case of light and dark blue, from further dye baths of the same color, is required. Thinking about this now I am not quite sure how this tying and opening is accomplished after the thread bundles have been folded. The rod over which the threads are folded is replaced by a loose lease cord when the threads are removed from the tying frame for dyeing I believe. The Patola Ratu band, having been tied before folding, would be in two layers of tied bundles so I guess this opening and new tying would be possible without too much trouble. I think Iban dyers could have done this too if they had been so inclined.

Sorry, I can't find the quote button now so will just use quotation marks.
John said, "Sometimes the weaver first binds the folded threads into standard width bundles at one end or the middle so as to facilitate matching threads for later bundling and also making a nice black/white toothed pattern across the pua'. This is where you will (almost invariably) see the double width across a reflection line."

I'm a bit confused. If the dyer first counts and separates the folded threads into bundles for say a 6 thread wide stroke, wouldn't there be 18 threads per bundle? And when the three layers were unfolded wouldn't the double width of 12 threads in a stroke on the fold (reflection) line run the full length of the BIM and not just in the tooth patterns? If a 6 thread wide stroke is really narrow and rather uncommon do most pua use 8 thread widths meaning 24 threads per tied bundle. This would produce a 16 thread wide double stroke (ikat unit motif) on the reflection line, which would I think be easy to distinguish running the full length of the BIM.

Visualizing all this has run my battery low and my brain needs some down time to recharge so will leave it here and think about it some more when my battery is fully charged again.

Best regards,


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:37 pm 
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Hi MAC – I’m sorry that I was not clear enough. I’ve had a lot of problems that way lately. It is difficult to describe these things in words.

Either red (or brown) is the usual the background color and so is left unwrapped and dyed first. This means that all the red (or brown) must then be wrapped if a second color – usually a black or a blue - is used. Red sections are left unwrapped if an over dye of blue is used to make a purple/black. I don’t particularly care for brown as the background although I do like the particular rich chocolate like brown the Mualang of Kalimantan use particularly in skirts . I have seen stacks of brown background Sarawak pua' in Kuching shops.

Re: the “black” or red middle. It may be useful to refer to the unpatterned section as a “void”. It is not uncommon in the side borders. I am not sure if it has any special significance in the borders. It may just be a convenient way to reduce the ikat work while producing a pleasing unfolded symmetric pattern. The void in the main field however has very special significance. The true bali belumpong has a central void and different designs above and below and is considered a powerful cloth – I.e., the spirit embedded in the pattern is very powerful. I post a piece with a red and black void and many rows of “eyes”. It is nearly identical to the one shown on pages 173 and 174 of Margaret Linggi’s “Ties That Bind” (first edition). Margaret described it as a rare piece of high category. Title - Bali Kelikut - a name found in oral tradition songs (timang) of the Iban. These are the only two of this design I have ever seen. Margaret’s is on display in the Tun Jugah gallery in Kuching. Incidentally, Margaret’s book has an excellent set of color pictures of the entire process including the Iban names for the various steps. Very complicated. You can see why once this art is lost it would be exceedingly difficult to figure out how to do it.

Also by the way you may be able to make out that most of the strokes in the posted pua' are the minimum 6 threads (3 pair) wide. And judging by the end borders it looks to be a twofold rather than the usual 3 fold. That and the minimum stroke widths meant an awful lot of tying which was further aggravated by the shortness of each bundle to achieve the 12 rows of circles and also their excellent circularity. It’s a pretty amazing piece for what appears to be a simple design.

A further by-the-way. The same dealer in Kuching sold me my piece as well as the one to the Tun Jugah gallery. I don’t know if the same master weaver made both but they share a great similarity. I don’t know why the same weaver would weave two except perhaps because that pattern (spirit) was needed by another longhouse. If so, she would have been very well paid for risking her life to weave such a powerful pattern.

I used 6 threads wide as an example. “6 threads wide” means 6 adjacent warp threads. (You could use any even number wide.) If the two original unfolded warps (one above the other on the winding frame) are folded together into thirds on the tying frame, there will be 6 (=2 original warp layers x 3 folds) layers of “stacked” threads waiting to be tied. So 6 across results in 6 threads wide x 6 folded layers deep = 36 threads in the bundle. If the bundle is not on an edge of the stack, this results in 3 strokes per each warp layer unfolded or 6 strokes across the entire sewn piece. If the bundle is on an edge, there will be two strokes on a half; the double wide (12) one across the reflection (fold) line and the 6 wide one on a selvage. It these two halves are sewn together matching the two selvages with the 6 wide strokes, they will be paralleled to make a 12 wide across the seam.

Of course if the tri folded stack is also folded across the middle to make a void and symmetrical patterns above and below it, there will be 2x36 = 72 treads in a bundle.

As the number of threads per bundle increases, it is increasingly difficult to tie it tightly enough so that dye does not seep into the ends by capillary action. So a very wide band (of white usually) such as sometimes runs across the entire field is made of adjacent narrower strokes. A stroke is oriented along the warp so it only runs as long as the bundle. I have never seen a stoke from a bundle run the entire length of the warp in the main field. That is, I have never seen a pua' that must have had a bundle running the entire length of the warp in the main field whether folded or unfolded.

I have posted a picture of the “teeth” resulting from this preliminary binding. It is from a pua' I call “Lang” (also posted) which is the short name for the great war god and law giver “Lang Singalang Burong”. Lang is the name of a hawk-like bird. He assumes this shape when he comes to earth. You can supposedly see two hawk-like faces staring at you. The detail is very small so at this reduced resolution it may look a bit blurry.

Burong means bird and although “Singalang” has not been adequately translated to my knowledge it is possible that it found its way from the Batak: “Singa”. Singa from the Hindu just means “lion”, obviously a powerful beast, but to the Batak a certain image is referred to as “singa” and represents the Naga – the one who bears the cosmos. Their Naga is the first emanation of the High God who himself is the origin of the First Ancestor. And apparently there is a similarity between some elements characteristic of the ancient Chinese T’ao t’ieh mask and the batak singa image.

I gleaned this and more from the recent completely fortuitous gift from an old friend of KULTUUR PATRONEN. Patterns of Culture. Bulletin Ethnograpfisch Museum Delft. Deel 8 1966.

The Iban like rhyming sounds so “Singalang” may just be the lang again attached to singa to make a nice sound - Lang Singalang. Or maybe not.

A bundle can be wider than 6 threads but it will be an even number wide because of the over two-under two-over two weaving of the weft.

As to maximum width of a bundle, we have to remember that prior to the days of plastic strips the bindings were of a plant fiber rubbed with beeswax. So a strip was of limited length and tensile strength preventing wrapping a big fat bundle of any length along the warp direction because of its limited length and because it could snap trying to wrap such a fat bundle tightly enough to prevent dye seepage into the bundle especially at the ends.

I don’t know what the largest bundle actually ever was. I’m sure experience and instruction taught all this. And I think that a very experienced weaver/ikatter could press her technique to the maximum.

I hope I have clarified myself a bit better MAC.

I also run on a battery when working on the internet. This puts a limit on how long I can spend there so I can get other work done as well. My will power is not that strong otherwise. Can’t do much about my brain however.

Keep up the good work MAC.


Attachments:
File comment: pua Bali Kelikut. 74" x 33".
bali-kelikut-w.jpg
bali-kelikut-w.jpg [ 379.89 KiB | Viewed 8258 times ]
File comment: "Lang" or "Hawk" pua. 84" x 38". Handspun, natural dyes (except borders).
hawk pua.jpg
hawk pua.jpg [ 163.41 KiB | Viewed 8258 times ]
File comment: "teeth" from the "Lang" pua
lang-detail-w.jpg
lang-detail-w.jpg [ 152.79 KiB | Viewed 8258 times ]

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:01 pm 
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Posts: 132
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Dear Pamela, Peter, John and MAC,

First things first. I owe everyone an apology for having 'disappeared'. I am deeply sorry.

The Book Project is on hold (and everyone's contributions are still intact and accounted for, and in a fixed deposit account accruing interest for the day when the Book Project resumes) for now. I had to make that difficult decision because of my deep desire to 'right the wrongs' that is happening to the people of Sarawak politically, and being a politician and publishing simultaneously is a task even the multi-tasker in me found just too much to cope with.

Anyway, after Pamela's alert waaaaay back last year that Peter had started a topic and which I had made a mental note of, it has taken me three months to finally make time to visit the forum. And to be honest, I really have missed writing here.

It is now almost 1am in the morning and I am writing this from my laptop from my desk in Betong. I have to be up at 6am tomorrow to meet my grassroot leaders, so I really should be in bed (or rather, the mattress on the floor of my office in Betong town). I leave you with two images. I promise to write more later and answer the many questions posed above.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:10 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Malaysia
My rather over-the-top office in Layar (Saribas), Betong. Personally, not quite my taste but the idea is to impress, and in Sarawak politics, your constituents expect you to have an OTT office. Oh well.


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