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PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 3:48 pm 
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Vernon

Very many thanks for these fascinating 'snapshots' and insight into the traditional use of pua kumbu. I am so pleased that these traditions continue today AND with such very fine cloths. It is very heartening indeed that the Iban have retained in their longhouses the very best traditional pua kumbu and clearly value and respect them.

Whilst I can appreciate pua kumbu as art (absolutely!); as amazing technical achievements in the creation of textiles (without a doubt); for me the use of a textile in its traditional culture is very important and special. I always welcome any photos of the textiles that we admire being shown in context. You have a very privileged position - both from the aspect of a textile researcher and a 'mere male' because you understand so much of the background of both the creation AND the use of the cloths in their (and your) cultural context. You also have a very good idea of how we see them with our 'outsiders' eyes and therefore can act as an excellent 'translator' of their various layers of meaning and technique. Thank you very much.

I have had to smile at the thought of you having to restrain your very real researcher's curiosity and passion in the need to act out your roles of politician and, of course, male Iban at the ceremonies! A great bonus to get to glimpse these very fine pua kumbu whilst, at the same time, a considerable frustration not being able to look at them closely. You need to see that your assistant is trained as a good photographer not just when they have the chance to home in on the subject but in the way of being able to take good photos whilst not appearing to do so too directly! There is definitely a skill in doing that. One I use to work on when I was visiting villages and markets!

I certainly frowned at your use of 'Auntie Pam' - I am never, ever 'Pam'; only ever 'Pamela' please - or else we shall cease to be friends!

_________________
Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 4:48 pm 
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Dear Vernon - I can only thank you with all my heart for entrusting this great pua' to me. It now means even more to me as I can almost feel Selaka's presence. What originally attracted me to these wonderful works of art and soul was the power I felt from them. It struck very deep into me and continues to do so.

If in your very busy and important work both literary and political you find the time, could you tell us how Selaks's pua would have been used, its Iban meaning, etc.? We know so little about these so important clothes.

And I rejoice that the Iban people still recognize, treasure and retain these great cultural statements. Without them, such cultures can die.

Best of luck in all your endeavors as I am sure all your friends on the Forum wish also.

John


vernonkeditjolly wrote:
Here's a close-up of the enclosure made up entirely of pua kumbu with a slight opening on the other side where only the womenfolk would enter and, as it were, 'keep watch' for three days and three nights. The women would take shifts, but the widow (if the deceased was male) would not leave the enclosure until the burial early on the fourth morning. The other women would comfort her, or the close female relatives (if the deceased was female). Women who could chant would 'cry' and chant the praises of the deceased upon arriving at the longhouse and after entering the enclosure to pay their respects, and would take inspiration from the textiles that make the enclosure because the designs on these textiles would often reflect the social standing of the deceased. The chanting could take as short as five minutes to an extended 20 minutes, depending on the prowess of the chantress. On the third night of the wake, the services of a professional wailer (ALWAYS female) would be employed and she would 'guide' the soul of the deceased from the land of the living to the land of the dead. The chant recounting the journey averages between 3 to 4 hours, depending on the social status of the deceased. The wailer would sit within the enclosure by herself, and the slight opening would be closed. It is at this pivotal and climactic moment in the entire wake that the gods and goddesses are said to be present WITHIN the enclosure to accompany the soul of the deceased back to the land of the dead, and the textiles that make up the enclosure come to live (or rather, are embued with supernatural power) to do their work in creating a sacred space that would protect the wailer, welcome the deities and keep harm at bay. Besides the 'cry' of the wailer (and these days, clip microphones and loudspeakers aid in augmenting the chanting so that the entire longhouse may hear it), one could hear a pin drop in between the pauses. It is a most reverent experience.

This practice, I am glad to report, is very much alive and well in the Saribas, and the choicest pieces are still kept and passed down as heirlooms, for use at such life-crises events in the community.

_________________
John


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:03 pm 
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Location: Japan
Vernon, Nice to have you back!! We have missed you!

Best regards, MAC


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:14 pm 
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Readers of this thread may remember that earlier Vernon referred to a recent publication in which he had contributed a section on Iban textiles. The book is: “Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art”. http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book ... 0300184952 (and available via Amazon). The book is edited by Reimar Schefold in collaboration with Steven G. Alpert with contributions by Steven G. Alpert, George Ellis, Nico de Jonge, Vernon Kedit, Reimar Schefold, Achim Sibeth and Roxana Waterson.

I, of course, could not resist it! Yesterday saw the arrival of a heavy package. It is a hard-back volume of coffee table size with a beautiful reproduction of images. It is too early for me to give a review of the whole book but I wanted to share a couple of initial impressions. The disappointment (for me) is that, although there is a chapter on “The Art of the Batak of Sumatra” it did not include a single textile! Going further south in Sumatra the chapter on “Lampung Ship Cloths: Ancient Symbolism and Cultural Adaptation in South Sumatran Art” looks to be interesting (with a considerable amount of textiles) – but I haven’t really got there yet!

The other chapters are on the Art of Mentawai, Ohno Niha (Nias), Sulawesi (includes textiles), East Nusa Tenggara (Sumba and Flores – includes some textiles), Timorese Princedoms (includes a few textiles) and Southeast Molucca all look interesting.

What I have found very rewarding is Vernon’s section of Chapter Five “Borneo: The Island-Its Peoples”. There is an initial introduction and then section by Steven G. Alpert (the collector of the textiles shown) which I look forward to reading and digesting. Vernon’s textile section most definitely needs to be read with the relevant notes section at the end of the book. I had quite a shock when I saw the first pua kumbu (page 152) because, immediately, I recognised the Saribas style and influence of Vernon’s family of master weavers. I do not think that Vernon actually says that it is woven by one of his family but he states (Note 2.) that the design Bali Bugau Kantu came from the hands of (and was named by) Grand Master Weaver, Mengan Tuai Indai Tiong (Mengan the Older in Vernon’s ancestor tree above), the wife of the Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang Apai Tiong who looted a pua kumbu on one of his raids to West Kalimantan from which Mengan the Older wove her own expression of the design. Vernon explains that, over the generations, Mengan the Older’s daughter Mindu Indai Selaka (the mother of both Mengan the Younger and Selaka – the weavers of the two pua kumba above in this thread) began to develop the design and then Mindu’s granddaughter, Sendi Indai Gumbek (Vernon’s Great Grandmother) “completed the process of enculturation by assigning names to the principal motifs in the design”.

For all of those of you who want to know the meaning of designs in Iban textiles then Vernon’s explanations of two kain kebat (ikat skirts), 5 pua kumbu, one baju kirai (headhunter’s sungkit jacket) and two pua sungkit are a complete feast of information. He speaks with the eye and cultural experience of an Iban from the Saribas but also gives some information from the perspective of the Baleh and Batang Ai areas and quotes information from other writers/researchers of Iban textiles. In the notes Vernon is particularly forthright in his very detailed critique of the views of the literature from other researchers which spreads very much wider than the comments he makes in the main text. I see in this freedom of expression a coming of age, maturity and confidence in expression of Vernon the researcher and writer on the ritual textiles of his culture. I know that Vernon cares very deeply that what he sees as misrepresentations in the published literature should not stand unchallenged. Because of the spiritual intensity and dangers inherent in depictions within the ritual textiles meanings are well hidden and the expression of these meanings in words to outside researchers – however trusted they may be – is covered in dismissive and alternative names and descriptions.

As a personal aside I was very grateful to read Vernon’s discussion on two women’s skirts (kain kebat) which are usually dismissed as having no ritual significances. I only have one pua kumbu in my collection of Iban textiles but several skirts as these have been much more within my financial reach and still show the supreme technical skills used to create pua kumbu. Vernon states that Iban women in the 19th Century wore two types of skirt – plain indigo (kain jugam) for everyday wear and ikat (kain kebat) for special occasions and festivals, especially for participating in rites. He outlines the use of the skirts for ritual payment and currency for fines and that they do not remain the personal property of the weaver but are the property of the bilik or family unit in the longhouse. In a final flourish of his description of the use of the skirts he refers to women stripping them off and tossing them at their men to shame them into action – a practice which still continues today where a wife wants to make a very public point i.e. “You are only fit to wear my skirt!”

I hope that the time will come – but I fear it will not be soon as Vernon is only in the early stage of his political career – that Vernon the researcher is able to write a definitive (and well-illustrated) book on the ritual textiles of the Saribas Iban. Until then, we on the forum have been (and hope to continue to be) the very fortunate recipients of Vernon’s knowledge and contributions to volumes such as “Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art” are, indeed, to be treasured.

_________________
Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:28 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Dear MAC,

It is indeed very nice to be back. I too have missed writing here and now that I am back, I shall try to write as often as I can. Writing helps me relaxes, and when one is in politics, one needs to rest the mind!

Best wishes,

Vernon

MAC wrote:
Vernon, Nice to have you back!! We have missed you!

Best regards, MAC


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Dear Auntie Pamela!

I hope you would allow me to, at the very least, address you as 'auntie' as I feel so very much obligated to you and how you have encouraged, supported and in many ways nurtured me. We shall not just be friends but family! Iban custom allows me to adopt you as an aunt and with your permission, I shall very much like to do so.

Having just returned from Betong, I have several pictures to share with the forum. I attended a rabat (wake) only just last week at a modern longhouse only 5 minutes' drive from Betong town. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the art of weaving is still very much alive in this longhouse as evidenced by the brand new pieces of pua kumbu hung around the coffin. Being a Christian funeral, the strictures of the sapat do not apply rigorously and many pieces were simply twisted and thrown to the side. However, one piece had pride of place (facing the door of the apartment of the deceased) and was left to hang undisturbed. It was a gorgeous and very old cloth and my phone camera simply does not do it justice. My assistant didn't bring our camera and so I had to get him to use my phone instead.

So here goes!

Pamela wrote:
Vernon

Very many thanks for these fascinating 'snapshots' and insight into the traditional use of pua kumbu. I am so pleased that these traditions continue today AND with such very fine cloths. It is very heartening indeed that the Iban have retained in their longhouses the very best traditional pua kumbu and clearly value and respect them.

Whilst I can appreciate pua kumbu as art (absolutely!); as amazing technical achievements in the creation of textiles (without a doubt); for me the use of a textile in its traditional culture is very important and special. I always welcome any photos of the textiles that we admire being shown in context. You have a very privileged position - both from the aspect of a textile researcher and a 'mere male' because you understand so much of the background of both the creation AND the use of the cloths in their (and your) cultural context. You also have a very good idea of how we see them with our 'outsiders' eyes and therefore can act as an excellent 'translator' of their various layers of meaning and technique. Thank you very much.

I have had to smile at the thought of you having to restrain your very real researcher's curiosity and passion in the need to act out your roles of politician and, of course, male Iban at the ceremonies! A great bonus to get to glimpse these very fine pua kumbu whilst, at the same time, a considerable frustration not being able to look at them closely. You need to see that your assistant is trained as a good photographer not just when they have the chance to home in on the subject but in the way of being able to take good photos whilst not appearing to do so too directly! There is definitely a skill in doing that. One I use to work on when I was visiting villages and markets!

I certainly frowned at your use of 'Auntie Pam' - I am never, ever 'Pam'; only ever 'Pamela' please - or else we shall cease to be friends!


Attachments:
File comment: A Christian funeral (note the wreath of a cross behind the coffin) within the context of Iban eschatology.
IMG-20140219-02131.jpg
IMG-20140219-02131.jpg [ 131.87 KiB | Viewed 3833 times ]
File comment: The best pieces would always hang facing the door as visitors arrive via the 'tempuan' or walkway that is immediately adjacent to the door.
IMG-20140219-02134.jpg
IMG-20140219-02134.jpg [ 106.95 KiB | Viewed 3833 times ]
File comment: Middle 19th century. Rich maroon. Handspun cotton. Old design. Certainly a museum quality piece.
IMG-20140219-02133.jpg
IMG-20140219-02133.jpg [ 156.19 KiB | Viewed 3833 times ]
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 5:59 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Dear John,

I hate to disappoint you but the design is not that of hawks. It bears the symbols of deities. I use the term 'symbol' in full defiance of Gavin's dismissal that Iban weaving did not have symbols. Deities should not be portrayed in their likeness by young weavers. But they may be woven as certain pictographs which Iban call symbols (tanda). Selaka wove 'tanda' of very specific deities, and this cloth would have been used for rituals which would require the presence of the deities. It is an early work; well before she had achieved master weaver status.

Best,

Vernon

john wrote:
Dear Vernon - I can only thank you with all my heart for entrusting this great pua' to me. It now means even more to me as I can almost feel Selaka's presence. What originally attracted me to these wonderful works of art and soul was the power I felt from them. It struck very deep into me and continues to do so.

If in your very busy and important work both literary and political you find the time, could you tell us how Selaks's pua would have been used, its Iban meaning, etc.? We know so little about these so important clothes.

And I rejoice that the Iban people still recognize, treasure and retain these great cultural statements. Without them, such cultures can die.

Best of luck in all your endeavors as I am sure all your friends on the Forum wish also.

John


vernonkeditjolly wrote:
Here's a close-up of the enclosure made up entirely of pua kumbu with a slight opening on the other side where only the womenfolk would enter and, as it were, 'keep watch' for three days and three nights. The women would take shifts, but the widow (if the deceased was male) would not leave the enclosure until the burial early on the fourth morning. The other women would comfort her, or the close female relatives (if the deceased was female). Women who could chant would 'cry' and chant the praises of the deceased upon arriving at the longhouse and after entering the enclosure to pay their respects, and would take inspiration from the textiles that make the enclosure because the designs on these textiles would often reflect the social standing of the deceased. The chanting could take as short as five minutes to an extended 20 minutes, depending on the prowess of the chantress. On the third night of the wake, the services of a professional wailer (ALWAYS female) would be employed and she would 'guide' the soul of the deceased from the land of the living to the land of the dead. The chant recounting the journey averages between 3 to 4 hours, depending on the social status of the deceased. The wailer would sit within the enclosure by herself, and the slight opening would be closed. It is at this pivotal and climactic moment in the entire wake that the gods and goddesses are said to be present WITHIN the enclosure to accompany the soul of the deceased back to the land of the dead, and the textiles that make up the enclosure come to live (or rather, are embued with supernatural power) to do their work in creating a sacred space that would protect the wailer, welcome the deities and keep harm at bay. Besides the 'cry' of the wailer (and these days, clip microphones and loudspeakers aid in augmenting the chanting so that the entire longhouse may hear it), one could hear a pin drop in between the pauses. It is a most reverent experience.

This practice, I am glad to report, is very much alive and well in the Saribas, and the choicest pieces are still kept and passed down as heirlooms, for use at such life-crises events in the community.


Attachments:
PUA SELAKA.jpg
PUA SELAKA.jpg [ 118.57 KiB | Viewed 3832 times ]
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 25, 2014 5:24 am 
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Dear Pamela,

Thank you so much for this review. Of all people, you would know best my writing style from the first paper I ever wrote to what is written in this book, and so I am truly grateful for your feedback. I am still learning and yes, one day, I WILL write THE book. AND publish the other book. So much work to do, so little time!

Pamela wrote:
Readers of this thread may remember that earlier Vernon referred to a recent publication in which he had contributed a section on Iban textiles. The book is: “Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art”. http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book ... 0300184952 (and available via Amazon). The book is edited by Reimar Schefold in collaboration with Steven G. Alpert with contributions by Steven G. Alpert, George Ellis, Nico de Jonge, Vernon Kedit, Reimar Schefold, Achim Sibeth and Roxana Waterson.

I, of course, could not resist it! Yesterday saw the arrival of a heavy package. It is a hard-back volume of coffee table size with a beautiful reproduction of images. It is too early for me to give a review of the whole book but I wanted to share a couple of initial impressions. The disappointment (for me) is that, although there is a chapter on “The Art of the Batak of Sumatra” it did not include a single textile! Going further south in Sumatra the chapter on “Lampung Ship Cloths: Ancient Symbolism and Cultural Adaptation in South Sumatran Art” looks to be interesting (with a considerable amount of textiles) – but I haven’t really got there yet!

The other chapters are on the Art of Mentawai, Ohno Niha (Nias), Sulawesi (includes textiles), East Nusa Tenggara (Sumba and Flores – includes some textiles), Timorese Princedoms (includes a few textiles) and Southeast Molucca all look interesting.

What I have found very rewarding is Vernon’s section of Chapter Five “Borneo: The Island-Its Peoples”. There is an initial introduction and then section by Steven G. Alpert (the collector of the textiles shown) which I look forward to reading and digesting. Vernon’s textile section most definitely needs to be read with the relevant notes section at the end of the book. I had quite a shock when I saw the first pua kumbu (page 152) because, immediately, I recognised the Saribas style and influence of Vernon’s family of master weavers. I do not think that Vernon actually says that it is woven by one of his family but he states (Note 2.) that the design Bali Bugau Kantu came from the hands of (and was named by) Grand Master Weaver, Mengan Tuai Indai Tiong (Mengan the Older in Vernon’s ancestor tree above), the wife of the Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang Apai Tiong who looted a pua kumbu on one of his raids to West Kalimantan from which Mengan the Older wove her own expression of the design. Vernon explains that, over the generations, Mengan the Older’s daughter Mindu Indai Selaka (the mother of both Mengan the Younger and Selaka – the weavers of the two pua kumba above in this thread) began to develop the design and then Mindu’s granddaughter, Sendi Indai Gumbek (Vernon’s Great Grandmother) “completed the process of enculturation by assigning names to the principal motifs in the design”.

For all of those of you who want to know the meaning of designs in Iban textiles then Vernon’s explanations of two kain kebat (ikat skirts), 5 pua kumbu, one baju kirai (headhunter’s sungkit jacket) and two pua sungkit are a complete feast of information. He speaks with the eye and cultural experience of an Iban from the Saribas but also gives some information from the perspective of the Baleh and Batang Ai areas and quotes information from other writers/researchers of Iban textiles. In the notes Vernon is particularly forthright in his very detailed critique of the views of the literature from other researchers which spreads very much wider than the comments he makes in the main text. I see in this freedom of expression a coming of age, maturity and confidence in expression of Vernon the researcher and writer on the ritual textiles of his culture. I know that Vernon cares very deeply that what he sees as misrepresentations in the published literature should not stand unchallenged. Because of the spiritual intensity and dangers inherent in depictions within the ritual textiles meanings are well hidden and the expression of these meanings in words to outside researchers – however trusted they may be – is covered in dismissive and alternative names and descriptions.

As a personal aside I was very grateful to read Vernon’s discussion on two women’s skirts (kain kebat) which are usually dismissed as having no ritual significances. I only have one pua kumbu in my collection of Iban textiles but several skirts as these have been much more within my financial reach and still show the supreme technical skills used to create pua kumbu. Vernon states that Iban women in the 19th Century wore two types of skirt – plain indigo (kain jugam) for everyday wear and ikat (kain kebat) for special occasions and festivals, especially for participating in rites. He outlines the use of the skirts for ritual payment and currency for fines and that they do not remain the personal property of the weaver but are the property of the bilik or family unit in the longhouse. In a final flourish of his description of the use of the skirts he refers to women stripping them off and tossing them at their men to shame them into action – a practice which still continues today where a wife wants to make a very public point i.e. “You are only fit to wear my skirt!”

I hope that the time will come – but I fear it will not be soon as Vernon is only in the early stage of his political career – that Vernon the researcher is able to write a definitive (and well-illustrated) book on the ritual textiles of the Saribas Iban. Until then, we on the forum have been (and hope to continue to be) the very fortunate recipients of Vernon’s knowledge and contributions to volumes such as “Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art” are, indeed, to be treasured.


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