tribaltextiles.info

It is currently Wed Sep 24, 2014 12:24 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 84 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next
Author Message
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:32 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Hello

I'm new here. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Vernon and I am not an academic or a collector. I am just the great-grandson of an Iban masterweaver. My family has an heirloom collection of woven blankets called pua kumbu.

The Iban are a tribal people found in Borneo. We're also known as Dayak. Our women weave ikat textiles on the backstrap tension loom. Our biggest cloths are the pua kumbu, roughly translated as blankets; though we do not actually use them as such. They're more ceremonial sacred cloths used in ceremony and for ritual purposes in creating and delineating sacred spaces.

I come from the Saribas, a river basin in Sarawak, a state in Malaysia situated on the island of Borneo. I now live and work in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. My free time is devoted to researching and cataloguing and documenting my family's collection as well as the pieces I have acquired over the years.

http://vernonkeditjolly.blogspot.com is my personal blog where I have started writing as much as I can about my cloths in the hope that the knowledge passed down from my foremothers do not die with me and will be read by future generations of my family. Much of it is esoteric. To read my documentations, click http://vernonkeditjolly.blogspot.com/search/label/pua%20kumbu

Here are some photographs of my family's heirloom pua kumbu. These are all pieces woven by great-grandma Sendi anak Ketit, whom we fondly remember as Indai Gumbek (Gumbek's mother). Gumbek was my grandmother's nick name, and it is customary in the Iban culture to address someone married not directly by their name but to refer to them by their child's name. Hence, Sendi was known as Indai Gumbek to her contemporaries.

I hope to make new friends here and to share my legacy with you. I'd love to hear from you.

Vernon


Attachments:
File comment: Close up of the main body of Indai Gumbek's earliest work.
ENAM.JPG
ENAM.JPG [ 117.26 KiB | Viewed 10171 times ]
File comment: Close up of the main body of an early work.
SELAPAN.JPG
SELAPAN.JPG [ 108.02 KiB | Viewed 10171 times ]
File comment: The Bali Bugau Kantu, my favourite :-)
UBONG MANSAU SERATUS SEMILAN.JPG
UBONG MANSAU SERATUS SEMILAN.JPG [ 71.73 KiB | Viewed 10171 times ]
File comment: Indai Gumbek's masterpiece: The Trees of the Afterlife.
PUA WO.JPG
PUA WO.JPG [ 158.28 KiB | Viewed 10171 times ]
File comment: Indai Gumbek is seated second from the left. This photograph was taken in Singapore just before the 2nd world war. Seated far right is my grandmother Inja (Gumbek) holding my two-year old father!
THE FAMILY.JPG
THE FAMILY.JPG [ 83.14 KiB | Viewed 10171 times ]


Last edited by vernonkeditjolly on Thu Jul 30, 2009 7:35 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 8:15 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
I attach more pics of the Bali Bugau Kantu and close-ups.

For more information on this piece, please click http://vernonkeditjolly.blogspot.com/2009/06/revenge-of-remi.html

I suggest the following as essential background reading, http://vernonkeditjolly.blogspot.com/2009/07/definitive-classical-pua-kumbu.html


Attachments:
File comment: End accompaniment depicting anthropomorphic figures called Gajah Meram which translates as Brooding Elephants. The word 'elephant' is used not to denote the animal (as the figure hardly resembles an elephant) but more the 'enormity' of the figure.
punggang pun.JPG
punggang pun.JPG [ 175.94 KiB | Viewed 10168 times ]
File comment: The main pattern.
isi.JPG
isi.JPG [ 141.75 KiB | Viewed 10168 times ]
File comment: Indai Gumbek stitched the numeric 4 on some of her pua kumbu to denote ownership. The number 4 refers to Door Four of Stambak Ulu longhouse, her address.
punggang ujong.JPG
punggang ujong.JPG [ 195.48 KiB | Viewed 10168 times ]
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:27 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
This is one of my favourite pieces, acquired about fifteen years ago. The main pattern is organic and fluid, flanked by thin side borders and narrow selvedges of commercial yarn. The end accompaniments are unassuming but typically regal. A majestic and terrifying cloth.

Woven in the Old Period, possible 1900s. Provenance Layar, Saribas. Weaver unknown.


Attachments:
File comment: Typical pua kumbu of the Saribas Iban.
Old (Great Krakatoa Eruption 1883 to turn of the 20th Century).JPG
Old (Great Krakatoa Eruption 1883 to turn of the 20th Century).JPG [ 83.38 KiB | Viewed 10159 times ]
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:34 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
An elegant and regal pattern of the ritual poles used during the prestigious Bird Festival celebrated by Iban war leaders. Well balanced cloth flanked by narrow strips of chequered blocks and a white outermost selvedge, the mark of a masterweaver. Dramatic end accompaniments.

From the Classical Period. Provenance Layar, Saribas.


Attachments:
File comment: The Ritual Poles pattern.
Ritual Poles.JPG
Ritual Poles.JPG [ 83.24 KiB | Viewed 10158 times ]
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:55 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
The Bali Belumpong, or Pattern of Logs. There are no actual logs in the pattern, but the clearly delineated blocks of compartments are referred to in Iban as 'logs'. Not a masterpiece but definitley a dramatic and visually engaging piece.

Spirit figures with engorged genitalia dance triumphantly over decapitated corpses - a stunning and visual allegory of head-taking.

In the compartment above, 'seeds' are hung in rattan enclosures - imagery for trophy heads taken in war. The empty space in the middle is a ritual space where the spirit of the cloth has been captured and imprisoned by the weaver.

I love this piece!

The colour is chocolate brown, indicative of the use of the engkerebai dye instead of the usual engkudu or morinda citrifolia.

From the Classical Period. Provenance Paku, Saribas.


Attachments:
File comment: The Bali Belumpong
bali belumpong.JPG
bali belumpong.JPG [ 67.65 KiB | Viewed 10149 times ]
File comment: Spirit figures dance triumphantly over decapitated corpses - a stunning and visual allegory of head-taking.
detail.JPG
detail.JPG [ 146.52 KiB | Viewed 10149 times ]


Last edited by vernonkeditjolly on Mon Jul 27, 2009 11:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:57 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: Canterbury, UK
Vernon

Welcome to the forum! Thank you so very much for sharing these photos of stunning pua woven by your great grandmother (and the very evocative family photo).

I very strongly support your efforts to document your family heritage - and what a wonderful heritage it is!

I was interested to read on your blog your discussion of the two pua in the British Museum which came from the first Rajah and second Ranee of Sarawak (as I live in the UK). Lots more fascinating material on your blog which I have looked through briefly - and clearly must return to. So many photos of fine pua and your writing with them is informative and, in places, very gripping.

I am so glad that you found the forum. I hope that you will share more of knowledge of your Iban culture and, in particular, of the textile traditions of your heritage.

I used to visit Malaysia two or three times a year for the University of Kent before I retired in 2006 and was fortunate to visit Sarawak two or three times although my visits were limited to Kuching. I have one pua hanging in my hallway and several of what used to be called bidang in my collection from these visits.

_________________
Pamela

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


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 10:13 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Pamela wrote:
Vernon

Welcome to the forum! Thank you so very much for sharing these photos of stunning pua woven by your great grandmother (and the very evocative family photo).

I very strongly support your efforts to document your family heritage - and what a wonderful heritage it is!

I was interested to read on your blog your discussion of the two pua in the British Museum which came from the first Rajah and second Ranee of Sarawak (as I live in the UK). Lots more fascinating material on your blog which I have looked through briefly - and clearly must return to. So many photos of fine pua and your writing with them is informative and, in places, very gripping.

I am so glad that you found the forum. I hope that you will share more of knowledge of your Iban culture and, in particular, of the textile traditions of your heritage.

I used to visit Malaysia two or three times a year for the University of Kent before I retired in 2006 and was fortunate to visit Sarawak two or three times although my visits were limited to Kuching. I have one pua hanging in my hallway and several of what used to be called bidang in my collection from these visits.



Hello Pamela

I stumbled upon your site and found a link to this forum. This is my first foray into international waters, so to speak. Do be gentle.

Thank you for the vote of confidence and encouragement. I shall continue to document as much as I can remember from the oral history I inherited from my foremothers.

Please, at any point, comment on my writings. I am an acolyte and it would be an honour for me to have someone of your vast experience and knowledge critique my work.

Perhaps you can take a picture of your pua and skirts and post them here. I would very much like to view them. By the way, 'bidang' in Iban means 'a piece of'. Not skirt. A piece of skirt would be "sebidang kain". Skirt is always and only referred to as 'kain'. And a skirt with patterns is called a 'kain kebat' as opposed to a plain skirt with stripes. I think the misnormer started with Haddon & Start and was continued in Ong's publication. And then the whole non-Iban speaking world began to call our skirts the 'a-piece-of'. Which is quite hilarious to us whenever we hear or read it. Cheeky of me, I know, but I thought I'd make that correction. :wink:

Vernon


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 10:26 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: Canterbury, UK
Vernon

Many thanks for the helpful explanation re bidang and kain kebat.

I have had hunt through old threads on the forum and found this one http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... .php?t=154 which has a photo of my pua and some kain kebat.

If you go back through the forum - perhaps search for Iban or pua you should find quite a few textiles especially those from forum member John who is a keen collector.

Of course I will be gentle with you - that is the way that I like people to be treated on the forum so that members are encouraged to share their knowledge with us all.

_________________
Pamela

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


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 10:56 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Pamela wrote:
Vernon

Many thanks for the helpful explanation re bidang and kain kebat.

I have had hunt through old threads on the forum and found this one http://www.tribaltextiles.info/communit ... .php?t=154 which has a photo of my pua and some kain kebat.

If you go back through the forum - perhaps search for Iban or pua you should find quite a few textiles especially those from forum member John who is a keen collector.

Of course I will be gentle with you - that is the way that I like people to be treated on the forum so that members are encouraged to share their knowledge with us all.


Pamela

I've taken the liberty to attach the photo of your pua kumbu. Oh my! We have a delicious gem here!

Unusually very rich maroon burgundy colour indicates extreme good use of the engkudu dye. The selvedges look commercial, especially the yellow outermost band. Can you check to see if it's commercial aniline or a very rich saffron?

The anak pua or side borders are made up of spirit figures and omen birds. The smaller bands display venomous snakes!

The top end accompaniment is of fire tongs, symbols of strength in Iban mythology. The bottom end accompaniment depicts a row of anthropomorphs which represent guardian spirits.

The main body is that of the buah berinjan selempepat or fireflies in vines pattern. The whole image alludes to the presence of the god of war, Sengalang Burong. He is visually not represented in the image as it is forbidden to weave images of the gods. However, his presence is indicated by the vines that grow by the side of his longhouse, and the fireflies that make their home in those vines. Poetic, isn't it?

So how do they all come together? The fire tongs are brandished by the god of war as he is accompanied by guardian and warrior spirits on the war-path. Omen birds fly before him to clear the way. And snakes bite his enemies. This is nothing less than a pictorial ode to the god of war, and a very elegant one at that! The Berinjan Selempepat pattern was a favourite theme among weavers of the Old and Classical period who would compete with each other to weave the most intricate and embellished interpretations as possible.

One irregularity. The yellow outermost selvedge means the weaver was a master dyer. (Evident from the very rich burgundy.) Yet, she uses the kelemebai at both ends to 'fence' in the main pattern, meaning she has not completed her first cycle of ten blankets. Intriguing.

Pamela, you have a very precious gem, a good piece typical of the Saribas. I would place provenance squarely in the Saribas, most likely from the Layar. Most definitely from the Old Period.


Attachments:
File comment: The fireflies
fireflies.jpg
fireflies.jpg [ 9.38 KiB | Viewed 10144 times ]
File comment: Pamela's Pua Berinjan Selempepat
iban_pua01.jpg
iban_pua01.jpg [ 113.73 KiB | Viewed 10144 times ]
Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 11:11 pm 
Offline
Site Admin

Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
Posts: 1855
Location: Canterbury, UK
Vernon

Thank you so very much for the fascinating information and background to my pua. I have always been very attracted to it but your information has really made it come alive. I will print off your post and study it carefully against the textile.

I have had a look at the yellow edging. Difficult to tell especially at night. I will have another look in the day time - although the pua is hung away from windows and bright lights. It looks quite a soft yellow to me and not a particularly bright aniline yellow (I have checked both sides of the textile in case it has faded but both seem similar) nor a 'rich saffron'.

Thank you so very much for sharing your 'reading' of my pua!

_________________
Pamela

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


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 11:19 pm 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Pamela wrote:
Vernon

Thank you so very much for the fascinating information and background to my pua. I have always been very attracted to it but your information has really made it come alive. I will print off your post and study it carefully against the textile.

I have had a look at the yellow edging. Difficult to tell especially at night. I will have another look in the day time - although the pua is hung away from windows and bright lights. It looks quite a soft yellow to me and not a particularly bright aniline yellow (I have checked both sides of the textile in case it has faded but both seem similar) nor a 'rich saffron'.

Thank you so very much for sharing your 'reading' of my pua!


My pleasure, Pamela.

Yellow of vegetable dye? Very interesting. Which makes me wonder about the yarn. One last enquiry. Is it handspun or commercial yarn? You can tell handspun from the irregular and inconsistent size of the warp threads. Commercial yarn would be fine and consistent in size. If you would be so kind as to have a quick look please.

This is important. I'll tell you why after I know if it's handspun or commercial. :wink:


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Iban and
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 3:23 am 
Offline

Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:51 am
Posts: 66
Location: New York
Hi Vernon:

I should dig out my Dyak textiles and photograph them to learn more but I'm behind on other projects so I thought I'd just say hello for now. Some I bought in New York, some in Sarawak, Kalimantan and Jakarta.

I have a pua, some skirts, beadwork and a few Iban "transitional" textiles - the ones where they started incorporating modern images into traditional textiles. I'm fond of that type of textile wherever I find them, because they show how cultures evolve.

In any case, welcome!

_________________
Anna


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Iban and
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 5:30 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Ikat wrote:
Hi Vernon:

I should dig out my Dyak textiles and photograph them to learn more but I'm behind on other projects so I thought I'd just say hello for now. Some I bought in New York, some in Sarawak, Kalimantan and Jakarta.

I have a pua, some skirts, beadwork and a few Iban "transitional" textiles - the ones where they started incorporating modern images into traditional textiles. I'm fond of that type of textile wherever I find them, because they show how cultures evolve.

In any case, welcome!


Hello Anna

Yes, you should dig them out. Especially the piece from New York. I'm always curious about pieces that make it all the way to far off lands. We Iban believe that every pua kumbu has a soul and that it never dies, no matter how old or tattered it may be. Travel, in the Iban mindset and psyche, is a means by which we attain fame and fortune. When a pua travels, it is attaining its own form of immortality.

One of my dreams is to collate and publish the 'diaspora' collection of pua kumbu scattered in museums and public and private collections all over the world!

Thank you for the welcome.

Vernon

PS. My modest start: http://vernonkeditjolly.blogspot.com/2009/07/two-most-earliest-documented-iban.html


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Iban Textiles
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:06 am 
Offline

Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:18 am
Posts: 81
Dear Vernon Kedit Jolly,

I want to thank you for your fabulous contribution to this forum. "Only" being a grandson of a rich line of weavers....????? Who could have a more extraordinary view of indigenous cloth? You are in a unique position and I am so pleased that you have chosen to do something with your fascination with your textile heritage. The whole world will gain from it.

I am located in The Netherlands and I have just finished writing and publishing Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia, an in-depth account of Batak textiles. Your desire to document the full repertory of Iban cloths is admirable and certainly needed. I argue in my book that we now need very thorough accounts of individual traditions if the study of textiles is to take a step forward. There have been many general accounts written and these were absolutely necessary to get a good sense of the lay of the land, as it were. But now to move forward, even for comparative purposes, and especially to better understand the histories of these art forms, we need in-depth accounts.

I compared the naming of Batak and Iban patterns on pages 95 and 96 of my book, based on the work by Traude Gavin (Iban Ritual Textiles, KITLV Press, 2003). It is not light reading, and I do not wish to bog you down with it, but I attach it here in case you are inclined to have a look at it and perhaps comment on it. I would really value your insights.

Whether you have the opportunity to reflect on what I have written, or not, I wish you much success with your plans and I look forward immensely to reading your results.

Quote:
Comparison with Iban pattern nomenclature
The Batak system of textile classification differs significantly
from what has recently come to light about the way the Iban of
Borneo name their textiles. Traude Gavin 2003:211 has explained
that the patterns of Iban pua kumbu textiles are in the first
instance individual creations. She describes what she calls a
chaotic situation: while some patterns are faithfully copied,
patterns are also ‘turned around; parts are incorporated in other
patterns and given new names. Dissimilar patterns are ascribed
the same name and so on.’ Patterns have pedigrees. Because
weavers knew only the patterns that they had woven and that
had been handed down in their family Gavin 2003:21, research
into the patterns could only proceed by tracing the pedigrees.
Gavin referred to the names used to identify these patterns as
‘labels’. This system of naming functioned as ‘a kind of reference
system, as a kind of shorthand and mnemonic device in order to
distinguish one pattern from another’ Gavin 2003:169. ‘Titles’, by
contrast, were assigned to patterns that had acquired meaning
or rank indicative of ‘a certain level of ritual efficacy’ 2003:79.
Titled patterns comprised units that, given time, could become
‘conventional symbols’ 2003:237; they achieved this wider
recognition through ritual use. The textile-naming system
appears to correspond with the Iban social organization, and to
have its parallel in the way people achieve status. The Iban do
not have a ‘notion of cultural unity and uniformity, but identify
themselves by river, or even just by their particular longhouse
community.’ The achievement of a higher status implies
becoming more widely known.
Gavin’s description of the Iban system of textile naming
throws the Batak system into relief. Batak textile designs are not
individual inventions – or more precisely, they are not socially
recognized as such. The goal of a Batak weaver is to make a
particular design in a way that conforms to the rules of
convention for that design type. The design-type categories
have the wide recognition that Iban ‘titled’ textiles or
‘conventional symbols’ appear to have, but among the Batak this
recognition appears to be a priori and ascribed, not achieved.
Achievement resides in the weaver having her textile conform
to the recognized template. Among the Batak, the patterns have
no traceable pedigrees, and the repertories of individuals are
not remembered. Gavin stresses that woven patterns among
the Iban are, in the first place, decorative, and only achieve
spiritual importance when given a title. This is unlike what is
found among the Batak. The name of a recognized Batak textile
corresponds to design conventions that are ritually recognized
nomenclature Design 4 95
Design 4
and consequently have a sacred role. Consistent with the
process of modernization, decline in adherence to conventional
rules of design production correlates with secularization see Des
3. It appears to be the case, therefore, that Batak textile designtype
names fall midway between Iban labels and titles. They are
like Iban labels because (as demonstrated by the possible set of
answers available to a Batak weaver) they emphasize features of
the textiles. On the other hand, unlike Iban labels and like Iban
titles they are generally recognized and have sacred value –
although they are not submitted to the same kinds of ritual
requirements that Iban textiles must undergo to gain a title.
Conventionally applied Batak design-type labels are ritually
recognized and do appear to evolve from descriptive tags as a
consequence of widespread social recognition. When this
happens, the spiritual status of the textile type (but not specific
cloths) also increases. However, this process does not appear to
be socially recognized nor to figure among the ambitions of a
Batak weaver.
The comparative enterprise
When comparing Indonesian textile traditions, the researcher
would do well to take systems of nomenclature into account as
much as textile design. In essence, the comparison of
nomenclatures involves comparing systems of textile meaning.
Do the names refer to facets of cloth appearance, or elements
external to the cloth? What is the social and ritual status of the
names? How does textile nomenclature correlate with social
organization and social change? How and why do names
change? What is the role of individual initiative in the
development of names, and of social forces beyond the power of
the individual?

_________________
Sandra Niessen

www.bataktextiles.com
http://bataktextiles.blogspot.com/


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Iban Textiles
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:36 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:05 pm
Posts: 128
Location: Kuching, Malaysia
Sandra Niessen wrote:
Dear Vernon Kedit Jolly,

I want to thank you for your fabulous contribution to this forum. "Only" being a grandson of a rich line of weavers....????? Who could have a more extraordinary view of indigenous cloth? You are in a unique position and I am so pleased that you have chosen to do something with your fascination with your textile heritage. The whole world will gain from it.

I am located in The Netherlands and I have just finished writing and publishing Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia, an in-depth account of Batak textiles. Your desire to document the full repertory of Iban cloths is admirable and certainly needed. I argue in my book that we now need very thorough accounts of individual traditions if the study of textiles is to take a step forward. There have been many general accounts written and these were absolutely necessary to get a good sense of the lay of the land, as it were. But now to move forward, even for comparative purposes, and especially to better understand the histories of these art forms, we need in-depth accounts.

I compared the naming of Batak and Iban patterns on pages 95 and 96 of my book, based on the work by Traude Gavin (Iban Ritual Textiles, KITLV Press, 2003). It is not light reading, and I do not wish to bog you down with it, but I attach it here in case you are inclined to have a look at it and perhaps comment on it. I would really value your insights.

Whether you have the opportunity to reflect on what I have written, or not, I wish you much success with your plans and I look forward immensely to reading your results.

Quote:
Comparison with Iban pattern nomenclature
The Batak system of textile classification differs significantly
from what has recently come to light about the way the Iban of
Borneo name their textiles. Traude Gavin 2003:211 has explained
that the patterns of Iban pua kumbu textiles are in the first
instance individual creations. She describes what she calls a
chaotic situation: while some patterns are faithfully copied,
patterns are also ‘turned around; parts are incorporated in other
patterns and given new names. Dissimilar patterns are ascribed
the same name and so on.’ Patterns have pedigrees. Because
weavers knew only the patterns that they had woven and that
had been handed down in their family Gavin 2003:21, research
into the patterns could only proceed by tracing the pedigrees.
Gavin referred to the names used to identify these patterns as
‘labels’. This system of naming functioned as ‘a kind of reference
system, as a kind of shorthand and mnemonic device in order to
distinguish one pattern from another’ Gavin 2003:169. ‘Titles’, by
contrast, were assigned to patterns that had acquired meaning
or rank indicative of ‘a certain level of ritual efficacy’ 2003:79.
Titled patterns comprised units that, given time, could become
‘conventional symbols’ 2003:237; they achieved this wider
recognition through ritual use. The textile-naming system
appears to correspond with the Iban social organization, and to
have its parallel in the way people achieve status. The Iban do
not have a ‘notion of cultural unity and uniformity, but identify
themselves by river, or even just by their particular longhouse
community.’ The achievement of a higher status implies
becoming more widely known.
Gavin’s description of the Iban system of textile naming
throws the Batak system into relief. Batak textile designs are not
individual inventions – or more precisely, they are not socially
recognized as such. The goal of a Batak weaver is to make a
particular design in a way that conforms to the rules of
convention for that design type. The design-type categories
have the wide recognition that Iban ‘titled’ textiles or
‘conventional symbols’ appear to have, but among the Batak this
recognition appears to be a priori and ascribed, not achieved.
Achievement resides in the weaver having her textile conform
to the recognized template. Among the Batak, the patterns have
no traceable pedigrees, and the repertories of individuals are
not remembered. Gavin stresses that woven patterns among
the Iban are, in the first place, decorative, and only achieve
spiritual importance when given a title. This is unlike what is
found among the Batak. The name of a recognized Batak textile
corresponds to design conventions that are ritually recognized
nomenclature Design 4 95
Design 4
and consequently have a sacred role. Consistent with the
process of modernization, decline in adherence to conventional
rules of design production correlates with secularization see Des
3. It appears to be the case, therefore, that Batak textile designtype
names fall midway between Iban labels and titles. They are
like Iban labels because (as demonstrated by the possible set of
answers available to a Batak weaver) they emphasize features of
the textiles. On the other hand, unlike Iban labels and like Iban
titles they are generally recognized and have sacred value –
although they are not submitted to the same kinds of ritual
requirements that Iban textiles must undergo to gain a title.
Conventionally applied Batak design-type labels are ritually
recognized and do appear to evolve from descriptive tags as a
consequence of widespread social recognition. When this
happens, the spiritual status of the textile type (but not specific
cloths) also increases. However, this process does not appear to
be socially recognized nor to figure among the ambitions of a
Batak weaver.
The comparative enterprise
When comparing Indonesian textile traditions, the researcher
would do well to take systems of nomenclature into account as
much as textile design. In essence, the comparison of
nomenclatures involves comparing systems of textile meaning.
Do the names refer to facets of cloth appearance, or elements
external to the cloth? What is the social and ritual status of the
names? How does textile nomenclature correlate with social
organization and social change? How and why do names
change? What is the role of individual initiative in the
development of names, and of social forces beyond the power of
the individual?



Dear Sandra

I am familiar with Miss Gavin's work and her impressive publication, Iban Ritual Textiles. Though she has done much in contributing to the growing interest in Iban material culture and added to the current literature on the subject of pua kumbu, I must confess I have found some of her points to be incorrect and the ensuing arguments to be flawed. Perhaps her grasp of the Iban language is limited, or she was led on a wild goose chase by her many field informants during her research. Or perhaps her informants were not exactly qualified to comment on the pua kumbu tradition which is highly stylised and esoteric and fraught with pitfalls even for the casual Iban observer or student of weaving.

Her discussion of terminology and nomenclature has several general sweeping statements which I find incomplete, sometimes incorrect. For instance, you write "she stresses that woven patterns among the Iban are, in the first place, decorative, and only achieve spiritual importance when given a title."

I beg to differ with Miss Gavin. If woven patterns are merely decorative and only achieve spiritual importance when given a title, then pray tell, why is the process of tying the knots of certain patterns deemed spiritually dangerous since time immemorial? Innocuous decorative patterns are the pengalit (embellishments) found on the main pattern, mostly made up of tendrils and coils and curls. These are 'harmless' in themselves. But the igi buah (main motifs) are where the 'spirits' of the cloth are 'created', at the tying of the knots stage (kebat). That is when the weaver is exposed to much risk and danger. Her spirit begins a duel with that of the spirit of the pattern. Whether or not the weaver names or titles these patterns at the knotting stage is irrelevant. They begin to exist the moment she begins to tie the knots that create them. The point is not whether they are named or titled which makes them potent or spiritually important, but that the weaver has created them. And by that act of creation alone, she is summoning up the spirit of the pattern. Even if they are nameless or without title. A rose by any other name...

All Iban pua kumbu undergo ritual requirements, regardless whether they are titled or not once complete. It is de rigeur. However, only a few pua kumbu are titled (with a personal praisename), and that is not a decision made by the weaver. That is a spiritual decision decided by the gods who will inform the weaver through dream encounters. To title a cloth is an honour bestowed by the gods, and not because certain rites had to be executed.

Having said that, an untitled cloth is no less potent or insignificant nor is it merely decorative. It is still a ritually imbued cloth and its rank corresponding with the status accorded the pattern since time immemorial. It simply just has no personal name. A title does not make a cloth any better than the others. It merely gives the pua kumbu a personal name.

Another misgiving I have is Miss Gavin's sweeping statement that the Bali Belumpong is the highest ranked type of pattern in the Saribas, equalled only by the Bali Kelikut and the Honeybear pattern or the pua jugam (as she rightly identifies it). How she arrives at that conclusion she does not mention but I can say for certain she is much mistaken. For starters, no bear pattern exists in the vast repertoire of pua kumbu patterns, honey or otherwise. Her entire premise on the pua jugam is therefore consequently flawed. And all because of the misinterpretation of the term jugam which figuratively means 'black', and not the honeybear. Iban weavers are cruelly cunning when it comes to puns, always intended. As for the Kelikut, Miss Gavin has obviously been led astray by some mischievous informant. I have written a short entry in my personal blog on the Bali Kelikut to redress the apparent oversight: http://vernonkeditjolly.blogspot.com/2009/07/bali-kelikut.html. Any Saribas Iban with a superficial or brief knowledge of Iban adat ritual law, cosmology and oral history would know that the ceremonial pole or tree pattern is the unrivalled and incontrovertibly highest ranked pattern in our tradition. Our oral traditions abound with references to the Great Tree of the Afterlife, our pantheons crowded with swaying sacred palm fronds and majestic burgeoning erectile trees reminiscent of phallic invincibility. How does any bear outrank that? In my great grandmother's day, to suggest that the Trees of the Afterlife pattern was anything less than omnipotent was tantamount to lèse majesté!

Returning to your discussion on nomenclature and terminology, allow me to suggest that as far as Iban textiles are concerned, how patterns and motifs are named is a very complex subject because of regional variants, dialectic semantics and of course, the whole point that an oral based tradition is constantly evolving and in transitional change. Whole books may be written on it. In a nutshell, all patterns have a GENERAL term and sometimes a PERSONAL name. General terms are universal while personal names (ensumbar or praisenames) are very subjective and often only the weaver would know it as she would have been the one coining it in the first place. Once this simple principle is grasped, everything else falls into place. More or less. But like in all tribal textiles traditions, exceptions always exist to throw us off completely! Weavers are only human, and sometimes we forget that.

I hope this has been helpful.

vernon


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 84 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group