Ceremonial textile (pua)

Iban people

Not on view

This finely woven ceremonial textile comprises two similarly constructed ikat patterned panels which are seamed along two selvages to form a large rectangle. The deep color saturation of the central panel and border indicate that this textile was produced, at the very latest, by the first quarter of the 20th century. The central panel and border sections are animated with lively designs incorporating motifs that include protective figures (known as enkarumba or engamba) and bird-like beings, and dynamic, moving serpents and dragons that taper into abstract motifs. These are animated with expertly executed dashes in black yarn that draw out the detail of the design. The design at each end incorporate cascading tendril-like plant forms that stand out dynamically against the deeply saturated red border. The designs in the center and paired-patterned side stripes are created by black, white and red warp ikat with natural dyes. These areas are both flanked and separated by groups of narrow stripes of different widths in red, black, yellow, tan and white.
The culture and spirituality of the Iban people is interwoven with the natural environment of Borneo, an island the Iban have inhabited for many generations. The genre of pua is the woven textile most readily associated with the Iban. The dyeing and preparation of textiles is highly ritualized in Iban society and the finished textiles–with their figurative motifs–are used to convey cultural and spiritual teachings. In this respect, both the process and the finished cloth are among the Iban’s most cherished cultural practices.

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