This native woven cloth of the Iban of Sarawak, is no longer confined to
use as wall-hangings and table cloth, they are now specially made for
fashion and furnishings. In the past, Iban women used hand-spun cotton.
But few grow and harvest their cotton or spin their own yarn now.
Weavers use dyes made from roots, bark leaves and other vegetation.
These natural dyes are closely guarded secrets and getting the right
tones is a difficult skill that requires much experience. Dying often
takes months and the cotton yarn is dyed many times to get the right
shade. Traditional designs come from the Iban environment and universe.
Most can be traced back to the ancient Tree of Life, a spiritual
vision of the world filled with creatures of the rainforest.
pua kumbu is created on a back-strap loom by interlacing parallel
longitudinal threads called the warp with lateral threads called
the weft. Weaving is both complicated and intricate in nature. It
takes three months to complete a two by four feet piece. Iban
weaving is known fir its fine hook and curl designs. Weaving
skills are passed on through the generations.
silk was introduced to the weavers, and creative fashion designers
have turned the material into a variety of wearable art and
lifestyle statements. Styled into dresses and shirts, the silk
garments become one-of-a kind designer wear as each piece of woven
textile is different. Silk pua kumbu make attractive shawls and
wraps guaranteed to be conversation pieces at social gatherings.
The latest innovation combines ikat and batik techniques resulting
in batikat in the same way that the songket and ikat have
become songkat. Today most weavers use chemical dyes to
make commercial pieces for sale as souvenirs.
conveying artistry, the pua kumbu is regarded as a status symbol
in Iban society, a sign of material wealth, social rank and
prestige. A young girls matrimonial worth and value is
considerably increased if she possesses good weaving skills. The
best pieces are given as dowry during betrothal ceremonies. They
are treasured and only displayed publicly during weddings, births,
illnesses and funerals. When Iban chiefs die, their corpses are
surrounded by as many as 15 hanging pua kumbu.
renowned are the women of the Garie longhouse in Sungai Kain.
Getting there involves flying from Kuching to
Sibu, a three-hour
boat ride to Kapit, a two hour upriver trip to Nanga Kain and
another two-hour longboat journey to reach the destination.
places include the Pua Gallery at Fort Sylvia, Kapit and the Tun
Jugah Pua Gallery in Kuching.
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