Size: 34 x 62 in (88 x 157 cm)
Provenance: Borneo (Sarawak and Kalimantan), early to mid 20th Century
Method: Handspun cotton, natural and synthetic dyes, warp ikat,
Description: A ritual pua woven in handspun cotton with abstract figures in rust brown, dark brown, and ecru ikat. The textile was woven in two halves and joined together along a vertical edge. The centerfield contains the dominant motif of centipedes enclosed by two ikat bands and an edge stripe of red. The elements of the ikat motif are inspired by Dongson Bronze age designs of spirals, hooks and meanders.
Use: The pua kumbu, is the premier hand-woven warp ikat textile of the Iban culture. It is about the soul of the weaver and her relationship with the spirits. Each unique pua design is created from a vast repertoire of individual motifs whose meanings are combined to produce patterns and stories of ritual and spiritual power. Iban weavers create patterns reflecting their cultural background and their surroundings, and their dreams. Traditionally, the weaving goddess Kumang gave the pua designs and patterns to the weaver through dreams. Some refer to pua as Woven Dreams. Master weavers were held in high esteem and were the only ones allowed to use the most powerful motifs.
All textile art has ritual and social functions. Pua are used in many ceremonies: birth, marriage, funeral and healing and, most famously, to receive the trophy heads brought back from headhunting raids. The many uses include when a new born child is laid upon a pua kumbu. At the first ceremonial bath in the river, the baby is covered with the pua. During the wedding ceremony, pua kumbu are used to adorn the room of the marriage ceremony. Pua kumbu is part of the dowry, and pua kumbu are hung up as curtains to shelter the body of the dead relative. Pua kumbu are also used to veil structures (pandong) containing charms and offering in farming rituals.
Condition: The textile is in very good condition save for one hole shown on the image below.