Iban Textiles from Borneo
The textiles on this page are all examples of pua kumbu, ceremonial cloths made by Iban people living in the Upper Kapuas river region (Kapuas Hulu) of Kalimantan, Indonesia. Many Iban people live just over the border in the Malaysian part of Borneo, and the Malaysian Iban are perhaps better known than those in the Kapuas area.
Pua Kumbu are large cloths that were used for festivals, typically hung up to demarcate spaces. In the days when the Iban were still headhunters (up to the early part of the 20th century) these cloths also played a role in headhunting rituals. Most pua are decorated using the ikat technique. This method is used by many groups in Island Southeast Asia, but the Iban are unique in making large scale designs and in placing a high value on the weaver's individual expression and creativity, so that the variety and quality of the designs are truly astounding. The only ikat tradition with comparable scale and variety is that of Sumba.
The Iban ikat tradition seems to have undergone a flowering during the latter half of the 19th and early part of the 20th century, and many of the most impressive cloths date from this period. Old pua kumbu are much sought-after and examples appear in major public and private collections worldwide.
Prices on request. Click on the photographs for enlarged versions.
Pua kumbu with row of male figures at the base. Complex design above, perhaps including palm fronds(?)
An impressive cloth, made of commercial cotton and natural dyes, including a brownish morinda and indigo blue. Dates from around 1970.
124cm x 250cm.
|detail of the row of male figures in KT45|
Classical pua kumbu with "drifting clouds" design or closely related variation, pleasingly rendered with good proportions and color. Made from handspun cotton and natural dyes, including morinda and a dark brown color. Date: first quarter of 20th century, perhaps earlier.
There are several areas with old repairs, visible as dark patches of darning, and some holes along the edge, all of which can be seen in the photo (click on the photo at right to see a larger version).
130cm x 236cm
A very old pua kumbu with a design of crocodiles and human figures.
The design consists of two rows of crocodiles with small human figures in between. In the upper row there are women and perhaps children. In the lower row of crocodiles there are male figures, also small motifs that might be birds.
This cloth was made from handspun cotton and natural dyes(morinda and a brown dye). It is very old, dating from the first quarter of the 20th century or perhaps earlier, and it is in a fragile condition, with some small holes (visible in the enlarged photograph).
118cm x 197cm.
|detail of KT53, showing female figure (on the right) and child(?) on the left|
|detail of KT53, showing male figure from the bottom row of crocodiles|