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1847 Antique Iban Ceremonial Ikat - Serpent

Antique Iban Ceremonial Ikat Pua Kumbu

Among the Iban, textiles are treasured as they are more than just objects made of fibre.

In some cultures, such as the Iban, textiles have played a major, if not central role, in all the ceremonies surrounding the important events in life. Power structures among women are based on dyeing and weaving skills. Perhaps the most important materials owned by families were textiles.

Ikat textiles are among the hardest to make, as the tie-dye is done on the unwoven threads before they are woven into cloth. So with a design in the weaver's imagination, the thread is dyed in sections as per the pattern that is required to be created. This takes immense precision and calculation. So when we note that these textiles were made decades ago in the rainforests of Borneo & Sarawak, there is a sense of awe for the creators.

Size: 137 x 198 cm

  • In Borneo snakes are closely associated with dragons and naga which are female and related to the underworld as opposed to the upperworld - Hornbills & Maleness.Naga is Sanskrit word for deadly snake. The banded Krait is the earthly form
  • The pattern is composed of serpents, humans, monitor lizards, shields and more
  • Bottom end panel has symbols that need further study
  • Serpents patterned with rows of tiny brown vertical dashes alternating with rows of tiny rust ones.
  • Filler elements and borders also remind me of electronic circuit diagrams...
  •  Extremely meticulously done sharp figures all over - indicating that great attention was paid to the alignment at the time of dying. Failing that precision, the effect is blurred and closeups of the figure show mis-alignment of color on the adjacent threads. The test lies in checking the horizontal lines drawn in any figure  - in this one, the lines are as close to perfection as is possible in an ikat.
  • Some filler elements and the figures in the Selakoh (ends) remind me of the patterns on electronic circuit boards...


This item has spent a lifetime being used for the purpose of its creation with the original artist/user. Signs of this life lived heartily may be present on the piece in the form of stains, thread loss, loose threads, holes, tears, color run and other imperfections. Therefore the condition must be assumed to be “not” perfect. More photos of such imperfections will be provided on request.


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