The Iban society used the spear and the loom as symbols to evoke the differentiation of male and female gender roles.
Trophy heads and woven textiles were both equally significant as cultural constructs and both, warriors and weavers enjoyed equal prestige in the social structure.
One of the most important ceremonies of receiving trophy heads when warriors returned after victory involved the ikat shoulder cloth woven by the women. Only certain cloths were allowed to be used for this ceremony and only women of high prestige created these cloths.
Such was the importance of textiles in the Iban community.
The drawing on these Ikats was not random - each motif or pattern was selected deliberately for the significance of the motif. The symbolism and the crafting expertise (in weaving and in dyeing) determined the prestige of the cloth, and the prestige of the weaver. The textiles creation skills of a woman decided her prestige and power within the social order.
The motifs and patterns each have a deep cultural symbolism. So while my notes describe the motif as a serpent or a crocodile, the cultural significance of these requires a much longer study into the fascinating Iban culture.
Presented here are 21 artworks of interest.
NOTE: The symbolism in these textiles is highly evolved and so reading a textile requires deep knowledge of the culture and the art. My knowledge in this subject is very limited and using the help of reference books, I have put together the descriptions. These may well be incomplete and if you have a better view of any of the textiles and motifs I will be happy to learn.
The descriptions have been put together using similar examples from the following books:
1) "Iban Ritual Textiles" by Traude Gavin
2) "The Women's Warpath" by Traude Gavin
3) "Textiles from Borneo"
4) "Pua - Iban Weavings of Sarawak" by Edric Ong
5) "Female and Male in Borneo" Edited by Vinson Sutlive Jr.
Dates: Jan 2nd, 2024 — Feb 28th 2024
To view the exhibition:
Enter the Exhibition - Take a guided tour first
Use the 'i' button to understand the narrative.
The info box has a link to take you to the gallery listing for that artwork with more images, description and price