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1830 Antique Iban Ceremonial Ikat - Crocodiles & Monkeys

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 - Kalimantan, Sabah & Sarawak, there is a sense of awe for the creators.

Further, textiles themselves were believed to have the power to connect to the spirit world. The motifs, the dyes and the complexity of the weaving - all factors that were a direct result of the weaver's skill and experience - contributed to the power held by a textile.

Only textiles with certain features could be used during the most important community ceremonies and the weavers of these therefore enjoyed an elevated status of prestige.

So to study an Iban textile, requires us to focus on patterns, motifs, complexity and lastly and equally importantly - the dyes. The process of dyeing enjoys a far greater role in the value chain of production of Iban textiles than it does in any other group of textiles.

Size: 239 x 117 cm / Has repairs

  • A total of 12 figures, with three crocodiles alongside the langur (on account of the back face) figure on one end and the other six on the other end, heads touching (almost) at the centre of the textile. Two complete human / monkey figures plus two halves on each side. Upper half is a mirror image of the lower half.
  • Bodies patterned with rows of black dots alternating with rows of rust dots.
  • In creating Ikat, to have the black contained within a tiny area and not spillover into adjacent areas is itself a remarkable feat. Then, over and above that, to have all the dots across the breadth of the textile aligned in neat rows is an extraordinary feat.
  • Further, the crocodiles are placed within a boundary which separates them from the human / monkey figures
  • The oblique lines - that are as hard to create as horizontal lines in ikat - have been done meticulously
  • Unlike most other Iban ikats, the vertical edges do not have a border at all.
  • Colors: Rust, black, BLUE, off-white

More to be added as I read up...



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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