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East Malaysia, Borneo

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WEFT SYMPOSIUM September 2010
Sarawak (39294 bytes) International Ikat Forum

This forum was held in June 1999, in Kutching, Malaysia organized by Society Aelier Sarawak, together with the Sarawak museum, and Tun Jugah Foundation. The co-ordinator, Edric Ong, is a dedicated collector and enthusiast who has put great effort into encouraging the preservation of the local ikat practice, maintaining its traditional integrity.  He  brought together approximately 260 delegates who were scholars, artists, weavers, collectors and designers from around the world.

Session papers covered ikat practice historically through to recent times from Central Asia, India, Japan, Philippians Thailand,  Korea, The Indonesian Archipelago, to Malaysia. Rosemary Crill, from The Victoria and Albert Museum, London showed how India seems to have nurtured the origins of ikat, depicted in the Ajanta Caves in the 7th century.  She showed how  areas of Southern India are more likely to have been the source than the more famous Patan in Gujurat. Eventually   ikat spread by trade to the Near and Middle East as well as throughout South East Asia. Conference papers were published in a book given to delegates upon arrival which enabled them  to read the text beforehand. So much material was presented that this helped in digesting the information. 

Of greatest interest was the local ikat practice which was prominent in a competition exhibition hanging in the lecture hall. Fifty traditional Iban weavers who had entered the competition  were among the delegates. At a special prize giving ceremony the winners were announced.   This exhibition is held annually and is a means of supporting, encouraging and rewarding the local weavers.  New categories have been added for silk weaving, a  fibre introduced in recent years to the weavers.

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This fabric called "Pua Kumba" is woven traditionally from cotton on a back strap loom.  It  is a "blanket" previously used to receive the trophy heads when the the warriors returned from battle but  retains its prestige in spite of the custom of headhunting being abolished. The designs are given to the master weavers in dreams from their ancestors, and said to possess power of the spirit it represents. Garments endowed with supernatural powers were also produced. Datin Amar Margaret Linggi, herself a Iban, has researched Iban textiles and written an exhibition catalogue "Ties That Bind" Williamsburg, Virginia.  Her presentation at the forum gave us her first hand knowledge.
An evening fashion parade was another highlight of the conference showing garments crafted from contemporary ikat textiles. International designers had prepared collections ranging from casual wear to formal attire.

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This spectacular collection combined elegance of fabric with simple lines of styled garments.

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The guest were equally elegant in their National dress

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Many Country displays were tastefully hung to show the unique ikats of the regions. It is interesting to see how diverse the end product can be, in spite of the basic tie- dyeing of the yarn before weaving being the same.This display from Japan showed variety in effect.


Natural Dyeing demonstrations were held the last afternoon showing the diversity of dye source from tea, indigo,  safflower, and madder, plant materials to Lac which is an insect dye source used to produce  reds and pinks. These demonstrations were a popular part of the conference, giving many a chance to see the actual processes. The local plants, Marsdenia tinctoria, renggat padi, or renggat akar, producing indigo are somewhat   different to those found in other areas of the world. There is  less  arduous preparation utilizing fresh leaves.

KS Rao from India demonstrated mordant dyeing using block printing


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