Indonesian Textiles – Primitive Textiles

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Textiles From all periods of Indonesia’s history are still being produced

However, these are living traditions and not fossilized relic. textiles change, and unfortunately many traditional ones are now being lost.

The barkcloths found among upland tribes in Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi (the Celebs) and Irian Jaya (New Guinea) harken back to a prehistoric development. Nevertheless, some barkcloths, particullarly those of the Palu and Torajan peoples of central Sulawesi, display an extremely high degree of artistry.

The Torajans, for example, boiled and fermented the inner bark of pandanus, mullberry or other trees before beating the resultant pulp into extremely soft and pliable sheets with special wooden and stone mallets. This cloth (fuya) was then dyed, painted or stamped using natural pigments. Finally it was cut and sewn into headwraps, blouses, ponchos and bags, and then often embroidered or appliqued.

Weaving techniques were probably well developed in prehistoric times. Clues as to the nature of earlier weaving may exist in the simple vegetable fibre fabrics still found in some areas. Many of these do not even require a loom, and therefore fall somwhere in between the categories of weaving and basketry. Until recently, certain tribes in Kalimantan, Flores, Sulawesi and Timor produced warrior tunics from bast (bark) fibres by twining them, a simple process in which two weft fibres are alternately wrapped above and below a passive wrap.

Garments made of plaited grasses, pandanus or sago leaves, bamboo, palm, and other plant fibres are not unknown today. And more sophisticated weavings produced from wild banana and pineapple fibres are still found in northeastern Sulawesi (Manahasa) and on the nearby island of Sangir and Talaud. The local name of these fabrics is hote, though they are also known as koffo or “Manila hemp” cloths. Most are decorated with geometric patterns (diamonds, scrolls, stars) formed by dyeing short lenghts of fibre and incorporating them into the weft.

Non-cotton fibres do not belong necessarily to an earlier stage of textile development. Many of the more “primitive” textiles showed an extraordinary degree of sophistication. Since cotton is used in most of the more advanced textiles, and requires cultivation, spinning and the use of a loom, it is generally thought of as a later development, though it is indigenous to the region and is grown and woven by many socalled “primitiv” peoples, The technique closely associated with the advent of cotton in Indonesia is wrap ikat. This ia a traditional method of design in which the warp threads of a cloth are tie-dyed prior to being woven. The term ikat means “to tie” in many Indonesian lanhuages, and the threads are most often patterned by tying off areas, which are not meant to absorb the dye with dye-resistant fibres. In the hands of a master weaver, the result can be intricate, detailed motifs executed in deep, rich colours.

Warp ikat weavings are found today mainly in the eastern island of the Sunda archipelago (from Sumba and Flores to Timor and Tanimbar), but also in some of the more inaccesible areas of Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi. These textiles require tremendous patience and skill. Spinning the threads and preparing the dyes, tying the warp threads, and then repeatedly immersing and drying them to achieve the desired colour is no less a task than the actual weaving itself. A fine cloth produced with natural dyes used to take eight to 10 years to complete. natural dye recipes are extremely complex, some of them requiring sophisticated carriess and mordants. traditionally, it apprears that indigo, mengkudu root (a red dye) and soga (produced from brown roots and barks) were then main dyes used, but Turkey red and coshineal were popularized by Islamic traders.

–> Read Also : Indonesian Textiles – Weft and Double Ikats

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