Monday, January 19, 2009

Buah Terabai / Lang Tuai

Motif: Buah Terabai / Lang Tuai
Material: Cotton and natural dye
Weaver: Nangku ak Dinggat
Origin: Samu, Paku, Betong
Age of pua: 90 years
Owner: Dato Sri Empiang Jabu

Friday, January 16, 2009


Material: Cotton, natural dye.
Motif: Tangga Beji
Weaver: Cherurai ak Jantan
Origin: Matop, Paku, Betong
Age of Pua: 100 years
Owner: Unei ak Begam

The story of Tangga Beji
"Beji nangga hari, patah titi enchepong purang"

Beji, an Iban man from Batang Ketungau (Kalimantan Barat), wishes to go up to the heavens to meet GOD. He built many ladders using the enchepong purang tree as his base. Little did he know that the enchepong purang tree was attacked by white ants / termites. Because of this, his ladders collapsed and hence he never went up to see GOD.

Translation onto pua motif:
The above pua was woven by a master weaver, Cherurai ak Jantan, to remind her children and future generations of the story of Beji. The blue / indigo design on the pua depicts the ladders built by Beji. Beji (figurine) is seen going up the ladders and also falling down.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Pua Kumbu as a status symbol

The social structure of the Iban community can best be described as an egalitarian structure, in which the men and women in the community have equal roles. Class hierachy also does not exists in this community. Hence, everyone in the community strive to achieve something in order to gain status and distinguish themselves from the others. This is evident in the roles of men and women since the olden days.

The Iban men participates in the headhunting journeys and they are recognised and feared by the number of trophy heads they have captured. They are also measured by how far they have travelled away from home (Bejalai). While the men travelled a far to seek new territories and to gain fame and fortune, the women attended to the welfare of their families i.e. looking after their children and the elderly and at the same time working the field for their livelihood.

The Iban women are regarded accomplish by the standard of their weaving skills of the pua kumbu and the motifs of the pua they produce. A high honour - "Indu Takar, Indu Ngar" - is bestowed upon a weaver who knows how to measure the ingredients to produce the mordant in which cotton (traditionally used) thread or silk thread (newly introduced material) must be treated to absorb natural dyes especially engkudu (Morinda citrifolia). These master weavers are believed to be guided by spirits of ancestral weavers and only them are allowed to weave special, powerful and dangerous motifs. It is said that if a non master weaver tries to weave any of the sacred motifs, bad luck and illness will fall onto them.