Monday, March 3, 2008

'Ikat': Sumba's traditional woven textile

It was a drizzly afternoon and 42-year-old Umbu Anton sat idly by the corridor of the main gateway into Waingapu market.

Lengths of ikat (woven textiles) from East Sumba lay neatly in a pile in front of him, while other textiles he was selling hung displayed on the wall behind him. Most of the woven fabrics had horse, skull, crocodile or dog motifs.

One of the producers of East Sumba ikat, Fidelis Tasman Amat, said the drop in the number of buyers had led to a drop in the number of vendors found along roadsides, in markets and around hotels.

A drop in the number of buyers, Fidelis added, was due to the fact that some vendors sold fake ikat.

"Once someone gets cheated, they are reluctant to buy again as they don't believe what is being sold is genuine ikat," said Fidelis, who comes from Manggarai, in East Nusa Tenggara.

If people want to buy genuine ikat, he said, they prefer to go to production centers or visit ikat workshops.

Fidelis said it was necessary to promote ikat in an event, such as the one recently held by the Council for National Handicrafts Indonesia (Dekranasda)'s East Sumba office, which introduced two of Sumba's longest pieces of ikat.

The two textile pieces were the 50.10-meter-long Hinggi and the 24-meter-long Lawu Pahikungu.

The full name of the first textile is Hinggi Humba A'nda Ukurungu. A hinggi is an ikat specifically for men; humba means Sumba; a'nda means the road; and ukurungu means together. Therefore, Hinggi Humba A'nda Ukurungu means "the road taken together".

Meanwhile, the full name of the second textile is Lawu Pahikkungu Maronongu. Lawu means sarong, pahikkungu means to raise -- in the sense that during the weaving process, the motif is raised using a coconut palm frond -- and maronongu means angels. Put together, this ikat's name means "because of its beauty, this sarong is fit for angels".

It took about six months to produce the two ikat. Close to 100 people were involved in the production of the pieces and they worked every day from morning to the late afternoon.

The two pieces have made it into the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI) as the two longest ikat.

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