The multicultural nature of Indonesia has produced a rich civilisation. Among many cultural and artistic achievements, the diverse textile traditions stand out. Yet these traditions are vulnerable and are in danger of dying.
Ikat meaning to “bind” or “tie” is a resist-dyeing technique whereby the pattern of the finished fabric is determined by the dying of the threads before they are woven. Making an ikat can take more than a year, and there are over 52 steps in the process.
It is a great honour to bring you access to the rich and complex world of “Ikat tenun” in collaboration with Threads of Life, supporting women in artisanal communities, celebrating these unique pieces, and saving this craft from extinction.
"We believe purpose driven shared valued collaborations."
In collaboration with Threads of Life, we are determined to preserve, support and celebrate Ikat textile art from indigenous cultures across the Indonesian archipelago.
As part of our unique curated series, each month we will bring you the very best naturally dyed collectible Ikats from the Threads of Life collection and take you on a profound journey to learn and discover the process and meaning behind each piece.
Social entrepreneurs William Ingram and Jean Howe have been studying, educating and supporting women’s weaving communities since 1998 in Indonesia. Their social enterprise Threads of Life carries the most important and in-depth collection of Indonesian textile art. Working with over 1000 weavers in over 50 communities, Threads of Life helps us step out of our cultural framework and start seeing indigenous textiles on their own terms.
Many aspects of Indonesia’s indigenous material culture, particularly the textile arts, embody social and spiritual information and meaning in their motifs, visual structures, making, and uses. They are mnemonics for stories, poetry and myths that root a people in historical, social and ecological context. Congruent concepts occur over and over in different aspects of material culture and are expressed on different scales, with parallels in a community’s social institutions.
"A person growing up within such a culture is immersed in this milieu. Understanding resides in the muscle memory of repeated tasks. No one person holds it all. Knowledge is dispersed across a community and compiled anew in each ritual or social gathering. Mastery is recognised in someone who feels the congruency of underlying connections so deeply that an intellectual understanding emerges.
Four long arms stretching outward into the sea make up the orchid-shaped island of Sulawesi. Once known as Celebes, this island’s massive size and ruggedly mountainous topography has led to a remarkable diversity of cultures that developed in isolation from each other, from the Minahasa warriors of the north to the renowned seafaring Buginese of the south.
Sealed away by a curtain of mountains along the central spine of Sulawesi are four major Torajan cultural groups: The To Mangki in the mountains near the western coast, the To Mamasa in the gentler hills to the south, the Sa’dan Toraja who occupy the fertile lands surrounding the river valley in the east and to the To Tongkong to the north. Most Toraja people are Protestant or Catholic but the ancestral religion, known as Aluk To Dolo way of the ancestors, has left a powerful legacy of ritual sacrifice and community obligation
The lavish funeral rites, striking traditional houses and majestic fields of rice terraces of Toraja have continued to pique interest since the area was first penetrated by Dutch colonial forces in the early 1900s.Yet with little but treacherous dirt roads leading to the heart land where many Torajan groups live, much of the interior still remains remote.
The symbolic visual language of Toraja is present in every type of craft, whether etched into the wood of traditional houses or woven into the spectacular textiles. Each motif is defined by a long tradition, and each element in the design carries a culturally symbolic meaning. These patterns comprise a sophisticated variety of geometric, curvilinear and pictorial forms that express the important relationships to the ancestors, society and the earth. The magnificent textiles can be as much as ten meters in length and are used as architectural hangings or processional cloth.
“There is a presence in these cloths, a cultural power, which speaks to you in the same way as the rivers and mountains do”- Willy Daos Kadati
This motif is ulu karua refers to the eight traditional leaders who have specific roles and responsibilities for the well-being of their community. According to legend, an ancestor was meditating in a cave when he saw an old tattered cloth containing these motifs. He brought this cloth back to the community where the motifs on the cloth were woven once again.
Morilotong is the name for the black and whitearchitectural ceremonial hanging used by the To Mangki Karataun ethnic group of centralSulawesi. The threads are soaked in a tannin from a Homolanthus sap tree, dyed in iron rich mud and then washed repeatedly in the river to achieve the distinct and clear white.
This cloth predates the Sekomandi textile which uses red and blue dyes. The black and white morilotong textile symbolises duality or heaven and earth. Humans live between these worlds. The primary motif is a pattaka kariango an important medicinal plant (Acorus calamus).
This motif is koko’ refers to a deep depression that is found in the earth that cannot be returned to normal or be changed. This is a reference to making an unwavering commitment that cannot be changed or to the bonds of a relationship that cannot be undone.
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We look forward to taking you on this journey with us,
Rebecca and our constellation of masters.