Exhibition of rare ikat textiles from the Pusaka Collection show diversity and exchanges among Indon


Fibres of Life: Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago (September 15 to November 26, 2017 at the University of Hong Kong's University Museum and Art Gallery) looks at Peter Ten Hoopen’s collection from a scholarly point of view. The dark red bridewealth sarongs, prized and venerated by locals, caught the attention of collectors early on. In contrast, indigo sarongs for everyday use were largely overlooked. With many worn to shreds, few fabrics survive and are now respected and widely sought after. The Pusaka Collection presents a collecting method that has preserved both finery and daily attire.

What knowledge is conserved about ikat textiles and their use in the Indonesian archipelago consists primarily of the records of missionary and scientific fieldwork, predominantly compiled by non-Indonesians. The coverage is thin—many weaving regions are covered by only one or two sources, and several regions have never been studied in any detail. Much traditional knowledge is being lost, especially in the more remote island regions in the Indonesian archipelago, which require concerted effort if any trace of their culture is to survive. UMAG hopes to contribute to the broader project by means of this exhibition and publication, which shows ikat culture through a close reading of examples from over fifty weaving regions and a brief introduction to the conditions, beliefs and customs of the various peoples who have created and used them. The Pusaka Collection reveals the stylistic spectrum of the archipelago's ikat, while also showing remarkable correspondences rooted in time or sculpted by inter-island cultural exchanges. It is rich in superb and rare ikat textiles, many with few known cognates and some of them probably unique. [HKU UMAG]

Fibres of Life: Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago

September 15 to November 26, 2017

University Museum and Art Gallery, University of Hong Kong

For more information about the exhibitions, visit HKU UMAG.

Borneo (Sarawak)

Iban people

Pua, ritual blanket

Warp ikat in medium hand-spun cotton

1880–1920

Intimately interwoven with the ethos of headhunting, this design features large spirit figures (antu) with skull-like heads. Their scaled torsos are probably the weaver’s interpretation of the fish-scale reinforced jackets of Iban warriors. Iban weavers see themselves as operating at the interface of the physical and spiritual worlds. In the process of spiritually empowering textiles, they risk interference from supernatural entities. The figures on the bottom row of this cloth, depicted with one crocodilian and one human hand, probably signal that the weaver was struggling with the spiritual power of the crocodile. Only a weaver of great technical skill and mental prowess could have produced a pua of such size and subject matter.

Borneo (Sarawak)

Iban people

Pua, ritual blanket

Warp ikat in medium hand-spun cotton

1935–1950