Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ikat - Malaysia


This is a a piece of Ikat i own.
Ikat is a woven fabric used for wall hangings, bed-spreads and clothing.
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No, my hands weren't shaking when i took the photo.
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This is one of the traditional patterns and has this quite dis-orientating "shaky" look. Like a Monet painting, it is meant to be admired from afar.
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Traditionally, Malaysian Ikat is hand-loomed by women from the Iban tribe, indigenous to Sarawak in East Malaysia. .
The yarns used in Ikat are pre-dyed so the pattern is formed during the weaving process. Today, Ikat is also woven using industrial looms.
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Geographically Malaysia is divided into West (or Peninsula) Malaysia and East Malaysia comprising Sabah and Sarawak; separated by the Straits of Malacca.
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The tribal culture which has been practically erased from West Malaysia by the relentless march of urbanization, is still very evident in East Malaysia.
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Some interesting snippets about the Ibans:
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Iban men are talented and world-famous tattoo artists. They were also head-hunters.
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In 2007, tattoo artists from all over the world, including Finland, US, UK, Italy, Japan and China converged on Borneo (or British Borneo, as Sarawak used to be called) for the International Tattoo Convention. Here's a link to a Borneo tattoo artist, where you can see the traditional Iban tattoo designs:
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It's been a long while since any (known) head-hunting has been done, though if you are interested, you can see shrunken heads at the Iban Longhouse located at the government-run Sarawak Cultural Village. No photo's of shrunken heads at that site.
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Here's a local travel site with some very nice photo's of the village including a photo of Ikat weaving.

For those of you who absolutely must see shrunken heads, look at the photo of "the community space". see that box-like stove thing on the floor? OK, the shrunken heads are strung up with dried leaves on top of the stove and you cannot see them too clearly. The ibans (of old) believed that when the stove is lit, the spirits (residing in the heads) are invoked and they act as guardians of the longhouse. The majority of Ibans today form part of the minority Christian population of Malaysia.

Note: i'm not affliated to any of the sites in any way.

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