Threads Of Life

Kalimantan Island

Dayak, or ‘people of the interior,’ is a catch-all term that loosely describes more than two hundred groups living along the hills and rivers of Kalimantan. After their ancestors migrated across the hundreds of tributaries that carve through Borneo, Dayak tribes settled into small communities and built distinctive longhouses that define the social organization of each group. With stilts lifting the house off the ground to protect from floods and provide underfloor ventilation, the longhouse is an appropriate solution to life in the forest and serves as the locus of traditional and ceremonial life.

In the past, the ritual meaning of Dayak textiles was inseparable from headhunting. Enemy heads were believed to contain hostile spirits that could wreak havoc if not properly contained. Only a textile with powerful protective motifs could contain that energy. With the right textile, it was believed that captured heads could make the rice fields fertile and bring prosperity to the village. Weaving such textiles was considered a spiritually dangerous act, with the same risks of injury or death as going to war. A woman who wove ceremonial cloths proved her strength and courage to the community.

A Dayak woman’s social status was once defined by her skills in weaving and dyeing. A woman who could produce traditional cloths earned the respect of her community, and the forms within the cloth were tightly bound to the folklore, ritual and social systems of that community. Today, urbanisation and the destruction of Borneo’s rainforests threaten the Dayak social order and way of life. Despite this Dayak people continue their traditions and culture with annual ceremonies (gawai) related to the harvest, bringing people back to their traditional house from all over the archipelago. During this time a range of life cycle ceremonies will be performed.

Pua Kumbu

A pua kumbu is made from two panels of ikat cloth that are sewn together into a larger blanket called pua. It is used as a decorative hanging during harvest ceremonies among the Dayak of Kalimantan called Gawai, where it may be hung or used as the blanket upon which offerings are placed for the ancestor. Kumbu refers to the red color of the textile derived from the bark of the root of Morinda citrifolia tree. The mordant process used to achieve the red dye is complex as it requires many different plants from the forest and must be performed with a ritual.

pua may also be used to cover a person who is ill during a healing with a traditional doctor. The Dayak textiles have always been highly regarded for their unique designs woven from dreams.


Bidang

Bidang is an single panel ikat woven textile made by the Dayak Desa women in the Sintang area of West Kalimantan. A bidang is a single panel textile that is then opened and sewn into a tubular skirt it can also be left as an open single textile used for ceremonies upon which offerings are placed or it may wrap an offering.


Tating

Tating is the traditional tubular skirt but with embellishments of bells, beads and shells. It is worn by the Dayak Desa women of West Kalimantan for special ceremonies such as the ritual bathing of a newborn child in the river to introduce the child to the spirit of the river, a tooth filing ceremony, ritual rice pounding or a marriage ceremony. Tating refers to the sound of the decorative bells sewn onto the edge of the textile. The motifs are important ceremonial symbols relating to the ritual role that the women are expected to perform.


Cilai Gantung

Cilai Gantung

Cilai gantung is a breast wrap worn for ceremonies by the Dayak Desa women in West Kalimantan.


Biduk Sungkit

Biduk sungkit is made using a supplementary warp wrap patterning and is made by the Dayak Kantuk and worn as a skirt. This skirt is worn for ceremonies such as weddings, tooth filings and the first bathing of a child to introduce the spirit of the river to the newborn. In the past a woman had to be able to weave a textile such as to be considered marriageable.

Apai

Apai KalimantanDurable, plain-woven mats called lampit cover the floors in most Dayak longhouses. But to receive guests and perform ceremonies, the Dayak Bantian lay out special patterned mats called apai. Most apai bear intricately woven plant motifs, or illustrate stories of the clan gods and ancestors. Very few weavers have the skill to produce these beautiful mats.

Weaving a rattan apai in a traditional longhouse, East Kalimantan.
Weaving a rattan apai in a traditional longhouse, East Kalimantan.

Over-harvesting has already eradicated wild rattan from the forests of western and central Kalimantan. The Rattan Project, an Indonesian non-profit organization based in East Kalimantan, helps local farmers to develop sustainable, cultivated supplies of rattan. The group also helps Dayak cooperatives to create new products based on traditional designs, and to reach markets outside their home areas. Each Rattan Project mat or basket expresses the Dayak people`s will to sustain their traditions and preserve their forests for future generations. Threads of Life buys rattan products only from groups that develop renewable supplies.

  • Ceremonial Floor Mat
  • 2006
  • Woven by Oneng
  • Randa Empas village, East Kalimantan
  • Rattan cane
  • 102 x 195 cm. (40 x 77 in)
  • Code # C.BS.PR.024

Apai

Each type of Dayak Desa basket is made to serve one, specific purpose. This style, called ragak sedang, is used only for washing vegetables. Other specialized baskets made by the Dayak Desa include cupai for collecting plants, tabung storage baskets, bubufish traps, and round tanggui sun hats.

Magdalena making a basket, West Kalimantan.

The Dayak Desa are one of many subgroups of the Dayak people, who have inhabited the forests of Kalimantan for millennia. More than six hundred Dayak Desa women in sixteen villages belong to a local cooperative called Jasa Menenun Mandiri. The cooperative helps local craftspeople sell traditional textiles and basketry, and gives them a place to save their money and take out loans. Dayak Desa baskets and textiles feature intricately stylized plant and animal motifs inspired by life and a refined traditional aesthetic.

  • Vegetable Basket
  • 2004
  • Woven by Renai
  • Ransi Panjang village, West Kalimantan
  • Bamboo
  • Height 30 cm. (12 in)
  • Code: C.BS.JM.001

Cupai

Cupai KalimantanBaskets like this one have different names, functions, and decorations in different Dayak Desa communities. In Ransi Panjang, the villagers call this basket a cupai, and use it to collect fruits, vegetables, and other plants from the surrounding forest. The vine motif on this cupai has been abstracted into a pure geometric form.

Anastasia making a basket, West Kalimantan.

The Dayak Desa are one of many subgroups of the Dayak people, who have inhabited the forests of Kalimantan for millennia. More than six hundred Dayak Desa women in sixteen villages belong to a local cooperative called Jasa Menenun Mandiri. The cooperative helps local craftspeople sell traditional textiles and basketry, and gives them a place to save their money and take out loans. Dayak Desa baskets and textiles feature intricately stylized plant and animal motifs inspired by life and a refined traditional aesthetic.

  • Gathering Basket
  • 2006
  • Woven by Pandan
  • Ransi Panjang village, West Kalimantan
  • Bamboo
  • Height 22 cm. (8.5 in)
  • Code # C.BS.JM.083

Kiang

The Dayak people load up kiang with wild vegetables, firewood, or game from the hunt. Lacing on the back allows the basket to expand to the size of the load. Men usually carry kiangbaskets, but some Dayak women show off their strength by shouldering kiang-sized loads. Commercial over-harvesting has already eradicated wild rattan from the forests of western and central Kalimantan.

Awaiting an armful of firewood, East Kalimantan.
Awaiting an armful of firewood, East Kalimantan.

The Rattan Project, an Indonesian non-profit organization based in East Kalimantan, helps local farmers to develop sustainable, cultivated supplies of rattan. The group also helps Dayak cooperatives to create new products based on traditional designs, and to reach markets outside their home areas. Each Rattan Project mat or basket expresses the Dayak people`s will to sustain their traditions and preserve their forests for future generations. Threads of Life buys rattan products only from groups that develop renewable supplies.

  • Carrier Basket
  • 2006
  • Made by Yohanes Ding
  • Engkuni Pasek village, East Kalimantan
  • Rattan cane
  • Height 55 cm. (21.5 in)
  • Code # C.BS.PR.002

Berangka

The Dayak strap heavy loads of sugarcane or wild breadfruit on their backs in berangka baskets like this one. Daily life in Dayak villages depends on wild plants. Every day, the Dayak extract fruits and vegetables, rattan cane for baskets, fuel for the kitchen fire, medicines, dyes, and countless other items from local forests. Commercial over-harvesting has already eradicated wild rattan from the forests of western and central Kalimantan.

The forests of East Kalimantan hold Indonesia`s last wild rattan palms.
The forests of East Kalimantan hold Indonesia`s last wild rattan palms.

The Rattan Project, an Indonesian non-profit organization based in East Kalimantan, helps local farmers to develop sustainable, cultivated supplies of rattan. The group also helps Dayak cooperatives to create new products based on traditional designs, and to reach markets outside their home areas. Each Rattan Project mat or basket expresses the Dayak people`s will to sustain their traditions and preserve their forests for future generations. Threads of Life buys rattan products only from groups that develop renewable supplies.

  • Collection Basket
  • 2006
  • Woven by Lot
  • Jengan Danum village, East Kalimantan
  • Rattan cane
  • Height 48 cm. (19 in)
  • Code # C.BS.PR.006

Anjat

In a Dayak village, the name and function of a basket sometimes depend on the gender of its user. Women useanjat to store clothing, or to carry goods to market. Men use almost identical baskets for hunting or collecting fruit, but call them gawakng lengkakng. The men`s baskets are undecorated, whileanjat feature intricate designs. Commercial over-harvesting has already eradicated wild rattan from the forests of western and central Kalimantan.

Sanding rattan canes, East Kalimantan.
Sanding rattan canes, East Kalimantan.

The Rattan Project, an Indonesian non-profit organization based in East Kalimantan, helps local farmers to develop sustainable, cultivated supplies of rattan. The group also helps Dayak cooperatives to create new products based on traditional designs, and to reach markets outside their home areas. Each Rattan Project mat or basket expresses the Dayak people`s will to sustain their traditions and preserve their forests for future generations. Threads of Life buys rattan products only from groups that develop renewable supplies.

  • Collecting Basket
  • 2006
  • Woven by Angin
  • Eheng village, East Kalimantan
  • Rattan cane
  • Height 66 cm. (26 in)
  • Code # C.BS.PR.017

DAYAK DESA AND DAYAK IBAN WEAVERS


DAYAK DESA BASKET MAKERS

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