Threads Of Life


Lau Pahudu Hada

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A weaver at work on a textile combining ikat and pahikung heritage.

Even traditional artforms with long, stable traditions have never been completely static. Styles and influences have come and gone from traditional arts throughout their history; artists in ancient times innovated within traditional styles just as modern artists continue to do today.
This piece is the result of an innovative combination of styles, resulting from the marriage of a pricess of Pau into the royal family of Rindi, in East Sumba. The supplementary warp patterning technique is called pahikung, and was developed to this level in Pau; the particular style and motifs in the ikat sections come from Rindi’s royal heritage.

The dominant motif on this piece-karihu, the seashell-was once the exclusive domain of the Rindi royal family. The addition of beads and the use of four colors-black, blue, white, and red-would also have restricted this piece to a wearer of the highest nobility.

  • Ceremonial Tubular Skirt
  • 2010
  • Warp motif by Ana Hamu
  • Tied by Ranja Rudung
  • Dyed by Ina Jilik
  • Woven by Hawu Rimu
  • Rindi, Sumba
  • Warp ikat, supplementary warp patterning with beading
  • Commercial cotton, natural dyes
  • 63 cm x 151 cm (25 in x 59 in)
  • Code # T01.SU.RE.160

Tiara Haringgi

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A partially completed tiara design, Pau, Sumba.

The pattern was made by using supplementary warp threads, which float above the red base fabric. Crafting these patterns is a painstaking process; the weaver has to plan every element of the design in advance, and insert as many as several hundred heddle sticks into the unwoven threads on the loom, to help her raise just the right warps for each pass of the weft.

This tiara would be worn by a Sumbanese woman as a shouldercloth, to complete her traditional dress.The central design is called kapaki rianja, the dancing frog.

A second, narrower type of tiara, patterned with ikat instead of supplementary warps, is sometimes used as a headband, to hold in place a large tortoiseshell comb. Men also wear tiara headbands, folded so that one fringe points upwards while the other drapes over one temple; this arrangement symbolically connects the wearer to the ancestral spirits of both heaven and earth.

  • Ceremonial Shoulder Scarf
  • 2010
  • Designed, dyed, and woven by Novi Dai Mbatti
  • Pau, Sumba
  • Supplementary warp patterning
  • Handspun cotton, natural dyes
  • 35 cm x 198 cm (14 in x 78 in)
  • Code # T03.SU.PU.053

Lau Hemba Kiku Kawadak

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Lost in a sacred trance, Rindi, East Sumba [Photograph by Poriaman Sitanggang]

A high-caste servant dressed in a lau hemba kiku moves with the current of a Sumbanese royal funeral. She is one of the high-caste attendants, calledpapanggangu, who escort the dead nobleman in his funeral procession. Blinded by a heavy, waist length veil and baking in the tropical sun, she slips into a heat-induced trance. The spirits of deified royal ancestors take hold of her body, and with her voice they direct the unfolding ritual.

Ming dynasty ceramics, brought to Sumba on Chinese and Makassarese trading ships, inspired the dragon on this lau. Silver deer-shaped ornaments called kawadak adorn one band of the textile. In the supplementary pattern, a mythical habak flower circled by a chain symbolizes the king and his community.

  • Ceremonial Tubular Skirt
  • 2004
  • Tied by Hiwa Ranja Rudung
  • Dyed by Ina Jilik and Tamu Rambu Hamueti
  • Woven by Hau Rimu
  • Warp pattern by K. H. Hamu
  • Silverwork by A. Nggia
  • Rindi village, Sumba
  • Warp ikat, supplementary warps
  • Cotton, natural dyes, silver
  • 73 x 203 cm. (29 x 80 in)
  • Code # T.RE.RE.142

Lau Pahudu Rara

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Crafting supplementary warp patterns, Rindi, East Sumba.

The cultural memory of the Sumbanese reaches back to the first of their ancestors to reach the island. They call these semi-mythical figuresmarapu uma ndapa taungu–’’the first to arrive’’–and honor them with textiles like this exceptionally fine lau skirt. The dominant motif on this lau is calledkarihu, or seashell, and recalls the sea journey that brought the ancestors to Sumba. The people of Rindi village revere their ancestors, and accord the same reverence to ancestral motifs. Only a woman of wealth and rank would wear a symbol like the karihu.
The lower supplementary motif, calledkambhiha or the ’’horse’s hoofprint,’’ reinforces the wearer’s status. To this day, horses are wealth in Sumba, an island of grass-covered hills and few roads. Horses are part of the bridewealth gift exchange at marriage, and a riderless horse leads the bodies of the noble dead to their massive stone tombs.

  • Ceremonial Tubular Skirt
  • 2001
  • Tied by Luta Lapu
  • Dyed by Tamu Rambu Hamueti
  • Woven by Hau Rimu
  • Rindi village, Sumba
  • Warp ikat, supplementary warps
  • Cotton, natural dyes
  • 63 x 160 cm. (25 x 63 in)
  • Code # T.RE.RE.013


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Bronze gongs accompany both mourning and celebration, Labunapu, East Sumba.

Sumbanese men wear their hinggi to traditional ceremonies, one folded across the shoulder, the other tied around the waist. Hinggi designs identify each man’s rank in the social order, place him in the proper clan, and help his ancestors to recognize him in the next world. The qualities associated with each motif on a pair of hinggitransfer over to the man who wears them. These motifs are arranged in as many as eleven bands of varying width. After death, a man’s body is shrouded with his hinggi. The central flower motif on this hinggi is called walamangata, with iyan or fish at the head and foot.

  • Man`s Hip Cloth
  • 2007
  • Tied by Hiwa Ranja Rudung
  • Dyed by Tamu Rambu Hamueti and Ina Jilik
  • Woven by May Nggiri
  • Rindi village, Sumba
  • Warp ikat
  • Cotton, natural dyes
  • 120 x 310 cm. (47 x 122 in)
  • Code # T.SU.RE.049

Lau Witikau Ngeri

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Some beads are heirlooms themselves, Rindi, East Sumba.

The beaded figure on a lau witikau is the marapu, the first deified ancestor of the clan. The omniscient marapu takes an active part in everyday events, and his protection is invaluable. The true face of a marapu can never be seen, and is never depicted in the beaded image. In the past, East Sumbanese queens gave lau witikau to their daughters as wedding gifts, to confer the power of the marapu on a new branch of the family. Years later, the wedding lau witikau would shroud the bodies of the king and queen during their winding funeral processions.

May Nggiri used a rare and difficult local technique called ngeri to create the unusual fringe on this piece. Hina Hangganaha and Yiwa Mandang spent ten months on the marapu motif, sewing on antique beads and cowrie shells sliced thin with a machete.

  • Tubular Ceremonial Wrap
  • 2006
  • Dyed by Wori Hana
  • Woven by May Nggiri
  • Beaded by Hina Hangganaha and Yiwa Mandang
  • Rindi village, Sumba
  • Warp-faced plain weave, supplemental fringe
  • Handspun cotton, mud dye, beads and shells
  • 64 x 144 cm. (25 x 56.5 in)
  • Code # T.SU.RE.051

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