Sunday, 13 November 2016

Borneo ceremonial carry-cloth (pua belantan)

Malaysia, Sarawak, Saribas region, 1950 or earlier
Cotton, silk, supplementary weft wrapping (sungkit)

A long solid red centrefield decorated at the ends in detailed silk sungkit, depicting two rows of finely worked spirits at one end, and one row at the other. Each set of spirit figures has a distinct design, and is framed by narrow bands of stars and triangles that make the cloth sparkle. The side stripes in red, white, yellow, black and red-brown add a lively effect. Finished with long, twisted fringes (some of the red fringes in the centre have been cut, as is customary).

Context: Pua belantan is a type of cloth made in the Saribas region with a specific required design format, motifs and colour that have been part of its ritual efficacy for a long time, and which this example follows closely. It is used ritually – to receive or carry trophy heads, to make offerings at shrines, and to carry a newborn child at his or her birth rites, especially for the first ritual bath.

Very fine cotton, densely woven, with a slightly stiff hand. The silk sungkit colours have lightened a little on the front side but are still clear. Some general wear at the ends, but overall very good.

Length: 169 cm including fringes. Width: 42 cm.

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