Sunday, 13 November 2016

Timor Ceremonial Tubeskirt (Tais Mabuna)

Indonesia, West Timor, Amanatun Utara, Ayotupas area, 3rd quarter of 20th century
Handspun cotton base, natural indigo, commercial cotton and dyes, discontinuous supplementary weft wrapping (buna), alternating warp-faced float weave (sotis)

A showpiece textile made from 4 panels, carrying in the outer 2 panels an extraordinary graphic design of red / white buna anthropomorphs, whose strong lines stand out in a riot of dense colors. Set in a field of multicoloured square diamonds, the figures have more delicate, interesting head-like extensions, and are filled out by rectangles with internal diamonds in contrastive colors, that also run in columns that mark off each design block. a remarkably sparkling effect is created by the use of many colours and the variations on the diamond form. Particularly interesting is the way the red / white reverse from one design block to the next, creating a photo negative effect.

The inner 2 panels have a red / black striped central section, followed by a striped section of plain pinstripes and simple red / yellow sotis figures that contrast nicely with a narrow band of buna rectangles. Thus the skirt displays the weaver's mastery of 2 different weaving techniques, and their complementary effects.

The main figure with outspread legs adapts old motifs with spindly, stepped legs found on 19th C skirts from Belu, especially Malaka (adjacent to Ayotupas). It has a stronger, more dramatic effect than the typical water-bugs illustrated on most Ayotupas skirts. This is the only instance of this bold, graphic style of expressing the old anthropomorphic figure that I have come across.

Excellent condition, with no stains, holes or tears. The skirt has an extremely fresh appearance, and seems to have been kept carefully as a special piece and rarely used. The natural indigo base is a rich deep color, and has a nubbly, closely woven texture. The supplementary colors are all vivid and clear.

Length 141 cm. Width 53 cm (unopened).

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