118.0 x 218.5cm [weft x warp]
In Iban society, weaving textiles is a female activity with knowledge and skills passed down from mother to daughter. Weaving well gives women status in society, while headhunting and good fighting abilities confer rank on men. The gods appear in women’s dreams to teach them how to weave and to provide new patterns. The patterns contain supernatural power, rather than the fabric itself. Iban pua (blankets) are made using the warp ikat method, which means dyeing the pattern into the yarns that will be tied to the loom (the warp threads) before beginning the weaving process. Pua are used for a variety of purposes, including as a base for offerings, clothing for special events, coverings for shrines and corpses, decorative wall hangings, a barrier against evil forces, and a cloth to wrap newly acquired heads or newborn children.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2011