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Asian art

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Back-strap loom with section of blanket (owes)

20th century




The mountainous region of Central Cordillera in northern Luzon is home to a large number of indigenous communities. Their fierce self-determination and geographic isolation provided relative protection from the cultural influences of Spanish colonisation. However, their art did not remain unchanged. Communities retained forms which were useful and meaningful, abandoned others and created new forms to meet new purposes – a tradition that has continued into 21st century.

In Central Cordillera art is part of everyday life and is intrinsically linked to community and spiritual wellbeing. Many villages are built around a central stone platform where social and spiritual rites are performed. These include the worship of deities and ancestors and the consecration of sculptural figures.

The carving of ancestral and religious figures, while today most prevalent among Ifugao men, was previously a practise shared by all communities of the Central Cordilleran mountain range. Textiles, on the other hand, are woven exclusively by women using backstrap looms. There has been a long and active trade in locally woven products, so many communities share techniques and an appreciation for similar motifs and colour schemes.

This is a backstrap loom with a section of unfinished owes cloth. When backstrap looms are used, the weaver’s body acts as an anchor point. Usually one end of the loom is tied to a tree or a house beam and then a strap at the other end is stretched around the body of the weaver to create tension. This enables the weaver to thread the horizontal (weft) threads through and in-between the vertical (warp) threads. The highly optical patterning of this cloth is achieved by a continuous supplementary weft technique known as pinilian. The design itself is known as kusikos. It illustrates the constant movement of the whirlpools and whirlwinds that are intended to distract and pacify the wind god.


Other Title

On the loom textile

Place where the work was made

Abra Central Cordillera Luzon Philippines

Cultural origin



20th century

Media category


Materials used

wood, cotton; plain weave


88.0 x 70.5 cm


Gift of Dr John Yu and Dr George Soutter 2005


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information


Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history