We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


Ceremonial cloth (pua kumbu)

20th century


  • Details

    Other Title
    blanket ('pua')
    Place where the work was made
    Sarawak Borneo Malaysia
    Cultural origin
    Iban people
    20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    handspun cotton, natural dyes; warp ikat weaving
    118.0 x 218.5 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Bequest of Alex Biancardi 2000
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Copyright reserved

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information

    Works in the collection


  • About

    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

Other works by Iban

See all 5 works