Among the Iban of Borneo, the female art of weaving is referred to as ‘kayau indu’ or ‘women’s war’. Just as male prestige is related to prowess in war, female status is determined by weaving skills. Only the most accomplished and spiritually mature women are responsible for the creation of original designs, which are revealed to the weaver by supernatural spirits. Because of the dangers associated with such close contact with the spiritual world, weavers depend on charms and protective imagery to ward off potential harm. Used to pass weft threads through the warp threads of a weaver’s loom, this weaving shuttle or ‘turak’ is incised with powerful symbols encompassed within a dense network of scrolling plant tendrils. While the large headless anthropomorphic figures symbolise fertility and human sacrifice, creatures of the underworld in the form of a crocodile and stylised dragon–dog (‘aso’) heads would have provided protection against malevolent forces.
Shown in 1 exhibition
Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019