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 Post subject: Sumba Dragons
PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 8:08 pm 

Joined: Sat May 09, 2009 1:01 am
Posts: 248
Location: Japan
Hi all, Does anyone know which Kingdom on Sumba this old, handspun hinggi comes from? Would love to see Sumbanese textiles from other members collections!

Best Regards, MAC

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 11:20 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2008 7:33 am
Posts: 155
Location: Beijing
I love these textiles, and this one that MAC has posted is a very attractive example. The dragons (nagas), birds and other designs crackle with energy and are artistically of a high standard. Are those fish at the bottom? And the curling geometric features in the center are interesting too.

Technically these things are a tour-de-force of ikat, requiring multiple treatments with resists and dyes in a lengthy process.

I have never been to Indonesia but have just one example to show here that I bought in Kathmandu of all places. The strange design intrigued me, reminiscent of Tibetan tantric imagery. I think I read somewhere that the lions with faces reflect European (Portugese) influence. Of the significance of the strange birds, figures with daggers, heads on sticks, skeletal figures riding horned animals etc I have no idea but would be interested to hear from anyone who understands the iconography.

The ends of the textile are finished with the weft twining that is discussed in another post. I expect this originated as a means of securing the warp ends against fraying, and evolved into a decorative feature.

File comment: Sumba ikat
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File comment: detail from top right hand corner
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 27, 2010 7:07 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2003 9:33 pm
Posts: 74
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

This information was provided by Susi Johnston of Bali, Indonesia, who obtained the information from the Umbu who is the royal goldsmith for the family of Raja Pahu. Here is exactly what he said, translated into English:

This Hinggi is from Kambera. It took 8 years to make. It was made by Tamu Rambu Omi, a princess/queen. It was made in 1942. The symbols on the cloth include "Putri Duyung" which is the Sumba equivalent of mermaids. Duyung are the white sea cows that inhabit the waters in the area. Putri means princess. There are myths in many cultures of Indonesia regarding magical duyung princesses.

They appear on this cloth in relation to the following myth. One day a Putri Duyung dove down into the sea to find fish, and left her baby (pictured on the cloth) on a rock, where he was in danger and alone. The tide rose up, and the baby was rescued by another Putri Duyung (also pictured in the cloth). The baby grew up to be the ancestor of the Kambera royalty.

The kings of Kambera have a special relationship with the Putri Duyung who saved the baby. Every year there is a procession and ritual when the King goes to meet the Putri Duyung. His powers to rule would be lost if he did not pay this tribute and give offerings annually.

The princess who made the cloth was married to the (at that time) King of Kambera, Umbu Mbitang. He was the only man who was allowed to wear this Hinggi.

When Tamu Rambu Omi made this cloth, she actually made two identical Hinggi (as is traditionally done in Sumba for important Hinggi, similar to Dayak women who weave two identical Kebat at a time). The pair to this cloth is now at the house of the Raja of Rai Jua (Savu).

The motifs on the left and right side panels of this Hinggi are royal Savu motifs. According to the story as told, a princess of the Rai Jua (Savu) family was married into the Kambera royalty (Umbu Mbitang's mother??). When she came to Sumba to marry the Kambera prince, she brought with her a royal Savu textile with this pattern, and also a fine Indian Patola as part of her "dowry".

The Hinggi shows the motifs from the Savu royal cloth (left and right), and the fine Patola (warp ends with tumpal, and on the male end there is also a band of the Patola's main motif).

The male figures on the end of the cloth are portraits of Umbu Mbitang, the King, flanked by seahorses and shrimp. Seahorses and shrimp are involved in the tribute rituals done in honor of the Putri Duyung.

In the panels with Putri Duyung, you can see both Mamuli, and also gold crowns. There are also Savu-style Mamuli (under the crowns), and a pair of baby crocodiles (under the Putri Duyungs). The crocodile is the symbol of the Kambera royal line.

The current senior Umbu of the Kambera line is Umbu Rahameha, the only living descendant of Umbu Mbitang. He is the only one who would be allowed to wear this Hinggi (except for the King of Rai Jua who has the pair).

The motifs in the center blue and white sections are reserved exclusively for Sumba nobles.

This is a very beautiful and important royal Hinggi, commemorating the myths and lineage of the Kambera Umbus and Tamu Rambus.

The people in Sumba were very happy and interested to see the photos of the cloth.

File comment: Savu Royal motifs
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File comment: Center Panel w/ Sumba Royal motifs
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File comment: Full Textile
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Mark Johnson
Mark A. Johnson Tribal Art
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