East Sumba: “Tenun Ikat” woven fabric

East Sumba Ikat Woven Fabric and Its Creation Process

In recent years, Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara Province has indeed risen to the surface as a favorite tourist destination for many people. Including me. Some people decide to explore Sumba cause of its special landscape, cultural even woven cloth ikat.

Lambanapu and Mauliru  are villages of ikat woven fabric craftsmen whose manufacturing process uses weavers instead of machines with natural coloring. Starting from the cotton flower until becoming a beautiful Sumba woven patterned woven cloth, everything be done manually and requires a significant amount of time.

In Lambanapu, we go to Mama Dan house, one of the Sumbanese cloth craftswomen. Esy, Mama Dan’s daughter invited us to pick cotton flower. We were ready with shoes and hats. We followed the path, through the streams of clear streams and the horses that were resting in the shade of trees. They sometimes turn to us who are passing by, the horse look not surprised with people.  We also passed several rice fields and fields belonging to residents. Until suddenly the cotton trees stood tall before us.

In Sumba, mothers or children usually collect cotton flowers that are spun into yarn. The manual method of spinning yarn from cotton by hand called pahudur.

First, collect cotton from the flower and then twist into long strands. From these strands, cotton twists are tangible like thick yarn. We can roll it in a spool of yarn at this stage. Believe me, the process is actually not as simple as this. If you don’t have experience, the work of twisting and turning them into threads will take a long time. And, cotton is prone to breaking. If you break up, you have to twist from the start.

On the porch of Mama Dan’s house, I watched the ina (mama-mama) twist cotton very quickly. They are already experienced.

The typical color of indigo-colored sumba fabric does not use textile dyes as we know it, but instead uses natural dyes from nila plants. At first glance nila plants such as useless weeds, small leafy plants with small branches that branch off when mixed with lime will produce indigo colors.

Tips for those who want to help the craftsmen pull the nila plant, prepare gloves so that the hands do not hurt. Also prepare a hat because it is likely we will be in the blazing sun for a long time.

The next process is the process of spinning yarn into ball-shaped yarns called Kabukul. From the ball of yarn, the next step is pamening, arranged the threads in the loom (wooden frame, wanggi), to make easier tied threads based on the desired motif. The process took about a full day to complete one piece of cloth.

After the yarn arranged in the loom, the yarn divided into many threads that are evenly distributed, and then tied.

The process of binding these threads called hondu. In the past, the threads tied using a gewang rope (kalita), or a rope made from a palm tree. However, now, many ikat weaving craftsmen replace gewang ropes with plastic or neat ropes. The threads be bound tightly  not exposed the dyes . Not as easy as it seems, treated the string  carefully. Don’t too forced, it will brok, but if not tight, the dye can coloring it and damage the results of the ikat cloth.

After the binding process completed, next process is immersing the yarns in a natural dye mixture. The blue dye (indigo) comes from nila plants and red color comes from noni plants or kombu roots.

For strenghten the color, they ussually add a bit lime betel and hazelnut to the mixture of dye color. After soaking for overnight, drying the threads in the sun for 2-3 days.  Process immersion repeated 5-10 times to get the desired color depth.

After all the color immersion process is complete, removed the straps. Here the motifs from the ikat cloth begin to appear.  To shape the motif as desired, the color yarn be arranged on the loom and weaving process carried out to produce a beautiful fabric.

Walking around the village in the day, my journey in Lambanapu and Mauliru, from one craftsman to another, opened my eyes even wider that the East Sumba ikat woven fabric is a priceless cultural treasure.

The process and effort of creating a complicated and delicate work makes the Sumba fabric has a high value and is worth to having it.

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