Textiles from Indonesia show opens Friday in Skidegate

  • Oct. 31, 2011 4:00 p.m.

Submitted article–The Haida Gwaii Museum will host a show: “Island Textiles: Sarongs of Eastern Indonesia” opening Fri. Nov. 4. These textiles will be something different for islanders. About 60 pieces will be shown from 12 remote islands east of Bali. Women hand-weave tube-shaped cotton skirts (sarongs) for themselves. Pieces can be exceptionally ornamented according to the maker’s status and the textile’s purpose. Textiles reflect the maker’s expertise, her husband’s status, her clan or her village traditions. Cloths achieve great kudos and, in the past, the best tended to come from prominent households within the stratified village cultures. High status women, with servants, had the time and resources to produce fine textiles, were entrusted with exclusive family/clan motifs and had much incentive to maintain their social position.Textiles are at the core of Indonesia’s traditional cultures. They are used for daily wear and also for ceremonies such as birth, coming-of-age, marriage, ascension to leadership, seasonal festivals and death. Textiles are “female” gifts in these events representing the giving family’s status, level of respect accorded to the receivers and the solemnity of the occasion. For example, the funeral of a village headman can involve the finest textiles wrapping the body while lying in state (for months to years!) before burial. The textiles confirm his status to the living and aid his journey to join ancestral spirits in the after-world. The right to use certain symbols can be restricted to family, clan or social class. Symbols bear cultural meaning, sometimes remembered, sometimes forgotten. Symbols and motifs can represent ancient indigenous icons, such as deer or saltwater crocodiles that no longer occur among the islands. Other symbols have been adopted through colonial occupation or from cloth acquired in trade. Indigenous motifs include local animals and plants, humans, war, super-natural beings or ancestral spirits. Don’t miss the show’s opening, Fr. Nov. 4, 7 pm, at the museum in Skidegate.

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