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Small decorative piece in hinggi style
Warp ikat, handspun cotton, natural dyes (Indigo)
East Sumba, Eastern Indonesia
Woven circa 2005-2010 for the NGO Threads of Life, Bali
Anne and John Summerfield Textile Study Collection
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross

blue ikat blue ikat detail

This small but intense cotton ikat was woven in East Sumba on commission for the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Threads of Life, located in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.  East Sumbanese weavers are famous worldwide for their brightly colored and effusively decorated ikats, replete with populations of spirits, skull trees, chickens, shrimp, horses, and more.  As early as the 1920s Sumbanese hinggi sarongs and cloaks were being exported to the Netherlands to decorate walls and home furnishings. This international trade worked back on local design worlds and motif repertoires, to intensify further the weaver women’s attraction to figural designs.

Hinggi per se are used as ceremonial clothing for men and women, as grave goods, and as marriage exchange objects (countergifts to metal jewelry given to the bride’s side by the groom’s clan).  Hinggi are seen as the products of women’s hands –as “feminine goods” much as metalwork is viewed as masculine in many Eastern Indonesian societies.  However, this small, new-style hinggi was purposely woven so that international visitors to Indonesia might buy it as a tourism memento or as an object to decorate a wall or a chair.  The NGO Threads of Life (explored at length in the exhibition and website) works as the commissioning broker here.  This NGO seeks to empower women and families in impoverished Eastern Indonesian weaving communities by reviving the old techniques of weaving and natural dye use, producing high quality textiles like this one and then selling the cloths at the NGO’s shop in Bali or via the internet. Some of the profits then go back to the weaver women, who might otherwise have moved totally to commercial dyes and simpler motif repertoires.  Buyers receive a photograph of the weaver with their ikat purchase.