Iban Pua Kumbu is a handwoven wrap ikat textile of the Iban community in Sarawak, East Malaysia. It is considered to be a sacred object, of numerous uses, and great significance in the traditional life of the Iban Community.
The Pua Kumbu is made from homespun cotton and dyed using natural dyes namely roots of morinda citrifolia, and tarum leaves. The motif on the pua kumbu is produced using the resist technique called ikat. This complex motifs or designs are normally inspired by dreams, nature as well as the Iban beliefs and values.
There was no written instruction or manual for the making of Iban Pua Kumbu in the Iban Community. The technique and the process were passed down by the weaver by oral narration and hands-on practice.The traditional handwoven pua kumpu are made from a locally grown cotton plant called Taya (Gossypium sp); which could be found locally around the longhouse.
The cotton that has been picked, with the pericarp being removed are left in the sun to dry for a few days. Once the raw cotton has been thoroughly dry, it is then put through a gin (pemigi) to separate the seeds from the fibers.
After ginning, the cotton is threshed out with cotton-beater(pimalu taya) to form a flat mass ready for spinning.The fibers are then spun on a simple wheel called gasing; while the right hand turned the wheel, the left hand twisted the fibers. The rotation of the spindle supplied the necessary twist to drawn out the fibers. The process is intermittent since each length of yarn has to be wound onto the spindle before another length is spun.
Once the spindle is full of threads, it is wound off into a ball or onto a separate piece of wood in preparation for dyeing. The Iban community makes creative use of the different botanical resources available in their environment to produce a wide range of rich beautiful dyes that create shades of color desires by the dryers.
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The three basic ingredients used; are Engkudu(Morinda Citrifolia…Engkerbai(Psychotria Virdiflora) and Tatum(Marsdenia Tinctoria, Indigofera) are mixed with various types of roots…bark and leaves to produce and create the desired shades of color.
Each dyer has its own secret dyes ingredients to create its distinctive color. Once the ingredients of the dye are mixed and the desired color is achieved, the yarn is dipped into the mixture, trodden upon, turned 3 times and then left to soak for three days. During that period, the yarn is checked from time to time to ensure that they are well saturated. Many sessions are required depending on the number of colors used.
After soaking for three days, the yarn is taken out and washed thoroughly in clear water and stretched out to dry for twelve hours, after that the yarn is hung on an upright frame during the day and night for sixteen days to dry. Great care is taken to ensure that the yarn gets the right amount of sun and that it does not get wet from the rain.
Once the yarn is completely dry, the next process is to prepare the tying process. The yarn is unwound and stretched on the weaving loom to ascertain the length of pua to be woven. The next process is to weave the yarn into cloth as per the desire size and design. The process might take from 3 weeks to 2 months to finish one piece.
Iban Pua Kumbu is unique as the design is created from a vast repertoire of individual motifs whose meanings are combined to produce patterns and stories of ritual and spiritual power. All these tasks are done by the women folks who are well versed on the pua kumpu making the process.
The cost of a hand-woven and authentic Iban pua kumpu is depended on the size and design of the cloth.This handicraft is made by the Iban women folks in Kapit, Sri Aman and also in Miri.
Pua Kumpu plays a significant role in the Iban Community, they are being used in various stages in the community traditional lifestyle. During Childbirth, marriage, funeral, healing and also in the farming rituals.
A printed version of Pua Kumbu is being made into ladies' fashion and accessories. It is popular fashion apparel, not only during the festive season but also for function and office attire for ladies.
The Pua Kumbu is sold in many of the Sarawak Handicraft and curios shops in the major town of Sarawak. There is also a machine-made version. They are available at many of the handicrafts and curious shops and weekend markets through Sarawak. In Kuching you can find these shops along the Main Bazaar, Kuching International Airport and also at Padungan Road.
They are also available at some of the major Shopping Mall in Sarawak major town City; like Sibu, Miri, and Bintulu.Shops are selling Sarawak Handicraft and also authentic Sarawak products at the Airport in Sarawak major towns. You can also buy Iban Pua Kumbu at Sarawak Handicraft Centre in Miri, Sibu and also Kuching.You can also Contact Us with your enquiry for more details.
Iban Pua Kumbu has stood steadfastly in the face of modernization proudly holding on to patterns of the past, at the same time adapting to modern changes in its usage and styles. The traditional product is being internationally recognized and the artisan is given due recognition for the originality and authenticity of the product.