Images of cats from the British Museum collection, £9.99
Length: 256.000 cm (excluding fringes)
Width: 119.000 cm
Ikat-dyed cotton cloth
From Sumba, Indonesia, 19th century AD
Months of weaving
The island of Sumba is famous for its production of warp ikat textiles, in which a pattern is dyed onto the warp threads before the weft is woven into the cloth. There is one exception to this practice, when yellow staining is applied after the weaving has been done, as in this example. The entire process is extremely lengthy, women taking as much as six months to complete particularly elaborate pieces.
The weavers of Sumba have developed complex designs and much of their knowledge remained secret until the middle of the twentieth century. More ordinary patterns were executed directly in the process of dyeing. This example has a motif of birds and trees, both of which are relatively common. Trees are also often associated with the monuments which were erected to commemorate head hunting expeditions and which could occasionally be seen decorated with a warp ikat cloth.
M. Gittinger, Splendid symbols: textiles and (Washington, D.C., The Textile Museum, 1979)
M. Hitchcock, Indonesian textiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)