This exceptionally fine pua kumba handweave is from this Seribas River area, Sarawak, Borneo. Dayak gods often manifest themselves to humans as birds and the brahminy kite, the design icon chosen for this pua kumba, is the alternative manifestation of Singalong Burong, the supreme creator and god of war, who usually manifests himself as the trumpeter hornbill. (The head, wings and outstretched legs of the bird can clearly be seen in the abstract repeat pattern).
This is a typical Dayak hand weave made in two pieces, each a mirror image of the other, and hand sewn in the middle. It is finished with a fringe top and bottom. (The width of each piece would be dictated by the width of the loom). The trade cotton thread was dyed by the ikat or tie dye method. The main background colour, a dull brick red, is strongly associated with cloths from this region.. The design ends at the top and bottom with a separate row of abstract figures and is contained within two broad lateral borders. The inner border is made of two stripes of supplementary weft overlaying the threads of the background cloth in multiple patterns. The outer bnorder comprises five stripes of different colours woven from threads dyed with analyne dyes, which are commonly used in borders, even when the main area of the cloth is made of organic hand died threads.
The designs of pua kumba have immense power to the Dayak, and are in fact so powerful, they might escape from the design and harm either the weaver or the wearer of the cloth. This is why the borders play a crucial role. The role of the borders is to contain the design and render it safe by forming a barrier that contains and controls the main design.. Size of cloth 180 x 94 cm /71 x 39 inches.
References: J Freedman, Iban Augury, KIT Publiushing 1961
Iban Art: Sexual Selection and Severed heads, Michael Heppel, KIT Publishing Amsterdam, 2006