Porilonjong ikat, ceremonial hanging
Toraja people (probably Karataon Toraja), Sulawesi, Indonesia
Cotton warp ikat, natural dyes
Circa 1900 to 1920s
Anne and John Summerfield Textile Study Collection
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross
This is an extremely large and quite rare warp ikat with a striking red background and bold selvedge bands in black, cream, and red. The ceremonial hanging is made in three parts: the two side panels are striped borders and the center field is divided into big bands of motifs in geometric designs seen frequently in the Toraja repertoire. The textile was woven in Rongkong and this type of cloth was traded throughout the far-flung Toraja areas in upland Sulawesi.
These cloths were used in many ways: in funeral ceremonies, wrapping around the interior and exterior of the house for the week-long death celebration, and to demarcate a sacred area. In other words, this is not an ikat used as clothing for people but as ritual garb for homes and altar spaces.
Sulawesi is a separate island from Kalimantan/Sarawak and the Toraja peoples are surely different from the Ibans and Dayaks. However, one can usefully compare the aesthetic animation of Toraja ikats like this one to the more familiar pua cloths of Borneo. A similar vividness of geometric design field, and a similar color range, is found in all these types of ikats.The summer 2012 fieldwork photograph shows student docents Tricia Giglio and Hana Carey examining a contemporary Karataon Toraja ikat cloth under the instruction of Jean Howe, co-founder of the international NGO Threads of Life, based in Bali, Indonesia. The three are seen in the research studio of the NGO in Ubud, an arts and tourism town. A case study of Threads of Life and their ikat work is found elsewhere in the exhibition.