Woven Fabrics, West Borneo Handicraft

Woven fabric is a craft of West Borneo which has a distinctive motif. What kind of explanation? Check out my trip there

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The beauty of nature and the uniqueness of Borneo culture always makes people curious – including me. I was so curious, I decided to explore the island for 2 months. Of the many destinations in Borneo, my heart is only focused on Ensaid Panjang in Sintang District. Ensaid panjang – to me – more than just a Dayak tribal village. Because many things can be seen in this place. From daily Dayak tribe, custom viscosity, to traditional culture that remains sustainable. One of them is West Borneo handicraft – Dayak traditional weave (Dayak Iban). The process of making the woven fabric makes me more curious with Ensaid panjang. With that motivation I also departed from Soekarno-Hatta Airport Jakarta, to Supadio Airport Pontianak, using the plane. After arriving at Supadio Airport, the flight is forwarded to Sintang District by boarding a plane from another airline. From Supadio Airport in Pontianak the journey to Sintang District takes only 35 minutes. After exiting the airport I immediately found a car that can lead to Ensaid Panjang. It’s not hard to find a vehicle to Ensaid Panjang while you can afford to pay for the driver’s fee.

On the way I asked the driver about the distance from Sintang to Ensaid Panjang. The driver said the distance is about 60 kilometers. Well.. about an hour. It turns out my guess is misplaced. The road to Ensaid panjang is not as smooth as I imagined it to be. Along the 15 kilometers of Sintang-Kapuas Hulu road is badly damaged. Thus the duration of the trip to Ensaid Panjang becomes two and a half hours.

Rumah Betang and Weavers

Arriving at Ensaid Panjang, I was stunned by the beauty of Rumah Betang – West Borneo dwelling. Measuring 118 meters in length, 17 meters wide, and 12 meters high. This house has feet 2 meters from the ground; resembles a stage shape. The traditional elder welcomed my presence – as well as the rest of the group – who had just got off the vehicle. After Guest welcoming ceremony, the elders invite me to Rumah Betang. Once again I was amazed – the house was inhabited by 22 families.

There is one interesting side as long as I observed the activities at the Rumah Betang, ie the women who diligently spun the yarn to become cloth. In the past, the whole process of spinning yarn done alone. But now they have to buy from the store because his offspring no one can spin. They make woven cloth of West Borneo with various motifs. The looms are made of wood. The process of working a single sheet of woven fabrics can take 1-2 months or even up to 4 months.

Initially, the women of the Dayak Village tribe made woven fabrics to fill their spare time. Sometimes the cloth is worn as a garment material. But now they provide a special time because often receive orders. Finally from a habit, then become a business that produces. In addition, their daily activities sometimes look for fish in rivers or what they usually call mansai. The tool used is not a traditional fishing rod, but a kind of using a dustpan but no wand.

The charm of woven fabric which anesthetize the eye

Woven fabric has been known Dayak tribe of the village since the time of the ancestors. The first time I saw the work of this fabric, I was amazed by the complexity of the motive. According to one weaver, that level of difficulty determines the selling price of the woven fabric.

Currently the price of woven fabric ranges from IDR 800K – 2,5M. The more complicated the motive, the more expensive the price. In addition, also determined based on the type of dye used. If you use synthetic dyes, the price can be cheaper.

Regardless of the price, the charm of woven fabric is second to none. I see there are four main colors of the craft are red, yellow, black and white. The weavers use natural dyes to be durable. Such as yellow; the source is taken from turmeric or red from noni fruit. This weaving activity is practically only done during the day. But if it must be done at night, usually they do rollicking while performing rituals Bejanih or storytelling. In my opinion, this ritual has little magical value even though nothing actually happened.There are four kinds of weaving based on the level of difficulty that is woven kebat, sidan, songket, and plin slam. Weaving kebat has the characteristics of flower-shaped motifs, humans, and dragons. Usually clad in the base color of white brown. To finish one weaving kebat takes one month.

The second type is woven cloth sidan – which is floral and people. Level of complexity is higher than weaving kebat. Therefore, weavers take about two months to complete a sheet of cloth. Songket weaving type is not less interesting; the motives are varied and unique. The basic colors are more diverse with the basic shades of flowers, dragons, humans or combinations. With a high degree of difficulty, a sheet of songket weaves worked up to four months.

Finally, the woven fabric of the type of plin slam. The fabric is so complex that it takes more than six months to complete. It is said that only women of the elderly generation are able to finish the woven cloth of plin slam. Woven fabric is a proof of West Kalimantan’s cultural treasures that never fade away despite the changing times. West Kalimantan craft is always innovate without having to be dissolved in the current trend

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