Ceremonial cloth (pua sungkit)

Iban people
19th century
more object details

General Description

The center of this pua sungkit depicts twelve dragons or serpents (naga/ nabau) which are coiled around or whose bellies are filled with trophy heads. Framing this powerful motif are variations of the “Path of the Python” (Leku Sawa) and “Horse Mango Fruit” (Buah Bunut). The latter design represents captured heads. Birds and snakes appear on borders sewn to the sides. The birds feed on the snakes and in turn sing to lull the powerful dragons into a tranquil state.

The banding of textiles frames and corrals their potency. Here, a white band reflects the power of this blanket and the prowess of its weaver. Among the Saribas Dayak, this type of textile is referred to as a Lebur Api, or “white hot fire tongs,” as it was necessary to cool down the dangerous heat of newly captured trophy heads as they were being received into the longhouse. Pua sungkit were used to handle heads and to honor and empower great warriors.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.