Ceremonial cloth (pua sungkit)

Iban people
probably late 19th century
more object details

General Description

Elongated nabau, the ferocious giant water serpents, are placed along the sides of the central panel, or "main body," to contain the deities on this cloth. These deities include, from bottom to top, six females kneeling with their arms outstretched as if the receive an object; six demigods, each wearing a loincloth and a sword belt decorated with charms and amulets, and dangling a rattan basket containing a freshly taken trophy head; and three rows of humanlike figures who may represent slain enemies. The raised figures were masterfully created by extra wefts inserted during the weaving process.

Pua sungkit were used at religious festivals celebrating the introduction of a new trophy head into the communal longhouse. A ritual performed at such times caused the intense spiritual force of the blanket to transform the potential malevolence of the trophy head into that of goodwill imbued with potency and fecundity.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2016.

Web Resources

  • Wikipedia
    Learn more about the Iban people.