In Focus

Woman's skirt (lau pahudu), 1983.95

Supplementary warp weaving, though rare in Indonesia, is practiced in East Nusa Tenggara (Lesser Sunda Islands) and on the islands of Bali, Timor, and Ternate, and on Tidore in the Moluccas. Best known, however, are women's skirts (lau pahudu) from Sumba. Here, these valuable cloths are woven by women of the nobility and worn by them only on important ceremonial occasions. Paired with hinggi, men's ceremonial hip cloths, they also serve as an important category of objects transferred during marriage exchanges. Superior weavers are held in high esteem, and their expertise and value are recognized both before and after marriage.

Supplementary warp weaving is extremely difficult to master and execute. In contrast to the production of hinggi, in order to create lau pahudu, weavers use pattern guides, following established motifs and styles, some of which have possibly been passed down through the generations with only minor changes.

Only the bottom portions of lau pahudu are decorated with figurative and geometric motifs. The upper half (which is not seen when the skirt is worn) consists of a sold dark ground with horizontal stripes in various colors. The bottom band of this rare and beautiful pieced is ikat-dyed. Two female figures with their arms raised (and perhaps wearing mamuli) dominate the space, while scorpions are placed underneath the genitalia. Alternating with these large figures are three smaller anthropomorphic forms and geometric star-shaped designs. The wide fringed band above contains two rows of geometric motifs, reflecting the influence of Indian patola, executed in supplementary warp. The combination of these two techniques produces an exceptionally powerful and compelling visual effect, the sharply rigid imagery of the supplementary warp band playing against the narrative and softer quality of the ikat-dyed section.

Excerpt from

George Ellis, "Woman's skirt (lau pahudu) (detail)" in Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art, ed. Reimar Schefold in collaboration with Steven Alpert (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), 226-227.