Cultures & Traditions


Foremost among Iban textiles is the pua, often described as a warp-ikat patterned blanket, which is used in many different ritual contexts, always with the connotation of beneficence—even protection. A pua may be placed beneath an offering or cover a temporary shrine; it may be suspended from the ceiling as a shelter for a newborn child or cover a child during a name changing ceremony; it may wrap the body of the deceased for the journey to the cemetery. There is a strong association in Iban thought between the pua and headhunting, not only because the ritual blanket was used in headhunting rituals—to receive heads for example—but because the weaving of a pua was the most important source of prestige for a woman, just as the taking of a head was for a man.

Visually, pua is distinguished by a consistent color scheme—cream or beige, brownish red, and deep purplish brown—and by the continuous flow of interconnected figures on its surface.

Adapted from

Carol Robbins, "Forest and phantom: Sarawak," in Selections from the Steven G. Alpert Collection of Indonesian Textiles (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1984), n.p.

Web Resources

  • Wikipedia
    Learn more about the Iban people.