I am sure that most of you out there would be aware that the Iban community is known for their skill in weaving pua kumbu. However, do you know that they too are exceptionally skilled in weaving mats and baskets? In the words of Florina H. Capistrano Baker (1998), Basketry means “containing life”, be it with non-basket, non-container articles such as hats or mats.
In the olden days weaving mats or baskets is one of the many skills that an Iban maiden would possess. A skilful weaver would have tattoos etched on their forearms just below the elbows as a symbol of a high ranking weaver just like of those who are skilful in producing pua kumbu. Usually, these expert weavers were mainly farmers.
Plaited articles back then were mainly produced for local needs i.e. for daily use like ‘bubu’ or fish traps, ‘selabit’ a carry all basket used by farmers, prestige or ritual purposes such as ‘garong’ used in Gawai Antu ceremony and some even being traded or bartered away. Other than having different kinds of materials used and functionality weaving also has their own particular motifs. The more intricate the motif the more skilful you are. Like pua kumbu not everybody is able to weave any kinds of motif as it is taboo to some weavers.
Raw materials can come in different sources, such as rattan, bamboo, pandanus, reeds (bemban) just to name a few. However, nowadays, there is a trend where the Iban weavers use nylon straps (tali ladat) to weave due to the scarcity of such natural raw materials.
Before I move on with my next article on weaving, please follow this link where my mother in law was featured in Borneo Post Online on weaving using tali ladat. *Note: The article is written in Iban by Christopher Bisop dated 5 January 2014.Tali ladat nyilih senggang enggau bemban