Sumbanese Arts

Sumba, and more particularly Easy Sumba is famous for its handcrafted arts. History and tradition has enabled the Sumbanese to refine the art of tie dying into one of the most sophisticated textile creating processes in the world.

kalumbut from SumbaIt's strong traditional empahsis on ceremonies has led to the development of reed weaving into elaborate and highly ornate baskets, cups and bowls used. amopngst other things, for the offering of betel nut, the presentation of bride price and the storage of cloth.

Its goldsmiths work with remarkable advancement to produce the mamuli and kanatar necessary to marry a noble bride and the earring and necklaces that expound the elegant sophistication of the women.

mamuli from SumbaTo explore the arts and crafts of Sumba could take you a lifetime. Recognizing their worth, many great artifacts from Sumba have been placed in Museums in Switzerland, Amsterdam, New York and Chigago. Ironically this has both helped and hindered the tradition. All of the Sumbanese arts are essentially fluid. They are to be passed from person to person from family to family and eventually entering the grave when their last owner passes away. They were never intended to remain stationary in a museum. When shopping in Sumba don't seek the old, it does not and has never existed - outside of the mind of European collectors that is. Seek the vibrant, contemporary, contemplative and relevant pieces created by today's goldsmiths and weavers for the use of the present day society.

Kain ikat

Sumba Ikat PrailiuKain Ikat represents the means by which the present generation passes on its messages to future generations. The pieces are deeply personal, follow distinct systematic form but show the individuality of the weaver and the village from which they are produced.

Locally they find their value in ritual exchange (for weddings and peace waging ceremonies) and as burial cloths. A high ranking individual can easily be wrapped in over 100 pieces of cloth as they enter the tomb.

Internationally, Sumba's textiles are collected as examples of the highest quality textile design and are found in the major museums of the world as well as the home's of collectors. They stand as testament to the sophistication of an oft ignored culture as well as historical and geneaological texts within an essentially oral tradition.

East Sumba IkatSumbanese Ikat is unique both for the anthropomorphic forms which dominate the design and the tie-dying process which uses three natural colourants (red, yellow and blue) . Each thread is dyed individually. They are tied from memory using dried palm fronds, dyed and then woven - with the weft being died either black, red or blue.

The blue, made from indigo leaves (L. indigofera sumatrana) soaked and mixed with coral lime, is dyed first. This is followed by the red which is a mixture of the bark and roots of the Mengkudu tree (L. Morinda citrifolia) with the ground up leaves and bark of Loba (peltophorum pterocarpum) and finally the addition of pressed candlenut oil to act as a fixer.

The combination of intense dying of each of the red and blue can in turn produce browns, purples and black.

Sumba ClothVery occasionally a yellow is painted on sparingly at the end of the process using the bark of the kayu kuning tree (L. Cudrania spinosa?). This colour is peculiarly rich and deepens in intensity with time.

One piece can take well over a year to complete and in the case of some particularly specialised pieces, can take considerably longer.

Take at look at out Private Collection ifor more information. All of the pictures are examples of the highest quality late 20th Century Sumbanese ikat with authentic dying and tying procedures being employed.