The Iban people of Sarawak, Malaysia traditionally weave the warp-ikat textiles known as ‘Pua-kumbu’ using a back-strap loom. The most numerous of the Sarawak people, they form 30 percent of its 2.8 million population.
The fine art of Iban Pua Kumbu weaving is defined by how well the weaver is able to tie the “curl” or the “hook” motif that is so characteristic of the Pua Kumbu weaving and the natural dye colours of red/brown ‘engkudu’ or ‘morinder citrifolia’ roots and indigo ‘tarum’ or ‘marsdenia tinctoria’.
Today, the best ‘Pua Kumbu’ weavers come from Rumah Garie longhouse along the banks of the Sungai Kain (literally meaning River of Cloth), Kapit District. They not only continue to weave natural dye textiles in cotton, but have also mastered weaving in silk using traditional techniques.
Bangie Ak Embol is the leader among her community of weavers. She won the UNESCO CRAFTS PRIZE FOR NATURAL DYE WEAVING (ASIA PACIFIC) in 1998. The ikat textiles of Rumah Garie longhouse weavers have been accredited with the UNESCO AWARD OF EXCELLENCE FOR CRAFTS since 2001.
Nancy Ak Ngali is also a master weaver in Rumah Garie. She is invited to teach the art of Iban ‘Pua Kumbu’ weaving throughout Malaysia; in the Asian region and travels to exhibit and promote the works of the weavers internationally eg in USA, Britain, Europe, Japan, Australia and Asia.