Production Techniques

A division can be made between those cultures that continued to produce warp-patterned weaving (a more ancient tradition) and those that switched to weft-patterned weaving. Silk is generally associated with weft-patterned weaving and is a fabric most often found in lowland cultures (Bali, Java, Sunda, Mindanao) that were associating with traders from India and China. Sumptuous supplementary weft patterns in gold thread were added to the silk cloth and were worn by high-status persons at weddings or other ritual occasions. In the Lampung area metallic thread and mirrors were embroidered on plain cottons to produce a luxurious cloth. Wealth was woven into cloth as it was received in trade. In Java and Bali gold leaf or paint was applied to plain fabric or batik designs to create a sumptuous-looking cloth, which was especially effective in a performance context. Theater was a means of attracting and ensuring the support of the masses, and the glitter of metallic threads and mirrors on cloth was a visible means of marking the status of the elite and creating a sense of pageantry for these emerging polities.

In inland cultures, which were less affected by trade, cloth was more closely linked to cohesion of the group. Designs and colors were the reserve of the high-status person in the village, but to some extent the distinctions between commoner and high status was less than it was in the large-scale societies of Java, Bali, and lowland Philippines. Status was linked to skills, such as prowess for the warrior class. Skills in head-hunting were acknowledged by special sashes, designs in weaves, or other articles of clothing worn by the successful hunter (Iban, Mindanao cultural groups, Nusatenggara region). Skull trees figure on Sumba cloths that once were associated with this practice. In Mindanao cloth that was predominantly red in color was symbolic of the success of a headhunter, and the Iban, too, used red for cloth in rituals for head-hunting.

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