Patola Ratu Design: The repeating geometric patola ratu design was traditionally associated with Sumbanese royalty. It is based on the eight-rayed flower pattern from the India silk patola cloths traded in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Dutch to Sumbanese kings for sandalwood and spices. These patola cloths are double-ikat sari-length silks in vibrant reds, yellows and black. To this day many communities regard the patola as having magical qualities, among which are counted the ability to protect from illness and black magic, and the power to bestow fertility. During Sumbanese royal death rites, a number of women will sing and dance in a circle with a patola cloth stretched around them. This dance is part of a cycle of rituals designed to guarantee the deceased’s place in the upper world. When the patola ratu motif is used in a hinggi the wealth of lore associated with the original patola becomes connected to the wearer.
Walamangata Tree: This tree provides fibers from which ropes and fishing lines are made. In the past, only the leaves of this tree were depicted on textiles.
Deer: The deer represents the king. Like a rutting buck, he is quick to anger but easy to follow. The hunting of deer was reserved for royalty and the deer motif was retained for the textiles of the royal court; the larger the deer’s horns, the higher the wearer’s position.
Dyes: The reds are from the morinda plant (morinda citrifolia), the blues are from an indigenous indigo (indigo feratinctoria). Indigo is only collectable during the annual monsoon when new growth blooms. Conversely, morinda root is harvested during the dry season when the dye-bearing sap retreats into the roots. To achieve a deep saturation of color the dyer will often need to work though several seasons across a number of years. Completed dye-lots are often stored for future years since the longer the threads are kept the richer the final colors may become.Further refinements of shade and hue are due to successive immersions in the dye baths and the inclusion in the dyes of other plant materials to recipes often held secret by a dyer.
In Indonesia and Malay “ikat” means, literally, to knot, and describes a tie-and-dye process employed by the archipelago’s weavers. Using cotton thread, a mock-up of the warp (horizontal threads) is constructed on a frame. Neighboring strands on the frame are then bound together using lengths of raffia-like palm-leaf fiber. The length of each knot seals a section of thread and the pattern of knots forms the intended motif. It is from these knots that the technique gets its name.
Two sets of knots are used to produce a three-color design using indigo blue and red. Further refinements of shade and hue are due to successive immersions in the dye baths and the inclusion in the dyes of other plant materials to recipes often held secret by a dyer.
Each set of threads receives up to a half-a-dozen applications of each dye and it can take several years to achieve the desired saturation and color depth (see “Read about Symbols and Dyes” above).
The weaving itself is done on a continuous-warp back-strap loom. The arrangement of the warp on the loom, around the breast and warp beams, replicates its orientation on the warping frame and recreates the intended pattern. A single-color weft is then used for weaving.