Essential Books and Resources on Malay Indonesian Ikat Textiles


Detail of Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA


Art of the Ancestors invites you to explore a curated yet diverse selection of literature and websites on the subject of Island Southeast Asian ikat textile arts. The following resources offer historical context and reveal stories behind the extraordinary examples of Malay Indonesian weaving, plaiting, and beadwork arrayed in our galleries. Whether for a beginner or a seasoned connoisseur, we believe any library will be enriched by the presence of the works enumerated below.


Literature Recommendations


Decorative Arts of Sumba

Authors: Marie Jeanne Adams, Jill Forshee
Publisher: Pepin Press
Year of Publication: 1999

Decorative Arts of Sumba, produced by anthropologists Marie Jeanne Adams, Jill Forshee and others, presents a well researched and beautifully illustrated journey through the textile traditions of Sumba replete with many fine vintage photographs and images of important pieces from colonial era collections.


Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles: The Mary Kahlenberg Collection

Authors: Ruth Barnes, Mary Hunt Kahlenberg
Publisher: Prestel
Year of Publication: 2010

Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles is a significant compendium on Indonesian textile traditions with an emphasis on challenging past assumptions regarding historical chronology. This work contains a number of notable pieces including early, fragmentary examples of textiles from the M.H. Kahlenberg collection.


Splendid Symbols: Textiles and Traditions in Indonesia

Author: Mattiebelle Gittinger
Publisher: The Textile Museum, Washington
Year of Publication: 1979

Splendid Symbols: Textiles and Tradition in Indonesia was the first comprehensive study of Indonesian textiles produced in the United States by expert and researcher, Mattiebelle Gittinger. This text embraces a variety of weaving and textile producing communities across the archipelago.


Early Indonesian Textiles from Three Island Cultures

Authors: Robert J. Holmgren, Anita Spertus 
Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Year of Publication: 2013

Exceptional antique weavings from Sumba, Toraja, and Lampung are detailed in Early Indonesian Textiles. This impressive catalog features Indonesian material from the Spertus Holmgren collection exhibited in 1989 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 


Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum

Author: Itie Van Hout
Publisher: LM Publishers
Year of Publication: 2017

Itie Van Houts’ Indonesian Textiles at the Tropenmuseum offers insight into the history of one of the Netherlands’ most venerable collections and presents a selection of its iconic pieces.  


Indonesische Textilien: Wege zu Göttern und Ahnen

Author: Brigitte Khan Majilis
Publisher: Köln Deutsches Textilmuseum Krefeld
Year of Publication: 1984

Indonesische Textilien: Wege zu Göttern und Ahnen is a compelling book by accomplished German scholar and curator Brigitte Khan Majlis. It details the voluminous and richly diverse holdings of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum.


Ties That Bind: Iban Ikat Weaving

Author: Datin Amar Margaret Linggi
Publisher: Tun Jugah Foundation, in cooperation with The Borneo Research Council
Year of Publication: 2001

Datin Amar Margaret Linggi’s Ties That Bind: Iban Ikat Weaving is a special publication from a deep local perspective. It places an emphasis on knowledge preservation and appreciation in line with the mission of the Tun Jugah Foundation.  


Textiles from Borneo: Iban, Kantu, Ketungau and Mualang Peoples

Author: Heribert Amann
Publisher: 5 Continents Editions
Year of Publication: 2013

Heribert Amann's Textiles From Borneo documents one of the most extensive and superior collections of Iban textiles from Sarawak, the Kantu, Ketunggau, and Mualang peoples. Elegantly annotated with black and white photographs from Hedda Morrison and contributions by Brigitte Majlis Khan.


The Women’s Warpath: Iban Ritual Fabrics from Borneo

Author: Traude Gavin
Publisher: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History
Year of Publication: 1996

The product of anthropological field research, Traude Gavin's The Women’s Warpath documents numerous examples of stellar Iban weaving accompanied by descriptions of their ritual use and relation to headhunting practices and traditions.


The Seductive Warp Thread: An Evolutionary History of Ibanic Weaving

Author: Michael Heppell
Publisher: Borneo Research Council
Year of Publication: 2014

Michael Heppell, devoted scholar of Borneo's material culture and history, composed The Seductive Warp Thread, an illuminating work that details Ibanic weaving traditions. This tome presents a rich analysis of local knowledge on the Iban arts of the loom.


Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago from the Peter ten Hoopen Collection

Author: Peter ten Hoopen
Publisher: Hong Kong University Press
Year of Publication: 2018

Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago is a recent massive study by Peter ten Hoopen, author, scholar, and sole arbiter of The Pusaka Collection of Indonesian Textiles. It draws together a broad array of resources, particularly for outer island traditions that have received scant attention over the years, but are here researched and documented for posterity.


Textile Traditions of Indonesia

Author: Mary Hunt Kahlenberg
Publisher: Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Year of Publication: 1977

Textile Traditions of Indonesia is the first of the 1970's generation of catalogs in the United States exploring this subject matter, organized by Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, then curator of textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum. This text includes enjoyable writings on small island traditions in Roti and Savu by James Fox, as well as articles penned by Mattiebelle Gittinger, Jeff Holmgren and Anita Spertus, Garrett and Bronwen Solyom, Kent Watters, and Steven G. Alpert.


Decorative Art in Indonesian Textiles

Authors: Laurens Langewis, Frits A. Wagner
Publisher: C. P. J. van der Peet
Year of Publication: 1964

Decorative Arts in Indonesian Textiles is a fundamental title for the appreciation of Indonesian masterwork textiles from the Langewis collection in the Netherlands. It is the oldest book on this list, and one of the most valuable as a benchmark for excellence.


Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation

Author: Robyn Maxwell
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Year of Publication: 2014

Textiles of Southeast Asia is a sweeping and masterfully researched tome by celebrated expert and senior curator, Robyn Maxwell. Originally published in 1990, it continues to be one of the leading resources for Southeast Asian textile research. The Indonesian material in this book derives from the extensive collection of the National Gallery of Australia.


Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art

Authors: Reimar Schefold, Steven G. Alpert, et al
Publisher: Yale University Press
Year of Publication: 2013

While not exclusively devoted to textiles, the award-winning Eyes of the Ancestors contains woven masterpieces from the Steven G. Alpert Collection of Indonesian Textiles at Dallas Museum of Art, where color, condition, importance and age converge to establish the visual presence and gravitas of numerous traditions. The Dayak chapter features astute insights from Vernon Kedit on the weaving traditions of the Iban of Sarawak.


Woman’s Ceremonial Sarong | Lawo Butu
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Iban Ceremonial Weaving | Pua Kumbu
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis Inu
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Man’s Ceremonial Ikat Mantle | Hinggi
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Shroud or Ceremonial Hanging | Papori To Noling
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Man’s Ceremonial Ikat Mantle | Hinggi
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Iban Ceremonial Weaving | Pua Kumbu
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis Inu
© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

Kain Kebat
© Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA


Digital Resources


National Gallery of Australia Indonesian Textiles

Royal Horse Blanket | Belu
© National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia holds one of the richest public collections of Indonesian textiles in the world. Now, thanks to the generous assistance of the Australia-Indonesia Institute, the extensive collection of over 1200 works is accessible to scholars, researchers and textile enthusiasts across the globe through this website.

A major undertaking, all of the textiles have been studio photographed in colour and digitised. Catalogue information has been reviewed and updated to include recent research on textile origins. Searches can be made in many ways, including by region, cultural group, medium, technique and subject. Information regarding popular design motifs is also available as is an extensive bibliographic listing.

The support of the Australia Indonesia Institute has ensured that the National Gallery of Australia's splendid collection is permanently documented - and, importantly, the project reinforces the Gallery's commitment to enhancing public access to the national collection. This website will be continually updated to include new acquisitions and research developments. It is also envisaged that 'virtual' access will encourage further scholarship and interest in what is arguably Indonesia's most significant form of artistic expression.

— National Gallery of Australia Indonesian Textiles


Textile Research Centre Leiden

Exhibition 'Weaving the World' at the TRC, Leiden, 2014.
© Textile Research Centre Leiden

The Textile Research Centre Leiden (TRC) is a non-profit making organisation dedicated to the study of textiles and dress. The TRC was set up in December 1991. For many years it was housed in the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands. Since 2009 it is housed in its own premises in the historic centre of Leiden, at Hogewoerd 164.

The TRC works closely together with Leiden University, especially with the Faculty of Archaeology, and supervises the internships of students who are interested in clothing, textiles, the cataloguing of objects and the mounting of exhibitions. The TRC has built up a study collection of over 14000 textiles, garments and accessories (including jewellery, walking sticks, etc.) from all over the world and from the sixth millennium BC until yesterday. The textiles and accessories are available for study by academics and the general public. TRC also has a technical collection with textiles and equipment related to the production of pre-industrial forms of cloth. The TRC has an extensive library.

Since 2009 the TRC has regularly presented exhibitions on various textile and dress related subjects, ranging from Afghan dress, Chinese cheongsam, Arab embroidery, kangas from East Africa, Iranian dress, lace production, and appliqués from the Street of the Tentmakers in Cairo, as well as organising workshops on technical subjects such as hand spinning, embroidery and weaving. The TRC is also involved in a number of large scale publications, including the Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World (Bloomsbury Publication 2016) and TRC Needles: the TRC Digital Encyclopedia of Decorative Needlework.

— The Textile Research Centre Leiden


The Tun Jugah Foundation

© The Tun Jugah Foundation

The Tun Jugah Foundation is dedicated to preserving and promoting the traditional methods of Iban weaving, for the benefit of the community and the general public. To providing a greater understanding of Iban textiles and weaving tradition, both for local and international interests.

Iban weaving is one of the major projects carried out by the Foundation. The project is also looking into ways of improving the value and quality of the woven textile. With modernization and the advent of new technologies, the traditional methods of Iban ikat weaving is being abandoned and only very few weavers are still using the traditional methods. The Foundation maintains that the preservation of traditional patterns is also of utmost importance because they identify the Iban society.

The administration of the Foundation is carried out by five different departments including Oral History, Textile, Museum and Galllery, Library and Archives, and Publications.

— The Tun Jugah Foundation


Oxford Asian Textile Group

Ikat Ceremonial Hanging or Shroud | Toraja Peoples | Sulawesi
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

In 1995, Dr. Ruth Barnes initiated the founding of the Oxford Asian Textile Group with the specific aim of making the Oxford textile collections better known to the specialist and the interested public.

Oxford has a number of unusual and important collections of textiles from Asia and the Islamic world. Within the University both the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum have major holdings: in the Department of Eastern Art in the Ashmolean Museum there are more than 3,000 textiles from all Asian cultures, while the collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum are likely to number twice as many. However, from early on Oxford Asian Textile Group has also looked outside Oxford and welcomed speakers and contributors to its magazine from the world at large.

Oxford Asian Textile Group offers an annual program of events including lectures, study visits and seminars and covers a wide range of subjects from the technical aspects of textiles to the delights of traditional costume. A particular emphasis is given to the cultural context of textiles and dress. Oxford Asian Textile Group also publishes a magazine, Asian Textiles, three times a year. This includes reports on key collections worldwide as well as much information about national and international textile events. Oxford Asian Textile Group has also launched a blog which will include abstracts from the magazine articles as well as other material such as last minute exhibition reviews that do not make the print deadline for the magazine.

— Oxford Asian Textile Group


The Textile Museum at George Washington University

© The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum

Located in the heart of GW's Foggy Bottom Campus, Washington, the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum fosters the study and appreciation of art, history, and culture—both within the university and throughout the global community. As a cornerstone of the university’s growing focus on arts and culture, the museum unites:

The Textile Museum, an institution with a nearly one-hundred year history, an established audience, and a respected collection of textile art representing five continents and five millennia.

The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection of historic artifacts that tell the story of the founding and evolution of our nation’s capital.

Through exhibitions, programs, and academic courses, the museum integrates with diverse disciplines to enrich research, education, and cultural understanding both across and beyond the university. The museum also strengthens the established reputation of GW as a leader in training the next generation of museum professionals. Finally, it welcomes the public into the life of the university and, through its collections, creates opportunities for exchange and collaboration throughout the world.

The museum complex joins a new signature building with the renovated historic Woodhull House, located adjacent to University Yard. The state-of-the-art Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus offers long-term protection, study, access, and care of the collections. 

— The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum


Textile Museum of Canada

© Textile Museum of Canada | Toronto, Ontario

The Textile Museum of Canada (TMC) is the only museum in Canada that explores ideas and builds cultural understanding through the universally relevant media of textiles. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Museum’s permanent collection spans nearly 2,000 years and consists of more than 13,000 artifacts. A leader in the digitization of collections and interactive environments, the TMC has been recognized the world over for innovation in the development of landmark educational, research and creative initiatives.

The Textile Museum of Canada is a non-profit cultural and educational institution that focuses on the exhibition, collection, conservation, research and dissemination of the materials and values of everyday life, including archaeological, traditional, innovative and experimental methods and practices.

The Textile Museum of Canada presents rotating exhibitions, changed throughout the year. Exhibitions draw from TMC’s collection and present the work of local, national and international contemporary artists. The TMC also host touring exhibitions and guest curators through various partnerships and collaborations.

— The Textile Museum of Canada


Museum Tekstil Jakarta

© Museum Tekstil Jakarta

Museum Tekstil merupakan sebuah cagar budaya yang secara khusus mengumpulkan, mengawetkan, serta memamerkan karya-karya seni yang berkaitan dengan pertekstilan Indonesia. Bertempat di Jalan Aipda K.S. Tubun No.4, Kecamatan Tanah Abang, Jakarta Pusat, museum ini secara resmi dibuka pada tanggal 28 Juli 1976 dan berdiri dengan menempati gedung tua di atas areal seluas 16.410 meter persegi. Dalam sejarahnya, gedung yang digunakan sebagai museum ini dahulu merupakan rumah pribadi seorang warga keturunan Perancis yang hidup di abad ke-19. Namun gedung ini kemudian dijual pada seorang anggota konsulat Turki bernama Abdul Aziz Al Musawi Al Katiri. Pada tahun 1942, gedung ini dijual lagi kepada orang yang bernama Karel Cristian Cruq. Tidak begitu lama, gedung ini pun beralihtangan lagi dan dijadikan Markas Besar Barisan Keamanan Rakyat (BKR) pada saat menjelang kemerdekaan Indonesia. Setelah Indonesia merdeka, tepatnya pada tahun 1947, kepemilikan gedung ini dipegang oleh seseorang yang bernama Lie Sion Phin. Setelah beberapa kali beralih kepemilikan dan beralih fungsi, akhirnya pada tahun 1975, gedung ini diserahkan kepada Pemerintah DKI Jakarta dan dijadikan sebagai Museum Tekstil. Peresmian Museum Tekstil dilakukan oleh Ibu Tien Soeharto pada tanggal 28 Juni 1976.

Sebagai sebuah museum tekstil terbesar di Indonesia, museum ini mempunyai koleksi-koleksi yang terhitung banyak, yakni sekitar 1.000 buah. Keistimewaan museum ini terletak pada koleksi-koleksinya yang kebanyakan merupakan koleksi tekstil tradisional Indonesia. Koleksi-koleksi tersebut dikelompokkan dalam empat bagian, yakni koleksi kain tenun, koleksi kain batik, koleksi peralatan, dan koleksi campuran. Wisatawan yang berkunjung ke museum ini dapat menyaksikan aneka kain batik bermotif geometris sederhana hingga yang bermotif rumit, seperti batik Yogyakarta, Solo, Pekalongan, Cirebon, Palembang, Madura, dan Riau. Selain itu, wisatawan juga dapat menyaksikan bendera Keraton Cirebon yang merupakan koleksi pilihan, karena usianya yang paling tua. Bendera itu terbuat dari bahan kapas berupa batik tulis yang berhias kaligrafi Arab. Bendera mirip plakat itu konon merupakan peninggalan bersejarah dari tahun 1776 M yang sangat disakralkan di Istana Cirebon. Pada saat itu bendera tersebut sering dipakai sebagai simbol syiar Islam.

Selain memamerkan koleksi pertekstilan, di museum ini juga terdapat sebuah taman di halaman belakang yang diberi nama Taman Pewarna Alam. Taman seluas 2.000 meter persegi ini berisi pohon-pohon yang dapat digunakan sebagai bahan baku pewarna alam. Penanaman pohon-pohon itu bertujuan mendidik masyarakat agar mengenal dan mengetahui pohon-pohon yang dapat digunakan sebagai bahan baku pewarna alam. Keistimewaan lainnya yang terdapat di museum ini adalah kursus membatik. Kursus ini dilaksanakan bersamaan dengan hari-hari buka museum. Kursus membuat batik ini dilaksanakan di sebuah bangunan yang terletak di halaman paling belakang Museum Tekstil. Bangunan ini bergaya rumah panggung lebar yang tak mempunyai sekat di dalamnya. Semua bahan bangunannya terbuat dari kayu dengan cat berwarna coklat tua. Di ruangan ini tidak terdapat pendingin ruangan (AC), karena telah terdapat beberapa jendela yang mengelilingi ruangan untuk mengalirkan udara segar.

— Museum Tekstil Jakarta


Pusaka Collection of Indonesian Ikat Textiles

Peter ten Hoopen and The Pusaka Collection’s Fibres of Life: Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago, exhibited at University Museum and Art Gallery
© Hong Kong University Art Gallery

The Pusaka Collection, a private non-profit creation, has a narrow focus on ikat textiles from Indonesia. Unlike most collections, generally based on a selection of stellar pieces from a limited number of different localities, the Pusaka Collection aims to show the region's ikat culture as a whole, using antique and vintage examples made with traditional methods. It spans the entire arc of the Indonesian archipelago, from Sumatra in the west till the Moluccas in the east. In fact it reaches beyond Indonesia's borders to include the Malaysian state of Sarawak, and the Democratic Republic of East Timor.

The collection is modest in size, but comprises numerous rare treasures - such as one of the best preserved of only a dozen known 'elephant patola', old birth sarongs from tiny Raijua, late 19th C silk and gold brocade heirlooms from Bangka, fragile double ikat geringsing from Bali, cloths from Borneo that radiate intensity, and old pieces from remote little islands. The collection has uncommon strength in the Moluccas, an area that in most collections is underrepresented. About half of the over forty examples result from the 2016 acquisition of the Moluccas chapter of the J.B. Lüth collection. Another relative strength is Borneo, largely resulting from the 1982 acquisition of the core of the field-collected Wilhelm Bern collection. Several rare treasures came from the renowned August Flick collection. The Timor section stands out not just by its numerical strength, but particularly by the average age of the examples.

— Peter ten Hoopen