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Ikat from Savu, Savu Group, Indonesia

232 Savu Group, Savu

Wei méa (red belt)

Origin: Savu Group, Savu
Locale: May have been made anywhere on the island, or in fact on neighbouring Raijua.
Period: Early 20th c.
Yarn: Cotton, hand-spun, medium
Technique: Warp ikat
Panels: 1
Size: 31 x 116 cm (1' 0" x 3' 9")
Weight: 140 g (4.9 oz), 389 g/m2 (1.27 oz/ft2)
Design: Rare sacred shawl, wei méa, literally 'red belt, decorated with narrow bands of cream on morinda red ikat, alternated with eight stripes in very dark, nearly black indigo. The decoration of such cloths is always simple by Savu standards, the intent being not to be aesthetically pleasing, but to entail power. In burial a man's wei méa, is the first cloth to be laid over the body to protect him on his journey to the hereafter. This specimen may come from Savu, but equally from the neighbouring islet of Raijua, as there is not enough information about these cloths to make the distinction.
Comment: [PHOTOGRAPHY PROVISIONAL] Small piece of great significance. Woven by his mother or a sister, a man wears such a red belt at dangerous moments of his life - invisibly, tucked out of view under his hi'i. Dangerous moments include not just battle, but also funerals and his own marriage ceremony. The spinning of the yarn (according to Dorothé Swinkels who field collected the piece during a scholarly stay on the island in the 1970s) is not done in the open, but during gatherings in the women's sacred ritual house, tegida, and woven during a ceremony called mane wai. Weaving is always rather lose. It appears that most men only ever owned one, which accompanies him through life and death, hence into the grave, which explains their rarity. As Duggan writes: 'Such weavings are seldom found on the market or in museum collections.'
Background: Additional information in chapters on Savu Group and Savu.
Compare: 254
Literature: Very similar example, with slightly better defined ikat work but probably younger, in Duggan, Woven Stories, p. 40. Similar example in Horniman Museum, Nr. 2003.301, with, curiously, six rather than five or seven ikated bands. (Odd numbers on Savu and Raiju are held sacred and dominate ikat design.)
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