Logo Pusaka Collection
spacer ONLINE MUSEUM OF INDONESIAN IKAT TEXTILES   CURATOR: PETER TEN HOOPEN  BROWSE FROM:  [RANDOM] [001] [025] [050] [075] [100] [125] [150] [175] [200] [225] [250] [275] [293]





  • 078 SERAM
    Ute-ute (sarong). Warp ikat. 1900-1930. Tambilau, a hamlet on southern Seram.
  • 079 TANIMBAR
    Tais (sarong). Warp ikat. 1940. Specific island in the archipelago as yet unidentified, but probably Yamdena.
  • 080 TANIMBAR
    Tais (sarong). Warp ikat. 1920-1940. Specific island in the archipelago as yet unidentified, but probably Fordata. .
  • 091 LUANG
    Lawar (sarong). Warp ikat. 1925-1940. Probably Oirata people.
  • 092 KISAR
    Senikir (shawl). Warp ikat. 1925-1945. Probably Meher (Kisar speaking) people.
  • 101 KISAR
    Homnon (sarong). Warp ikat. 1910-1930. Probably Oirata people.
  • 102 KISAR
    Homnon (sarong). Warp ikat. 19th c. Probably Oirata people.
  • 103 KISAR
    Homnon (sarong). Warp ikat. Late 19th to early 20th c. Probably Oirata people.
  • 109 BABAR
    Roie irai (sarong). Warp ikat. 1890-1930. Probably Wetan island.
  • 110 LAKOR
    Sarong. Warp ikat. 1940. Lolotoara on tiny Lakor, part of the Leti Islands in the South Moluccas.
  • 134 KISAR
    Homnon (sarong). Warp ikat. 1910-1930. Probably Oirata people.
  • 138 KISAR
    Homnon (sarong). Warp ikat. 1900-1925. Probably Meher (Kisar speaking) people. .
  • 165 TANIMBAR
    Tais (sarong). Weft ikat. Circa 1950. Yamdena, probably. .
  • 170 KISAR
    Selimut (shawl). Warp ikat. 19th C. or older. Probably made by Kisarese mestizos for trade with Flores. .
  • 173 TANIMBAR
    Tais (sarong). Warp ikat. 1950 or before. Yamdena, most likely. .
  • 195 LETI
    Sarong. Warp ikat. 1930s. Leti proper, village unknown. .
  • 198 BABAR
    Roie irai (sarong). Warp ikat. Early 20th c. Probably one of the smallest islands of the group.
  • 200 KISAR
    Selimut (shawl). Warp ikat. 19th c. or early 20th c. Probably made by one of the last mestizo weavers on the island.
  • 204 TANIMBAR
    Shoulder cloth. Warp ikat. First quarter 20th c. Sermata island, probably.
  • 248 LETI
    Panel for men's shawl. Warp ikat. Before 1911. Leti Island proper, Tombra village, on north-west coast.
    Ba'a boba (sarong). Warp ikat in medium cotton and supplementary weft. Circa 1900. Used by Sahu people on Halmahera, but made by Butonese, perhaps on Buton but more likely in Butonese settlement on Halmahera or Ternate. .
  • 261 TANIMBAR
    Bakan (sarong). Warp ikat. Circa 1900. Possibly Awaer on Fordata. .
  • 262 TANIMBAR
    Tais (sarong). Warp ikat. Early 20th c. Yamdena (?).
  • 263 TANIMBAR
    Bakan (sarong). Warp ikat. Circa 1950. As yet unidentified.
  • 264 TANIMBAR
    Bakan (sarong, cloth for). Warp ikat. 1950 or before. Probably from Sera or Larat.
  • 265 TANIMBAR
    Chest or turban cloth. Warp ikat. 1950 or before. Unidentified.
  • 266 TANIMBAR
    Chest or turban cloth. Warp ikat. Circa 1950 . Unidentified.
  • 267 SERMATA
    Tais (sarong). Warp ikat, discontinuous supplementary weft and nassa shell appliqué.. 19th c. Note that the Sermata provenance is speculative, see below. .
  • 268 WETAR
    Sarong. Warp ikat, discontinuous supplementary weft.. Early 20th C. . Cloth was collected on Wetar, where ikat died out around 1850, but which has close relations with the courts of Timor and Savu, Raijua. Cloth probably made on Babar or Tanimbar. If on Tanimbar, then probably on Larat.
  • 269 TANIMBAR
    Chest or turban cloth. Warp ikat. Early 20th c. As yet unidentified.
  • 270 TANIMBAR
    Ceremonial cloth. Warp ikat. Late 19th c. Selaru.
  • 271 ROMANG
    Sarong. Warp ikat. 1920-1940. The island's name is also written as Romang. Belongs to the Leti Archipelago.
  • 272 LUANG
    Lawar (sarong). Warp ikat. Circa 1950. Unidentified.
  • 273 KISAR
    Sarong. Warp ikat. 1950 or before. Probably Meher (Kisar speaking) people.
  • 274 KISAR
    Homnon (sarong). Warp ikat. Circa 1950. Probably Meher (Kisar speaking) people.
  • 275 KISAR
    Sarong. Warp ikat. Late colonial period. Probably Oirata people.
  • 276 KISAR
    Homnon or lavre (sarong). Warp ikat. Late colonial . Probably Meher (Kisar speaking) people. Tentatively ascribed to Kisar, because overall design is in Kisar style, but palette is that of Luang. .
  • 277 TANIMBAR
    Bakan or tais (sarong). Warp ikat. First quarter 20th c. or 19th c. Unidentified.
  • 278 SERMATA
    Sarong. Warp ikat. Late colonial. Sermata (the most likely of three possible origins, the others being Babar and Luang).
  • 279 LUANG
    Lawar (sarong, warp uncut). Warp ikat. Late colonial to 1950. Unidentified.
  • 280 LUANG
    Lawar (sarong, warp uncut). Warp ikat. 1950-1960. Unidentified.
  • 281 KISAR
    Unidentified type. Warp ikat. First half 20th c. Probably Oirata people.
  • 288 BABAR
    Sarong. Warp ikat. Early 20th c. Most likely islands of origin are Marsela and Wetan, in that order. .

Moluccas, the fabled Spice Islands, and their fading culture

Map of the Spice Islands
Map of the Spice Islands by Ribero, 1529


The Indonesian archipelago of the Moluccas (formerly called Molukken by the Dutch colonial regime, called Maluku in Bahasa Indonesia), traditionally known as the Spice Islands, straddles the equator North of Australia and West of New Guinea - 'Os Papuas'. It consists of hundreds of islands and islets. The name Maluku is thought to have been derived from the Arab trader's term for the region, Jazirat al-Muluk ('Land of Many Kings'). Until the 1700s, these mostly luxuriant, volcanic islands covered in rain forest were the only, or certainly the very best sources of such spices as cloves, nutmeg, and mace.
     The historical significance of the Moluccas cannot easily be overstated. It is largely because of the magnetic force of spices that European explorers - first the Portuguese, then the Dutch - risked sailing into unknown waters, which led to the discovery of the Americas, Australia, and of the routes along Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.
     There are few roads in the Moluccas, few ports large enough for modern ships, and even fewer airports. Except on the larger islands, most of the native settlements are situated on the coasts, and communication is principally by means of small, often barely seaworthy motorboats and traditional sailing prahus.
     Each of the major island groups has at least one town which is the focus of trade and the port-of-call for passenger carrying freighters. But most of these commercial centers are small and insignificant except as gateways for export and import. The only truly urban community in the whole of the Moluccas is Amboina, in the Ambon Islands south of Seram. Ternate, on an island of the same name, Tidore, just south of Ternate on another small island, and Bandaneira on the Banda Islands, in colonial days used to be flourishing trade centers, but their importance has declined greatly since the golden days of the spice trade.
     In the South Moluccas, the climate is too dry for the cultivation of spices, and in the past there were no mineral resources, which is why the colonial masters left this area more or less to its own resources. Gold and other minerals are now being discovered in the South Moluccas, which is likely to bring dramatic change to the area. On tiny Wetar for instance, there is already a gold mine in operation, which brings devastation of the natural surroundings and much pollution, while leaving most of the population as poor as before. This appears to be the inescapable fate of people in very poor areas all over the world where large corporations discover something to be looted.

Ikat textiles - from the basic to the refined

Except for Seram (formerly called Ceram), ikat is made only in the South Moluccas. The ikat textiles produced here range from the splendid cloths of Kisar, rich in imagery and with a striking tonality, to the artistically less ambitious but often surprisingly refined cloths of Tanimbar. While certainly important, culturally and sociologically they are not as vital to the communities as they are on Borneo, the islands of Nusa Tenggara (such as Bali, Flores, Lembata) and Sulawesi. Older cloths from the Moluccas are rare, and seldom found outside museums and the larger private collections. The largest collection of ikat textiles from the South Moluccas is in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne. Seram ikat, usually made of plant fiber other than cotton, is extremely rare, and found chiefly in old Dutch collections such as those of Tropenmuseum and Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde.
     Because the South Moluccas are lying on old trade routes, textiles from other islands have landed here since time immemorial and still show their influence. While the islands all have their own, easily identified style, motifs from Flores, Timor, and other islands do occasionally show up, albeit integrated in the traditional local design. One of our Babar cloths for instance has little horse motifs that were drawn exactly as in the Ende region of Flores, with a raised dock, almost certainly in imitation of an admired sarong that drifted over to Babar.
     Ikat textile is still being made in the Moluccas, especially on Kisar, but nearly all new cloths are made with chemical dyes only, appearing rather shrill in comparison with the warmer toned older ikat textiles from the island. A map of the South Moluccas, at the bottom of this page, shows most of the ikat producing islands. Note the relative proximity of these islands to Timor, which has always had a measure of influence on the culture of the string of islands to the East, albeit a minor influence due to the lack of communication between the islands. Even these days, it can take anywhere from sixteen hours to several days at sea - in craft of doubtful seaworthiness - to reach them from Timor.

The tragedy of missionary activity

Whatever one may feel about the value of religion, few will not feel a sense of loss about the cultural destruction that missionary activity has brought about in the Moluccas (as it did on numerous other islands in the Indonesian archipelago, especially the ones that were small and remote, and therefore especially vulnerable - vide for instance Alor, Adonara and Lembata.) A crass illustration of this intentional destruction is given in Epithets and Epitomes, Management and Loss of Narrative Knowledge in South West Maluku, a study by Aone van Engelenhove on the role of artifacts as mnemonic devices supporting collective memory of traditional narrative:
Leti Ancestor Figure Metropolitan Museaum of Art

One that got away:
Leti ancestor figure,
Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York

     "The worldwide admired handicraft of the islanders, the statues, the textiles and the goldsmithry primarily functioned as a means to fixate the motifs and ornaments with which the narratives were memorized. In this perception it is understandable that these artifacts whose importance was well acknowledged by the islanders, were easily sold or bartered (Jacobsen 1896). The artifacts themselves could be easily replaced by new made ones. The rou [traditional motif], however, being the counterparts of names on artifacts, were not for sale.
     Because the region remained undisturbed for a long time, its peoples failed to assess the new influences of Christianization and modernization in general. The Dutch [Protestant] missionaries perceived the statues and the rituals that went with them as exponents of the idolatry which they meant to eradicate. The islanders were encouraged to give up the statues, which were donated to missionaries and ministers, or simply destroyed. The last collective destruction took place in Tutukei (Leti) in the late sixties where all remaining statues were piled up in front of the Serwaru church and then burned. The know-how of their production was not transmitted to younger generations and consequently disappeared with the last practicing generation.
     The only medium to transmit knowledge on rou appears to be traditional textiles, which are still very much favoured in the region. Women, to whom weaving has traditionally assigned to, still learn how to make the motifs and dye them onto the cloth. The link, however, between the name of a rou and the 'narrative chunk' that goes with it has been lost. SW Malukans are very much aware, that they have lost a piece of knowledge that was stored in the artifacts they used to make and the stories they used to tell. Even so they acknowledge the power of names and songs. This awareness evoked an apotheosis of everything that can be regarded as a remnant from the past. This is especially salient on Kisar Island, the main center of textile production in the region, where the status of one's clan rather than the price one wants to pay determines what kind of cloth the client may expect. [..] The awareness of the importance of storytelling and the loss of narrative knowledge inevitably evoked a feeling of great frustration among the second and third generations. In their search for roots more and more SW Malukan migrants return to their islands of origin to find the knowledge that they have lost. [..] At the turn of the century it becomes more and more manifest, that SW Malukan culture will not survive in the next century."
     For assurance that indeed it will not, we can rely on further missionary activity. A web page on the site of the evangelist 'Joshua Project' with an interesting story about daily life on the island of Masela (off Babar) ends with the following call to prayer [condensed], a prime example of Christian arrogance and cultural superiority:
  • Pray for Masela Island evangelists to rise in the power of the Spirit to preach repentance and reconciliation to God.
  • Pray specifically against the stronghold of religious pride so the West Masela people will listen to the pure message of reconciliation to God and abundant life by the power of the indwelling spirit by grace alone.
  • Pray for prophets, apostles and evangelists (Eph.4:11) to be filled with the Holy Spirit and rise up and confront and cast out demons, cast down and take into captivity every thought and principality opposed to God.
  • Pray for miraculous healings and other signs and wonders that confirm the truth of God's message of reconciliation to Him and abundant life in His loving presence.
  • Pray for godly sorrow and true repentance for sensual, escapist, selfish and cruel behavior; specifically unfaithfulness, promiscuity, unwanted pregnancies and herbally induced abortions, drunkenness, brawling, domestic violence.
  • Pray for the exposure of the works of darkness and the deceiving spirits that keep people in bondage.
  • Pray for the total destruction of the natives' sense of self worth, and any and all of their artifacts.
The last point was not actually on the site, but we feel that we should add it for good measure.



There is hardly any literature dealing specifically with the ikat textiles of the Moluccas, the notable exception being the Tanimbar islands, which have been covered by Marianne van Vuuren.

Map of the South Moluccas - the main ikat producing area

©Peter ten Hoopen, 2018. All rights reserved.


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