Indonesia’s textile culture includes a large repertoire of techniques, the best known of which perhaps the dye resist technique universally referred to as ikat weaving. The malay word ‘ikat’ means to bind, tie, or wind around. In this process, the parts of the yarn that are to remain undyed are protected by binding them tightly with a vegetable fiber that resist the penetration of the dye. The result is an intricate piece of cloth of high quality produced over a long period time.
Warp ikat is widely dispersed in indonesia, found in such places as the bataklands of North Sumatra, on the islands of Flores, Sumba, Rote, Sabu, Ndao, and Timor in East Nusa Tenggara, in Kalimantan especially in the interior regions, in Sulawesi in Rongkong and Galumpang, and on the Maluku Islands such as Tanimbar and Kisar.
While the patterning ikatted into indonesian cloths often reflect the adoption of foreign influences, such as from Indian textiles that were so popular in the islands, the local people made their own interpretations and managed to produce amazing pieces to a level that sometimes rose far above that of the original. This is why the indonesia textiles are regarded today as among the finest in the world.
Traditional textiles have particular functions in the social, religious, aesthetics and economic aspect of community life in Indonesia.
Ikat textiles have long been known to have such roles. Historically, warp and weft ikat have diffused into local cultures at different times and in the different way, warp ikat earlier than weft ikat.
In Kalimantan, for example, warp ikats called pua kumbu are bought into use on ceremonial occasions in the longhouse, woven by the inland Dayak people. In Sulawesi, the Torajan people who inhabits the mountainous portion of northern South Sulawesi, have a typical warp ikat blanket that is important in funerary rites, whereas java’s weft ikat tradition is centered around the town of Troso on the north coast of central java and the town of Gresik and Lamongan across the border of East Java. Weavers in these places produce weft ikat sarongs and other textiles decorated with traditional an motifs taken from all over the country, but especially from eastern Indonesia. The javanese make them for traditional and modern uses as well as for export to other countries.
Source : indonesia’s ikat weaving tradition book, 2010