Tuesday, November 24, 2020

“Do you feel you are the right one to tell their story?”

During the Whataboutery in which I participated with State of Fashion, two related questions were submitted that queried and indirectly contested my stance and activities as an anthropologist. I openly state my admiration for indigenous textiles that I have studied and my dismay at what I perceive to be the replacement of them with something far inferior. This occurs usually, if not always, due to the pinch of poverty and the need to earn money in combination with the desire to be considered admirable and not ‘left behind’ by the times. I had time to ponder these questions, and the following was my response. It is far from complete because the challenge to the role and field of anthropology goes much deeper, but it is a start.



to right fashion’s wrong


Thank you for these questions [to paraphrase them: about my presumably self-assumed role as a mouthpiece for the other]. They reside close to the very heart of the Whataboutery. There are so many possible levels on which to respond, from my activities and ethics as an anthropologist, to the role of anthropology in a decolonial world. However, I would like to respond in a way that clarifies further my ambitions in participating in the Whataboutery. The questions broach the issues of self-determination and self-representation, which were central to the Whataboutery. 


What I hoped to do with the Long Read [Niessen 2020b) was to expose the obscured relationship between the system of industrial fashion and the clothing systems of people who have been positioned as being ‘without fashion’. The considerable ramifications of this conceptual distinction have bolstered the sense of superiority of those ‘with fashion’ and intervened in an overwhelming way with the cultures and clothing systems of those ‘without’. Moreover, the distinction has restricted the latitude of self-determination and self-representation on both sides of the dichotomy. By drawing attention to the impacts of the colonial definition of fashion I have tried to facilitate awareness and thereby the ambition to foster greater latitude for fairness between North and South through the medium of fashion. For me, the ultimate goal is to eliminate fashion’s sacrifice zones, a large, lofty and challenging goal that will take much discussion and hard work. I hope that the Whataboutery represents a beginning of that work.


It is worth reflecting on why ‘we’ in the North, and especially fashion scholars, have for so long been blind to the ramifications of our ethnocentric definition of fashion. This has extended to not even questioning nor testing the validity of this category called ‘fashion’. We have assumed its existence a priori. This realization drives home how subtle, deep and pernicious Eurocentrism and white supremacy can be, and how it can be inherited unseen and unquestioned. Not only has the category of fashion gone largely unquestioned (collectively, historically, from one generation to the next, and even within the hallowed halls of academe) but we have assumed, accepted, expected, and insisted upon its position of superiority above all other systems of clothing in the world. This is how, as makers and consumers of industrial fashion, we have become blind to our own complicity in the decline and destruction of the clothing systems (and cultural values) of other peoples. Their position was simply determined by those within the fashion realm, as falling outside that realm. This constituted a profound removal of agency and avenues of self-determination, not just on the side of non-fashion, but seemingly ironically also on the side of fashion. 


This point brings us to the question asking me if it isn’t ‘up to communities to decide if they want to “buy in” to the Western system’, given that culture is a living, changing thing that cannot be “preserved in a jar or a museum”. Given how hard it has been to scrape the scales from our own eyes (the ‘we’ being the ones positioned as ‘having fashion’), it should be possible to perceive how  the lives of ‘other’ people might similarly be guided by inherited frames of thought. I have learned that the inflated ego on the fashion-side of the dichotomy has its complement on the non-fashion side. Throughout my 40 years of visiting Indonesia to explore the indigenous weaving arts of the Batak people, I have become increasingly aware of this. Since the onset of the colonial era, church, state, education, media, and the global economy have all served to inculcate in the people the colonial perception of themselves as being ‘without’ fashion.  They see themselves as having, therefore, an inferior culture, an inferior clothing system, of being uncivilised and needing to be developed and modernised. It was at this juncture that I asked, during the discussion, “What [given this insight] is the role of the anthropologist here?” At issue was not my right to tell people what to do and to represent them paternalistically. No, it was about this larger complementary conceptual system and the need to acknowledge ownership of it, to deal ethically with how we are complicit in perpetuating that damaging system. 


In my research into weaving techniques, textile meaning, and clothing change through time, this has never been a focus of my anthropological research. And yet, my years of going back and forth to Indonesia have impressed upon me the indomitable magnitude of the machinery of modernity. We have all seen cartoons of a forest being fed into the mouth of a grinder that spews out toilet paper at the other end, a metaphor for how our economy and lifestyles transform something of eternal value into an ephemeral commodity. I perceive that there is an analogy to be drawn here with the workings of industrial fashion. My Long Read was an attempt to point out that industrial fashion has become a system transforming vibrant, meaningful, locally sustainable indigenous fashion systems into disposable fashion devoid of meaning. My goal was to make the unseen and obscured connection between the two dots of industrial fashion and indigenous clothing systems visible. I called attention to how the conceptual system within which we live and operate has shaped what we see and do not see. It has focused our lenses ethnocentrically on the fashion side, to the exclusion of the non-fashion side, and left out what is going on between the two. Ultimately, though, my point is that on both sides of the fashion divide, most of us are blind to the overarching conceptual system and its destructiveness.


I own up to wanting to expand the latitude of self-determination on both sides of the divide.  I wrote the Long Read as an activist who is deeply engaged in doing what I can to facilitate the changes needed for a future not-as-usual, but one that can engender sustainability and well-being. I chose, as an activist, to participate in the admirable and influential State of Fashion because of this desire to facilitate change. This was also my motivation for writing the Long Read. This is my recourse as an anthropologist. I am under no illusions about how little power I have to influence choices taken by villagers regardless of how I go about it. What is indomitably at operation, influencing choices is, among other things, the more than trillion-dollar engine of fashion and its way of operating throughout the world, influencing political, economic, cultural and lifestyle choices. My power to make real change in a village is less than that of a flea to guide an elephant. The significant ethical issue for this Whataboutery is not how I conduct my fieldwork, but the cultural and social ramifications of the industrial fashion system. In the workings of this system, you are as complicit as I. And the role, then, of an anthropologist? My writings and the Whataboutery are my answer to that question.  Whether here or in Indonesia, I approach the issue of fashion and clothing systems in the same way: by discussing the implications of the  dichotomised picture of fashion. That is my recourse. I can’t accomplish anything alone. What will transpire we will have done together.


As to the question that was posed about how I try to facilitate agency, I hope that it is becoming clear that, for me, facilitating agency was my ultimate goal for the Whataboutery. The Whataboutery presented a much coveted opportunity for me to share my insight that radical change will involve a revision of the conceptual yoke that has shaped the operations of industrial fashion and polarised the world of dress. Anything less than this kind of radical revision will entail ‘playing the game’ within the terms set by the current fashion system. In the end -- even if the violence is somewhat ameliorated --'playing the game' will only serve to reinforce and expand the reach of industrial fashion and its conceptual baggage. This will, in turn, most likely engender further dependence on that system. The same goes for making sustainable and even regenerative fashion. If these efforts take only the biophysical world and ecological footprint into account they will ultimately fail to be sustainable. The many layers of fashion’s violence towards people and their cultures must also be addressed and redressed, and this will require both sides of the fashion divide coming to grips with the bigger picture. A very tall order. 


Just as the rejection of industrial fashion in the North has implications for garment workers in the South, I perceive that discussions on the two sides of fashion’s apparent polarity are complementary and mutually referential. Both continue to be informed by fashion’s colonial definition. I have proposed that respectful sharing of perspectives and intentions can lay an important foundation for a decolonial future. It makes sense that any steps towards the future will involve both sides.


I hope that this answers the question about whether I perceive myself as ‘the right person to tell their story’. I am not aware of having either the ambition or the capacity to tell ‘their story’ – a story which, it should be said, will not be singular when we choose to hear it. This Whataboutery offered me a stage to tell my story. I shared insights emerging from my experience of both the fashion and the non-fashion worlds. I felt the need  to share my insight into the deep injustices and violence of the fashion dichotomy, to point to the destruction that it has caused for those putatively without fashion. I look forward to working on the possibility for the ‘fashion’ side to register that destruction and facilitate repair, to allow diversity to flourish once again. This is another way to say that I am grateful for the questions posed as they have given me this new opportunity to explain my position, which is, I hope more clear this time. 




Holthaus, Eric. 2020.  "The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming," Harper Collins.


Meyer, Aditi, 2020. ‘intervention 02: origins - an introduction’ 




Niessen, Sandra. 2020a. Fashion, its Sacrifice Zone, and Sustainability, Fashion Theory, 24:6,859-877, DOI: 10.1080/1362704X.2020.1800984


Niessen, Sandra, 2020b. ‘Regenerative Fashion, there can be no other.’ Longread, State of Fashion Whataboutery # 2. https://www.stateoffashion.org/en/intervention/intervention-1-introspection/long-read-titel/


Niessen, Sandra, 2020c. ‘State of Fashion Whataboutery Series, ‘This is an Intervention’ 01’



Niessen, Sandra, 2020d. ‘State of Fashion Whataboutery Series, “This is an Intervention”’



Whataboutery #1 2020 REWATCH 



About State of Fashion 



Vazquez, Rolando, 2020. Vistas of Modernity – decolonial aesthesis and the end of the contemporary. Mondriaan Fund Essay 014. Amsterdam: Mondriaan Fund. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Participation in State of Fashion: Redress!

This has been very exciting. Last Wednesday evening, 28 October, my recent publication on Fashion was the focus of a 'Whataboutery' organized by State of Fashion in The Netherlands . Here is that writing in English. There is free access to it on the State of Fashion website.

The writing is critical but also constructive. I point out that fashion is damaging to indigenous clothing traditions and the reason is rooted in the colonial understanding of fashion, viz. the West has it and the Rest does not. This explains why non-Western dress systems have simply been erased from the fashion map -- except to appropriate designs and exploit indigenous makers.

The article was informed by my last ten years trying to encourage the Batak weaving tradition. Those years taught me why my goal was so difficult -- if possible at all -- to achieve. I had hoped to make a difference in North Sumatra, but I am now wondering whether having been featured in the State of Fashion may have accomplished more than all my struggles in the field. Time will tell.

No matter, it has been an exciting time and I am grateful for the professional and expert guidance from State of Fashion staff and the thoughtful participation of my fellow speakers on the evening itself: Rolando Vazquez, a leading decolonial thinker; Clare Farrell from Extinction Rebellion; and Monica Moisin of Cultural Intellectual Property & Fashion Law.

In my article, I urge fashion to 'redress'. This goal was inspired by the insights of LEAP in Canada (allied with the efforts of Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis) and their emphasis on 'repair'. I was also inspired by 'regenerative agriculture' and  're-wilding'. In all of these the emphasis is on cleaning up our mess. With the concept of 'redress' in fashion, I would like fashion not just to reduce its ecological footprint, but repair the damage to ecology and cultural systems that it has wrought especially during the last half century. 

We played a clip from MJA Nashir's film to open the evening because it set the scene so well. It illustrates what is dying out. The weaver in this clip, Op Fino, died earlier this month. She was the last weaver in her village. Nashir emphasized the sound of her yarn winder so that it could function as a warning siren. Yet another tradition is dying out. Remedies will have to come quickly and be effective.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Review of Peter ten Hoopen's Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago (UMAG, 2018)

Ruth Barnes, Geneviève Duggan, Traude Gavin, Roy W. Hamilton, 

and Marie-Louise Nabholz-Kartaschoff, 

with additional contributions by Tim G. Babcock and Sandra Niessen 

© September 16, 2020 


Two published reviews (Danerek & Danerek 2019; Buckley 2020) of the book Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago by Peter ten Hoopen (2018) failed to adequately address a number of serious problems with this publication. The current review, co-authored by a group of five specialists in Indonesian textiles whose careers in the field span decades, focuses first on the issue of ten Hoopen’s shortage of appropriate scholarly citations. The review further considers his overstated belief that “nearly every motif stands for something” (2018:66) and his inclusion of many other personal musings unsubstantiated by adequate documentation. Ethical issues are examined, particularly with regard to the museum practice of hosting exhibitions based on single privately-held collections and to the publication of pseudo-scholarly catalogs authored by collectors about their own collections. A series of seven appendixes (including contributions by two additional scholars) is intended to counter damage to the existing body of literature potentially caused by the future proliferation of numerous errors found in the book. 

The University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) at the University of Hong Kong presented the exhibition Fibres of Life: Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago from September 15 to November 26, 2017.1 The exhibition drew its materials exclusively from the Pusaka Collection, assembled and owned by the Dutch collector Peter ten Hoopen. In conjunction with the exhibition, UMAG published ten Hoopen’s 602-page book Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago in November 2018. 


Ten Hoopen’s book was reviewed by Stefan Danerek and Magnus Danerek in the November 2019 issue of Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. Their largely favorable assessment discussed some of ten Hoopen’s main themes (the search for the meaning of motifs, the threatened or “disappearing” status of ikat in Indonesia, etc.) and noted that “[t]he style of writing has a personal flavor, certainly freer than in purely academic works” (Danerek and Danerek 2019:584). The Danereks also commented, “we wish there were more in-text references, making it easier to consult the source” (ibid). 

A second review, written by Christopher D. Buckley, appeared in the January 2020 issue of the Hong Kong-based journal Textiles Asia. Buckley, a specialist in Asian weaving, expanded upon the Danereks’ criticism of the lack of citations for important ideas. Regarding ten Hoopen’s assertion that “nearly every motif stands for something” (p. 66), Buckley wrote “the author provides little evidence to substantiate it” (Buckley 2020:31). As for the Timorese hook-and-rhomb motif that ten Hoopen calls a “diagrammatic representation of a weaver’s genealogy” (p. 66), Buckley similarly found “no reference or supporting information” (ibid). 

In the months since this second review was published, ten Hoopen’s book has gained a wider readership among the community of Southeast Asian textile scholars. The authors of the present review are all experienced field researchers in Southeast Asia who have published widely on the textiles of their chosen research areas. We have undertaken this review because we think there is a need for further discussion of the issues raised in the two previous reviews as well as several other concerns evoked by ten Hoopen’s book. 

The Ikat Textiles of the Indonesian Archipelago is a well-produced book, with full-page illustrations of over two hundred textiles in the Pusaka Collection. Ten Hoopen mostly limits his collecting to older textiles made with handspun cotton and natural dyes, and the book showcases many striking examples. Some areas are represented by stronger selections than others. The assemblage of textiles from the Maluku region, in particular, is among the most extensive published to date and constitutes a significant contribution to the field. 

Ten Hoopen draws upon a wide-ranging bibliography focused on the textiles of Insular Southeast Asia, using sources in English and Dutch. Given his professed regard for this vast body of previous work, the publisher’s claims that “no comparable reference work existed,” (book jacket, ten Hoopen 2018)2 and ten Hoopen’s own assertions that the book is the “first reference work to cover all of the archipelago are jarring. Such claims can only be maintained by artfully manipulating the description of the subject so as to exclude other books because they may also cover non-ikat cloths or because they define the geographic region somewhat differently. Ten Hoopen himself leaves out Mindanao, which is as much a part of the greater “Indonesian” archipelago culturally speaking (as he defines it) as are Sarawak or East Timor. 

The truth is that increasing scholarly attention to Indonesian textiles can be traced back more than a century to the outstanding early study of ikat technique and design by Jasper and Pirngadie (1912) or, some thirty years later, to Alfred Bühler’s treatise on ikat techniques in the archipelago (1943). Marie Jeanne Adams’s System and Meaning in East Sumba Textile Design (1969) provided an early model for detailed anthropological field research with a textile focus in a single community. Our field of study reached a new level with the publication of three books in the United States in the late 1970s, each accompanying a museum exhibition: Mary Hunt Kahlenberg’s Textile Traditions of Indonesia (1977), Joseph Fischer’s Threads of Traditions (1979), and especially Mattiebelle Gittinger’s Splendid Symbols: Textiles and Tradition in Indonesia (1979)—the seminal publication that inspired an entire generation of new field researchers. From the 1980s onward a solid stream of in-depth studies has followed, based on field research in particular locales. Several substantial broad surveys have also been published, and although generally not based on firsthand field research, some of them are now classic works of reference.  

For the past three decades, the field has purposefully been moving away from archipelago-wide surveys because covering such a broad territory makes it impossible to cover regional and local textile traditions in adequate detail. That is not to say that no room exists for another general survey that publishes previously unseen pieces, as ten Hoopen’s does. Nevertheless, the implication that this book is somehow a “first” will seem ludicrous to many who have devoted long careers to expanding a very well established field of research. 

Despite his hyperbolic publicity claim, ten Hoopen is usually generous in recognizing the contributions of others (including most of the co-authors of this review). In each section of the book he names the most important “core literature,” often with words of praise. As nice as this is, it is unfortunately insufficient in terms of the standards of citation in academic publishing. Compare the following two passages, the first from Geneviève Duggan’s personal observations based on her close contact over many years with women on the island of Savu, the second from ten Hoopen: 

For walking a long distance, the ei is pulled up to the knees to allow more freedom of movement. Before entering a hamlet it is pulled back to the ankles. (Duggan 2001:27) 

 For walking any distance, the sarong may be pulled up to the knees, but before entering a village it will be pulled down again to the ankles. (Ten Hoopen 2018:301) 

 Here is another pairing, the first by Roy Hamilton based on his original field research on Flores, published in 1994, and the second from ten Hoopen: 

In Nagé villages, three types of women’s sarongs (hoba) were once produced. Hoba do’i were plain garments. Hoba niko nako had plain colored stripes, sometimes alternating with narrow bands of ikat dyed with indigo. Hoba pojo had broader ikat bands, sometimes in the form of a central field, alternating with bands of morinda-dyed yarns. Only hoba pojo are made today and they have become the characteristic Nagé woman’s garment. (Hamilton 1994a:111–13) 

Traditionally, three types of textiles for women were produced: the plain hoba do’i, the hoba niki nado decorated with plain coloured stripes, sometimes alternated with narrow bands of ikat dyed with indigo, and the hoba pojo, with much broader bands of ikat in indigo and usually also a similarly decorated central field, alternating with bands in morinda red. This most visually attractive type has now become the characteristic Nagé attire for women. (Ten Hoopen 2018:213) 

The similarity in these passages is too close to be coincidental: the same ideas, presented in the same order, often with identical wording. Although only ten Hoopen knows exactly how this transpired, it appears likely that he drew directly upon the work of Duggan and Hamilton, probably with their books open in front of him when he was writing, and took their material as his own. This is not acceptable. All he needed to do was to begin his paragraphs with the words “As observed by Duggan (2001:27)” or “According to Hamilton (1994a:111–13)” and he would have met appropriate citation standards. Mentioning the original works elsewhere in his text as “core literature” does not excuse this lapse. The co-authors of this review do not begrudge the sharing of material from our work, but ten Hoopen needs to attend to academic ethics. 

In addition to using other scholars’ work without proper citation, ten Hoopen in some cases misunderstands what they have written, distorts their material, or uses it to draw conclusions the original work does not support. For example, he cites Derek Freeman (1981:40) to claim that “a freshly obtained head […] was of the essence” (p. 95) in Iban communities for performing the rites called gawai amat. What Freeman reported, however, is something that occurs in the narrative chanting of Iban bards, not in real life. As gawai amat are still held today, the implication is rather grotesque. In another example, ten Hoopen writes that the names of the female moieties of Savu, Hubi Ae and Hubi Iki, “mean Greater Stem and Lesser Stem” (p. 299). This contravenes the accepted terminology adopted by multiple scholars who have conducted research concerned with Savu (see Fox (1977); Kana (1978); Maxwell (1990); Kagiya (2010)) and have long translated the term hubi as “blossom” or “flowers.” Botanically speaking, the stem of a palm is the part commonly referred to as the “trunk,” while the hubi is a spadix or cluster of flowers (Broschat 2013:3). Thus “blossom” or “flowers” are the perfect choices for naming female descent lines, associated with the idea of reproduction. Ten Hoopen’s choice, “stem,” is linguistically incorrect and anthropologically inaccurate. 

The “personal flavor” mentioned by the Danereks extends well beyond the issue of doing justice to his sources. Throughout the book ten Hoopen promotes numerous ideas and personal musings as if they are fact without, as Buckley noted, providing evidence to support them. Many of these involve the interpretation of motifs, a hot-button issue in recent debate in Southeast Asian textile studies. Buckley questioned the notion that every motif has a meaning or “stands for something,” an idea that ten Hoopen repeats over and over. This claim of ten Hoopen’s too is hyperbolic. Take, for example, the motifs in the end panels of Ende women’s skirt cloths. Any weaver in Ende can name them: metu (ant), teka (axe), géko (tail), wuzi (cowrie), and bué (bean); see Hamilton (1994b:125). These names do not reflect symbolic meanings. The named objects are not “totems,” and in fact the motifs do not even depict them. Such names are merely a convenience used to communicate, based on what the motifs have looked like to generations of weavers. 

Since this discussion has recently become so fraught (for a review, see Hamilton 2016), it is helpful to refer to the comments of an independent source—someone perhaps more impartial because he is not writing with regard to Indonesian textiles and not addressing that particular audience. Polynesian barkcloth motifs are the subject of the following remarks by Nicholas Thomas, but they are broadly applicable: 

Western audiences tend to bring to non-western art traditions the expectation that forms will be symbolic, and will bear traditional meanings. This is sometimes true but often also misleading. In the societies of the Pacific art was more commonly concerned with social effect. It did communicate, but not in the sense that it was a coded or graphic form of language-like information. (Thomas 2013:18) 

In his website, ten Hoopen discusses what he calls the “fixed relationships between motifs and meaning (Ten Hoopen, “Collection philosophy: beyond treasure,” ). It seems to us, however, that “meaning” does not exist in a vacuum but rather requires actors (or “agents”), that is, people who participate in a system of thought by creating those meanings, holding them to be true, or passing them on to others. If most people in a society offer a consistent interpretation of a given motif, that is one thing; if, however, awareness of that interpretation is limited to initiated or perhaps self-appointed specialists in esoteric knowledge, that is another. When different people, even in a single community, offer contradictory interpretations (as they often do), that is yet a third possibility, and who are we to say that one of them is correct and one of them wrong? If the people who make the motif say it has no meaning, who are we to imply that they are ignorant? It matters where an interpretation comes from and who adheres to its tenets. Ten Hoopen is keenly aware of this debate, and one would think, therefore, that he would be extra careful to state plainly where the interpretations he offers come from and for whom they hold sway, but he rarely does so. 

There is no question that some individual motifs (or more commonly in Indonesian contexts, larger patterns and the names that are given to them) are the bearers of deeply significant indigenously held interpretations. That is a very different matter from claiming “nearly every motif stands for something.” In a rebuttal to Buckley’s criticism on this subject (ten Hoopen 2020:30), ten Hoopen calls upon the widely acknowledged idea reflected in Brigitte Khan Majlis’s book title Woven Messages. Saying that textiles convey messages, however, is not at all the same as claiming that they constitute “a body of symbolic language” (p. 26). 

There are many other areas where we contest ten Hoopen’s positions. For example, he compares vaguely similar Balinese, Ndao, and Kisar motifs and links these to Austronesian themes of rice culture and weaving (p.184). He similarly connects Mualang (Borneo) and Timorese anthropomorphic motifs (pp. 109–10), speculating on a shared iconography resulting from “early waves of immigrants,” and he claims that Dongson culture (1000 BCE–100 CE, in present-day Vietnam) “left many traces” on distant Alor (p. 387). He seems unaware that such diffusionist theories of the 1930s–1960s have long been superseded (for an overview, see Waterson 1990:18–23). 

In the Borneo section, he draws on Michael Heppell’s rather bizarre characterization of the social function of weaving in Iban society as “sexual selection” (Heppell et al. 2005), stating that “[t]he design of [pua] is always symmetrical in order to reflect the preference humans have for symmetry in the features of their sexual mates,” and further that “weavers’ striving for competence in weaving is a display of intelligence intended to attract the opposite sex” (pp. 94–95). Ten Hoopen fails to mention, however, that Heppell’s hypothesis is highly disputed (Wadley 2006; Gavin 2008; King 2017). 

Then there is the strange case of the supposed “virginity” of some Lamaholot textiles. Weavers in this region purposefully leave the warp yarns uncut when they take cloth off the loom if it is to be used later in bridewealth exchanges. Without offering any source, ten Hoopen claims that “the textile at this stage is considered ‘virginal’” (p. 83). Ruth Barnes, who has been conducting research with Lamaholot weavers for five decades, has never heard them mention any association whatsoever between uncut warps and “virginity.” A more complete discussion by Barnes can be found in Appendix A. 

In some places ten Hoopen’s flights of “personal flavor” are so insensitive and judgmental that they become offensive. Regarding the people of the island of Nusa Penida, he writes “physical beauty and grace are hard to find” (p. 183). He calls Sikkanese weaving “arguably spiritually impoverished” (p. 223). On the other hand, he declares without a hint of irony or critical perspective that “[t]he Dayak were the world’s most perfect embodiment of the idea of the noble savage” (pp. 110–11). This is despite what he calls the continued “popularity” of the practice of headhunting (p. 568, n. 67), a notion that the modern citizens of Borneo would find demeaning and absurd. 

Regarding Lembata, ten Hoopen says “there is a marked lack of sophistication” (p. 353). Is this a reference to the people of Lembata or to their textiles? It is not appropriate for either. The textiles are feats of sophistication and impressive evidence for applied mathematics. Regarding the people, since the 1930s, Lembata has provided many of the school teachers for the wider region. The village of Lamalera alone has produced a professor of linguistics at the University of Indonesia, a minister of the environment in the post-Suharto era (with a doctorate from Leuven University), a diplomat and scholar of Japanese who was stationed in Tokyo for many years, several doctors who trained in Germany, numerous priests who have had academic interests, and (infamously) the man who led the genocidal Indonesian invasion of East Timor. 

In perhaps the oddest passages of all, he heaps scorn upon the Ngadha people of Flores. Their communities “offered a singularly depressing aspect” (p. 209). Their textiles are known for their “‘primitive’ appearance” (p. 211). The Ngadha and Keo languages are “strangely ‘bare,’ as if they are versions of Malay adopted by people who had difficulty learning it to its full degree of complexity” (ibid). To ten Hoopen, these supposed linguistic characteristics “reinforce the image of a people with limited development” (ibid). What does he mean here? Limited linguistic development? Limited cultural development? Either of these ideas would be anathema to any anthropologist, and they do not belong in a serious work of reference. Extensive linguistic and ethnographic reporting about the peoples of this part of Flores (see Arndt (1954, 1961); Djawanai (1983); Forth (1998); Molnar (2000); Smedal (2000, 2009); and others) plainly demonstrates the fallacy of ten Hoopen’s prejudicial opinions. 

Beyond our objections to many of ten Hoopen’s positions, an additional problem is that the book contains a large number of factual errors. Certainly no author’s book is free of mistakes (including our own), but the errors here are so numerous and pervasive that it is not feasible to discuss them appropriately in the body of this review. Instead, we have provided a series of appendixes, which we have compiled with the goal of preventing some of these inaccuracies from entering the literature as fact.  

At this point it may be useful to consider what larger lessons might be learned. A good place to start is with the problem of museums hosting exhibitions that consist entirely of objects drawn from a single, privately held collection. Many museums appear unable to resist doing this, presumably because it makes for easy and relatively inexpensive exhibition development or because they hope that a valuable collection might eventually come to them if they establish a working relationship with the collector. The public is generally not aware that this practice is loaded with conflicts of interest, which become additionally compounded if the museum allows the collector to write the catalog published in conjunction with the exhibition. 

Many collectors become very knowledgeable about the material they collect. We would not dispute that Peter ten Hoopen fits this description. Scholarship, however, requires impartiality, and a collector cannot be impartial when writing about material that remains in his or her private ownership. Portions of ten Hoopen’s texts show an undisguised element of a collector’s pride, with claims that a particular cloth is finer, or older, or rarer than some other published example—assertions that may or may not strike the reader as plausible. The last few decades have seen a great proliferation of such owner-authored books. At first most of them were simply catalogs by dealers produced to promote the sale of their material. In recent years these productions have grown more lavish and seemingly more scholarly, to the point where it has become difficult for the public to tell them apart from works of impartial scholarship. Collectors who want to see their collections published should either engage academic or museum scholars to write about them or, better still, put the collection into public ownership at a museum and support the production of a publication as many generous donors have done. 

Ten Hoopen’s texts are full of reminders that his approach to the subject is first and foremost as a collector, such as his assessment, regarding Borneo, that “[c]ollectible ikat is produced mainly by the Iban” (p. 91). Apparently collectability is a salient feature for him. He regularly uses other collectors as his leading sources of information. When discussing variety in Balinese geringsing cloths, for example, he ignores the work of Urs Ramseyer—the leading scholar in the field who has published detailed accounts (Bühler et al. (1975); Ramseyer (1984, 2009)) of the various types, with illustrations and their local names—and he cites instead a rather vague opinion of a fellow collector that there are “about thirty patterns” (p. 180). In the Borneo section (p. 92), he names two American dealers as his “best sources” of information regardless of the extensive scholarly literature on the subject. He goes on to mention (p. 95) reports that warriors sometimes slept under pua cloths with powerful patterns in order to receive omens in their dreams, but he credits this to personal communication from another collector rather than citing original sources (See Jensen (1974:122–23); Freeman (1975:284); Howell (1977:157)). 

Although he tries to give the indigenous names for types of cloth, as is standard practice in material culture studies, he is often inconsistent. In some cases he mixes languages, as in the description “Lué jara of a type known as kain kudu [sic]” (p. 231). Lué jara is the Ngadha name for the cloth, but kain kuda is Indonesian and would not be used by Ngadha speakers among themselves. Rather, it is the way traders, dealers and collectors refer to the cloths. He claims bidang and kain kebat are “interchangeable” names for Iban women’s skirts (p. 98), yet bidang is not an indigenous term for “skirt.” Again, it is mainly western dealers and collectors who use it (Gavin 2003:171–72). In his description of “Sembiran weft ikats, usually narrow shawls” (p. 174), ten Hoopen repeats an erroneous geographic attribution that was perpetuated by dealers and collectors beginning in the 1970s. They did this to increase interest in the cloths by associating them with the village of Sembiran, which they inaccurately portrayed as a pure, uncorrupted Bali Aga community. In reality, Sembiran is a mixed-heritage settlement and, more importantly, the cloths are not from Sembiran at all (Nabholz-Kartaschoff 2008). Furthermore, they are not weft-ikat shawls; they are hip wrappers, primarily striped or checked and only rarely with minor ikat decoration. Even “sarong,” a term ten Hoopen uses throughout, is now regarded as problematic. The Indonesian is sarung, and it has very specific meanings. Borrowed into English as “sarong,” it is now so hopelessly corrupted by the fashion and film industries that it is often hard to tell what it means. People throughout Southeast Asia have their own local names for these garments and most scholars abandoned this word two decades ago. 

Most troubling of all is ten Hoopen’s repeated use of the construct “full asli.” Asli is Indonesian, meaning original or authentic. This term only exists as some shabby kind of traders’ slang—akin to full-AC or full-musik, the words emblazoned on the front of buses in Indonesia to advertise the presence of such amenities. Ten Hoopen uses it with evident pride. An impartial scholar, rather than a collector/author enumerating his exploits in a book about his own collection, would not use this term in an uncritical manner. All of this we cite as evidence that owner-authored texts need to be approached with caution. 

To conclude, while we have raised objections to many statements that appear in ten Hoopen’s book, there is no reason to doubt his commitment to his subject. According to his own website, he is now a doctoral candidate at the University of Leiden working on a thesis titled Ikat from Timor and Its Outer Islands: Insular or Interwoven? Timor textiles are a fascinating subject badly in need of more research, so any genuine contributions he can make to the field will be very welcome. In the process of compiling a doctoral thesis, he will need to clarify, in ways that to our knowledge he has not done in his previous writing, exactly what the nature of his original research is and what his qualifications and methodologies are. He will also need to support his opinions with evidence and properly cite his sources. We hope his future writing will avoid some of the problems that have been discussed in this review. He cannot have it both ways—engaging in his flights of “personal flavor” while at the same time expecting his books to be taken seriously as works of reference. 


 Ruth Barnes, D.Phil., is the Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art at Yale University Art Gallery.

Geneviève Duggan, Ph.D., is an anthropologist specialized in the history and culture of the island of Savu.

Traude Gavin, Ph.D., is an independent scholar with a focus on the ritual textiles of Iban and Iban-related groups in Borneo. 

Roy W. Hamilton is the retired Senior Curator for Asian and Pacific Collections, Fowler Museum at UCLA. 

Marie-Louise Nabholz-Kartaschoff, Ph.D, is the retired curator of the Department of Asian Textiles at the Museum der Kulturen Basel. 

Additional contributors 

Tim G. Babcock, Ph.D., is an Indonesia-focused anthropologist and international development worker. 

Sandra Niessen, PhD., is an anthropologist specialized in the textiles of the Batak of North Sumatra.  


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2017 “Claiming Authority: Derek Freeman, His Legacy and Interpretations of the Iban of Borneo.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 173(1): 83–113. 

Maxwell, Robyn 

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2009 The Theatre of the Universe. Ritual and Art in Tenganan Pegeringsingan. Bali. Basel: Museum der Kulturen. 

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As noted, the appendixes below have been composed by each of the named authors, based on their experience with a particular region of the Southeast Asian archipelago. Each appendix represents solely the view of that author. Readers are advised that not all errors in the book are cited or discussed. 

Appendix A—Ruth Barnes 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Virginity in Indonesian Ikat” (pp. 82–85); “Lamaholot People” (pp. 340–43): “Adonara and Lembata” (pp. 350–55) 

P. 83 

Peter ten Hoopen describes the most highly valued cloth found among the Lamaholot, a woman’s tubular skirt generally called a kewatek. It is woven with a continuous warp on a back-strap loom, as is common for many Indonesian textiles. It always incorporates ikat designs, and it is usually dyed red. It consists of two or three separate panels, which are then sewn together. When the woven panel comes off the loom, a part of the warp remains open, as the heddle and shed sticks in the loom do not make it possible to complete the full circle. When the cloth is intended to be worn, these warp threads are cut and sewn together. If the cloth is to be used for bridewealth—presented by the bride’s clan at or following a wedding—however, the warp threads have to remain intact. 

Here the author comes to some rather startling conclusions. First of all, he claims (p. 83): “While it remains uncut the cloth is in a special, intermediate state. The design has been brought from the spiritual world into the material [world].” This statement implies a complex transformation from the spiritual realm to the material reality of our world. What is the source of this information and who conveyed it to ten Hoopen? I have never heard this particular transformation articulated by any of my informants and weaver friends. I suspect they would find it rather strange. Unless it can be further substantiated, this is fantasy. Ten Hoopen’s interpretation, nonetheless, gets even more imaginative. He continues: “The textile at this stage is considered ‘virginal,’ like a young maiden not yet ready to enter the world of marriage.” Again, my question is: Who says so? Where does this information come from? 

This is followed by a passage beginning with a quotation from my own research. I, however, find the deduction to which it leads the author both novel and startling. Ten Hoopen claims: “The idea of virginity is especially prevalent in parts of the archipelago inhabited by the Lamaholot people. According to Ruth Barnes… [t]he unwoven warp stands for the threads of kinship and descent that must be preserved.” This is indeed what I have been told repeatedly (Barnes 1989:17), but “kinship and descent” are quite different from virginity. Ten Hoopen goes on, “Other sources state that it [the continuous warp] stands for the virginity of the bride.” Who are these other sources? No reference is given. Instead the author admits “this may be apocryphal.” Despite this possibility (that the statement may not be based on firsthand information), ten Hoopen expands for the rest of the chapter on the theme of “virginity.” 

In all the many years I have spent in Lamaholot communities and talked to weavers, no connection was ever made between virginity and the continuous warp. In fact, I have never heard anyone comment about virginity as having an association with textiles. It sounds to me as though this may be a comment Peter ten Hoopen heard from a Catholic priest or nun. I truly doubt that it was made by a weaver. 

Throughout the book the author comments on the difficulties of finding explanations or in-depth information about patterns and designs. He states that this may be due to either a loss of knowledge, or the importance of keeping such matters secret. I cannot confirm this problem from my own field research. Even when weavers mentioned that they would not readily share information with other weavers, they generally wanted to make sure that the information I recorded was correct and extensive, as they take pride in their knowledge and skill. Of course field research is a slow and time-consuming process, and one has to learn to listen, rather than ask all the questions. 

P. 342 

According to ten Hoopen, “[t]he Lamaholot have a distinct system of ritual leadership where four ritual heads share the power.” This is true for East Flores but is not found throughout the region. 

P. 343 

Ten Hoopen writes that other than my own work and that of Robert Barnes, “[t]here is scant other material on the Lamaholot.” This is untrue. See Barnes (2004:14–15) for numerous other sources, notably Paul Arndt, Stefan Dietrich, Karl-Heinz Kohl, and Penelope Graham. 

P. 351 

Regarding Adonara, ten Hoopen claims “no researcher that we are aware of has embraced the island.” Robert Barnes lived in Witihama, East Adonara for fourteen months in 2000/2001 and has published numerous articles on the ethnography and history of the island. These appeared in accessible journals, e.g., Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land- en Volkenkunde, Anthropos, or Indonesia and the Malay World. Five of these contributions were recently republished (R. H. Barnes 2013). 

P. 353 

Ten Hoopen says of Lembata ikat textiles that “precision is not their hallmark.” To the contrary, see Barnes (1994:191): “A good textile is judged by the clarity of outline, and the small, separate units (kenumak) that together make up the complete pattern are emphasized.… When Lamaholot women describe their ikat designs, they often refer to the size appropriate to each pattern.… It is this that is checked when the textiles are evaluated as potential bridewealth gifts, along with the skill displayed in the precision of outlines.” The Lembata textiles illustrated in the same chapter illustrate this appreciation of precision (Barnes 1994:figs. 8.13–17, 8.21–23), whereas most of the Lembata textiles in the Pusaka Collection do not meet this standard and are indeed imprecise in definition. 

Ten Hoopen mentions Ernst Vatter, Alfred Bühler, and my own research on Lembata, and he places them in the 1920s, 1930s and 1990s, respectively. Bühler never visited Lembata (Kunz 2012). My own research in Lamalera began in 1979 and my Oxford DPhil was published in 1989. 

Additional References 

Barnes, R. H. 

2013 Excursions into Eastern Indonesia. Essays on History and Social Life. Yale Southeast Asia Studies Monograph 63. New Haven: Council on Southeast Asia Studies at Yale University. 

Barnes, Ruth 

1989 The Ikat Textiles of Lamalera: A Study of an Eastern Indonesian Weaving Tradition. Leiden: E. J. Brill. 

1994 “East Flores Regency.” In Roy W. Hamilton (ed.), Gift of the Cotton Maiden: Textiles of Flores and the Solor Islands, 170–91. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California Los Angeles. 

2004 Ostindonesien im 20. Jahrhundert: Auf den Spuren der Sammlung Ernst Vatter. Frankfurt a.M.: Museum der Weltkulturen.  

Kunz, Richard 

2012 “The Timor, Rote, and Flores (Indonesia and East Timor) Expedition, 1935 / Alfred Bühler.” Expeditions: The World in a Suitcase. Newspaper for the exhibition The Museum der Kulturen Presents Four of its Expeditions. Museum der Kulturen Basel. 

Appendix B—Traude Gavin 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Borneo” (pp. 88–131) 

In ten Hoopen’s Borneo chapter the Saribas region of Sarawak is emphasized to such an extent that the upriver Iban (in the Ulu Ai, Katibas, Baleh, and so on) are not only marginalized but also disappear from the narrative of Iban weaving in Sarawak altogether. The following statements by ten Hoopen apply only to the Saribas: “Ikat weaving dropped off as headhunting was suppressed and practically stopped by the end of the World War” (p. 94); “Most weaving done by Dayak women these days is not to make the traditional blood-red pua kumbu, but rather songket shawls in the style of continental Malaysia” (p. 95); “Sarawak ikat reached its zenith in the 1930s” (p. 104); “The 1940s…largely ended ikat weaving in Sarawak. It was only in the second half of the 20th c. that a revival was under way” (p. 104). 

Pp. 89, 91–92, 94, 102–3 

“Tribe” was used by early writers of the nineteenth century; it is not a term used today in Sarawak, and with its undercurrent of “primitive,” it has no place here. 

P. 89 

The “Sea-Dayaks” (or Iban) do not “live primarily in southwestern Sarawak and in Sabah,” as claimed by ten Hoopen; they live in Sarawak (about 750,000) and Kalimantan (about 14,000), with only a few thousand more recent Iban migrants in Sabah (Langub 2011:260; Soda 2011:151 n. 1). 

Pp. 89, 91–92, 91–95, 98 

Today, “Dayak” is the general term for the non-Muslim indigenous people of Borneo, not a term applied exclusively to the Iban, which is how ten Hoopen tends to use it. 

P. 90 

The photograph should be credited as © Archives of the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam; the photographer is M. Honda. 

P. 91 

Initial migrations into what is now Sarawak occurred in the middle of the sixteenth century, not “[r]ather recently, probably no earlier than the 19th c.,” as stated by ten Hoopen. 

Referring to Iban social organization as “pseudo-egalitarian” does not do justice to the cited source (Sather 2006). 

Pp. 92–93, 568 n. 71 

I have never claimed that “Dayak motifs, including human figures” are “merely decoration” and have “no deeper meaning.” Ten Hoopen erroneously attributes these opinions to me, citing in his note “Gavin 2003:239” where no such statement is found. See, for example, Gavin (1996:11) where I wrote, “This is not to say that Iban cloth patterns are without meaning, far from it.” For an in-depth analysis, see “An Experiment” in Gavin (2003:234–38). Ten Hoopen’s quotation reiterates Michael Heppell’s misrepresentation of my work (2014:150), which has also has been repeated verbatim by Ooi (2015:170) and Sellato (2016:166).  

P. 94 

This page includes several basic errors. A pua cloth is not “a large wrap.” Pilih is not “embroidery;” it is a supplementary-weft weave. Ikat is not “locally called kumbu” (see below, p. 98). The nakar does not involve a mordant (see Gavin 2003:49f; Gavin 2013). 

P. 96 

The piring ceremony is not a “gawai”; it is not “annual”; nor is it the “most important” ceremony. Rather, it is part of most ritual action and can be observed today (see Gavin 2003:27). No “slaughtered animals” are set out on pua cloths. 

Ten Hoopen falsely claims that “all pua are high-status cloths.” Rather, beginners weave low-potency patterns, which are not “high-status cloths”; the entire ranking system of weaving is predicated on the fact that pua patterns are ranked from low to high status (see Gavin 2003:41). 

According to ten Hoopen, “[i]n pua kumbu, the heads of spirit figures and crocodiles are often depicted in the same way, and in the longhouses human and crocodile skulls are often displayed intermingled.” 

Compare this statement to Gavin (2003:304–5): “Some crocodile patterns feature heads that are identical to the hexagonal, spiral heads of the Nising [spirit] figure.… In this connection, Brooke Low (cited in Roth 1896, I:446) reported that the heads of crocodiles were hung up over the fireplace ‘side by side with the cluster of human heads.’” 

The details pertaining to “heads of spirit figures and crocodiles” and “human and crocodile skulls” are very specific and to my knowledge have not been reported elsewhere, which makes it likely ten Hoopen borrowed this information from me. However, the appendix containing this passage (Gavin 2003:303–5) is an exploration of wide-ranging, at times far-fetched connections, clearly titled “a hypothesis.” This is repeated in my concluding remarks: “it is important to note that the above remains a speculative account.” Ten Hoopen turns these hypothetical explorations into fact and has “human and crocodile skulls” hanging in longhouses as a matter of course. I, for one, have never seen crocodile skulls displayed in an Iban longhouse, and Brooke Low’s statement remains the single such recorded incident. 

The Sadong and Kanowit were never part of the former “2nd division,” as stated by ten Hoopen. The 2nd Division was renamed Sri Aman Division in 1984. 

P. 97 

Contrary to ten Hoopen’s claim, dyeing with engkerebai is a straightforward process that does not require a pretreatment (nakar; see Gavin 2003:49). 

P. 98 

The root word is kebat; ngebat is the active verb form—not the other way round as ten Hoopen has it. Kebat means “binding, wrapper” and is used to refer to ikat; kumbu means “cover” (as with a cloth or blanket), and when coupled with pua, it means “patterned by the ‘tie and dye’ process,” or ikat (Richards 1981:143–44, 170). But kumbu on its own does not mean “ikat” and is not used in that way. 

P. 100 

Older Iban ikat skirts as a rule are dyed with morinda, not with the “less appreciated engkerebai.” Contrary to ten Hoopen’s statement, skirt patterns generally are more intricate—rather than “simpler”—than those of the larger pua cloths, precisely because of their smaller size.  

P. 102 

James Brooke (not Charles Brooke) became the governor of Sarawak in 1841 (not in 1849). 

The statement that Saribas Iban “could afford slaves” gives the false impression of a market where slaves could be purchased (see Pringle 1970:28 n. 2). 

Additional References 

Gavin, Traude 

1996 The Women’s Warpath: Iban Ritual Fabrics from Borneo. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. 

2013 “The Ngar is not a mordant: Update.” Borneo Research Bulletin 44:302–3. 

Heppell, Michael 

2014 The Seductive Warp Thread: An Evolutionary History of Ibanic Weaving. Borneo Research Council Material Culture Series 1. Borneo Research Council. 

Ooi, Keat Gin 

2015 Review of “The Seductive Warp Thread: An Evolutionary History of Ibanic Weaving” by 

Michael Heppell. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 88, pt. 2, (309): 168–71. 

Langub, Jayl 

2011 “The Iban of Merotai: Bejalai Narratives.” Borneo Research Bulletin 42:260–74. 

Pringle, Robert 

1970 Rajahs and Rebels: The Iban of Sarawak under Brooke Rule, 1841–1941. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 

Richards, A. J. N. 

1981 An Iban-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 

Roth, Henry Ling 

1896 The Natives of Sarawak and British North Borneo. London: Truslove and Hanson. 

Sather, Clifford 

2006 [1996] “’All Threads Are White’: Iban Egalitarianism Reconsidered.” In James J. Fox and Clifford 

Sather (eds), Origins, Ancestry and Alliance: Explorations in Austronesian Ethnography, pp. 73–112. Canberra: The Australian National University. 

Sellato, Bernard 

2016 “Recent Material Culture Studies on Borneo.” Moussons 27:163–72. 

Soda, Ryoji, and Logie Seman 

2011 “Life Histories of Migrants: Bejalai Experiences of the Iban in Sabah, Malaysia.” Geographical Studies 86:132–52. 

Appendix C—Sandra Niessen 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Sumatra and Bangka: Batak Region” (pp. 138–42, 156–62) 

This chapter fails to enhance the study of ikat-dyed textiles from the Batak region. It does not summarize what is known, nor convey anything new, perceptive, important, or even clear or accurate about Batak ikat. The depicted textiles are not representative in any way, but rather an arbitrary assemblage. 

The technical palette of Batak weaving is broader than just ikat, and for several of the Batak textiles referred to by the author (including ragidup, pinunsaan, sibolang, surisuri, and bolean), ikat patterning is optional. The author utilizes the concept of “ikat textiles” to refer to the Batak weaving tradition as a whole, and the reader is not given a sense of what is special, unique, or characteristic for ikat in Batak textiles. 

P. 138 

According to the author, the island in the caldera “called Samosir ... has been held sacred for several generations.” This characterization lacks clarity with respect to what “sacred” means, to whom it is “sacred,” why it is “sacred,” and how that is relevant to ikat. According to Batak animist beliefs, all landscapes had sacred elements. 

Ten Hoopen states, “[c]losest to the lake live the Toba Batak.” In fact, the Simalungun live on the east shore of the lake, and the people of Sitolu Huta, whether they are considered Karo (under the Dutch administration) or Dairi (under the Indonesian administration), live on the north shore of the lake

The author makes use of the style region designations developed for my book Legacy in Cloth, Batak Textiles of Indonesia (2009; henceforth in this commentary: Legacy), but he does not acknowledge his source. 

P. 139 

Ten Hoopen devotes a full paragraph to cannibalism, even though the Batak chapter on ikat is very short. Why was a discussion about cannibalism included? It comes across as sensationalist and Eurocentric, as well as irrelevant to the theme of ikat. 

The author claims that rules guiding the exchange of cloth mostly no longer apply: “old rules have been forgotten, and are relics of a feudal system.” One wonders what “feudal system” the author is referring to. The Batak did not have a feudal system. Rules in gift exchange are indeed changing and some have been forgotten, but by and large, gift exchanges involving textiles continue to be indispensable to Batak ritual. 

The author refers to the depiction of “crocodiles.” To my knowledge the Batak do not depict crocodiles, but rather ilik, “lizards.” These are commonly shown on Batak houses and in Batak texts. There are no crocodiles in the Batak area. 

Ten Hoopen refers to “stipples” (gatip in Batak) as the foundational element of patterning, but no sources are given for this piece of information. I discovered that gatip are the primary building blocks of Batak ikat patterning, and the author's claim is very likely taken from my research without proper citation. 

Ten Hoopen’s caption to the photograph states that the ikat attire is being worn “during the Gale Gale ceremony, early 20th c.” In fact, the image is from a performance for tourists at the Simanindo Museum on Samosir Island. It was taken at an open-air museum event, an initiative of the Sidauruk family to showcase traditional Batak life for tourists who sit in the bleachers in front of a row of Batak houses while villagers enact re-creations of rituals. The first of these performances was held in 1971. The photograph is of three of the performers and was not taken during a ritual held in the early twentieth century as claimed by ten Hoopen. 

P. 140 

The author consistently refers to Karo textiles as uwi. The correct word is uwis. Page 16 of Legacy is cited as the source (see n. 164 in the author's text), but there it is written correctly as uwis. The error is rather basic because uwis is the general term used in Karo for ritual textiles, comparable to the general term ulos used in the Toba Batak language. 

According to the author, “[t]he colours speak a symbolic language: black and dark indigo stand for the underworld and for eternity; red (used sparingly) for the middle world, the earth and bravery; white for the upper world, the realm of the spirits and purity.” He does not present a source for his conclusions about Batak color symbolism. I am not aware of this kind of one-on-one mapping of symbolism in the Batak area except in simplistic tourist literature. 

P. 141 

Ten Hoopen claims that the pinunsaan is made in Silindung and on Samosir. In Legacy, I list the provenance as Toba Silindung and Toba Samosir, two style regions. Toba Samosir is explained to be both the island and the facing mainland with which the island is in close contact. In fact, the cloth is not made “on Samosir,” but on the shore of a facing bay called Muara. 

P. 142 

Ten Hoopen states that “[t]he ulos pinunsaan in [his] collection is of a rare type not shown even in Niessen's comprehensive catalogue of types….” The cloth he is referring to is not a pinunsaan, but a fairly representative example of a simpar of which there are four illustrations on pages 300 and 301 in Legacy

The Toba word bolang is defined in Legacy (p. 177) with reference to Warneck (n.p.:85), who notes that it is a cognate of the Malay belang. Without citing a source, ten Hoopen writes about the cognate, and embroiders upon it with an irrelevant and contrived reference to a tiger's spots. 

Referring to Jasper and Pirngadie (1912:7), the author writes that, “[a]mong the Toba Batak she would call upon the spirit… while mixing the dye ingredients.” Jasper and Pirngadie note that the offering is made to the spirits when the dye ingredients are laid out, i.e., before the dye is made and before dyeing begins. The author adds that this offering is made to “preclude a fiasco.” Dyeing is a sensitive, difficult, and precarious activity, and it frequently leads to failure, even for the best and most careful dye makers. To use the term “fiasco” in this context is hyperbole. 

According to ten Hoopen, “in the mountainous interior of the Batak lands the ritual role of ikat is still, to a certain extent, kept alive.” It is not clear what the author is referring to as the "mountainous interior," nor "the ritual role of ikat," nor what, precisely, is being "kept alive." In fact during the past ten years, there are few ikat makers left, and all of them work commercially. Almost all textiles currently made are for market sale for use in ritual and as clothing. 

Ten Hoopen writes, “[w]e also see a regional shift, or rather a concentration of the weaving in one area. Since the mid-1900s, most of the weaving has been done by the Toba Batak, who will produce cloth in the Simalungun, Angkola or Karo style upon demand, primarily on mechanical looms in small factories using chemical dyes.” These two statements create several false impressions. There are concentrations of weaving, but not in any one area. For more than a century, the Toba Batak have been the most prolific weavers, and for just as long, Toba Batak weavers on Samosir have woven for Simalungun and Karo, and some continue to do so. 

PC 057, p. 157 

The statement “[b]ecause of their ritual importance ulos pinunsaan are rarely seen in western collections” is incorrect. I am not aware of Batak textiles having not been collected because of their ritual importance, and many pinunsaan are found in museum collections. 

The author states that “[n]o other published example is known of an ulos pinunsaan with end panels across the entire width.” His identification of the textile is incorrect. This cloth is a simpar, and it is no more rare than any other handspun cloth from the Holbung/Uluan region. The technique deployed to add an end field can vary. 

PC 174, p. 158 

For the function of the Karo jongkit dulapuluh textile type, the author incorrectly gives the function of the Toba mangiring textile type. 

The author writes that “gold thread may represent rattan,” without providing a source. 

PC 252, p. 159 

What is the source of the stated provenance “[p]robably Silalahi”? 

The author describes the cloth as a “classical padang rusak type.” What is a “classical” Batak textile type, and what are its characteristics? To deserve a Batak design type name, the appearance of the cloth must conform to the basic design features characteristic of textiles with that name. 

No source is quoted for the remark “white… stands for the forces of heaven, the realm of the spirits, with black.” The Batak were introduced to the word “heaven” through Christianity so it seems an improbable explanation for “traditional symbolism.” 

PC 257, p. 160 

According to the author, “there are two complex supplementary indigo weft patterns in the two ulu end fields.” It is not clear what he is referring to. No indigo-color supplementary wefts are visible in the illustration, only white and red/brown ones. 

PC 146, p. 161 

For the function of the surisuri, the author incorrectly gives the function of the sibolang

Ten Hoopen claims that “[d]ue to minute distinctions between ulos, differentiated not just by design but also by intended use, and the great complexity of the adat, exact identification is not always possible.” To the contrary, exact identification of this textile is both clear and possible. The above elaboration reveals that the author does not understand the classification of Batak textiles. This is why he classifies the depicted textile as both a surisuri and a sibolang. The sibolang is a completely different textile type, without stripes. The cloth depicted here has ikat patterning called lima tuho, an ikat pattern that may be found in a variety of textiles, including the sibolang

PC 249, p. 162 

The author suggested that naming this cloth “mangiring jau” is appropriate because it is a superior specimen. The ikat patterning in the cloth is that of a mangiring na marpanganak; one would expect that for a book about ikat, the author would be alert to the nomenclature derived from the ikat features of the cloth. This is explained in Legacy on p. 307 and depicted three times on pp. 308 and 309. 

Additional References 

Niessen, Sandra 

2009 Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia. Leiden: KITLV. 

Warneck, J. 

N.p. Tobabatak-Nederlands woordenboek. Dutch translation of J. Warneck, Tobabataksch-deutsches Wörterbuch, 1906. 21 

Appendix D—Marie-Louise Nabholz-Kartaschoff 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Bali” (pp.174–93) 

Compared to other chapters, the one on Bali is relatively brief and does not do justice to Bali’s admirable and rich ikat textile culture nor to the extensive research on this topic. To some extent, this may be because ten Hoopen’s Pusaka Collection does not include many Balinese textiles. It is unfortunate that he does not write more extensively about the use of these interesting textiles as described in detail by several authors. 

P. 174 

Ten Hoopen mentions “[s]acred cotton weft ikat bebali,” but bebali never include the weft-ikat technique. Usually they are striped or checked; very few have narrow supplementary-weft stripes (see Hauser-Schäublin et al. 1991:58–72). 

P. 177 

According to the author, “[t]he modern period began around 1900, when classes other than the nobility, especially the trading class, began to claim the right to wear endek.” As a matter of fact, changes started later in the 1930s (Hauser-Schäublin et al. 1991:15, 17). 

Pp. 178–80 

The short section on geringsing double-ikat cloths is the most underdeveloped passage of the whole chapter. One reason for this might be that the Pusaka Collection includes only three not very significant examples. This is all the more regrettable as the author himself appreciates geringsing as “keenly sought by museums and collectors.” He could have bridged his gap in knowledge by studying the prolific and thorough works of Urs Ramseyer (1984, 2009) instead of basing his judgment on statements from “one of the world’s most passionate and knowledgeable collectors.” 

P. 178 

The embroidery in the end sections of some geringsing used in royal courts outside Tenganan is not done in silk, but with coarse and rather brittle ramie yarns. 

Pp. 179, 180, 193 

Careless mistakes led to several misspellings of local names like teruna nyoman (not teruna nyoma), patelikur (not pat likur isi), lubeng (not lobeng), or incorrect interpretations of terms such as sanggar (which is in fact not a “house temple,” but a shrine). 

P. 181 

Ten Hoopen provides no evidence or citation for his statement that “geringsing lubeng [is] an ancient motif also found on Java and Sumba, most likely copied from textiles originating in Taiwan or southern China, Liao period (10-11th c.).” 

P. 182 

Ten Hoopen writes that “[t]he most highly regarded kamben cepuk are made not on Bali itself, but on the small offshore island of Nusa Penida.” Nusa Penida cepuk cloths are not the “most highly regarded” ones. Priests, for instance, appreciate much more the cepuk from Tabanan or Bulèlèng. 

“Kamben cepuk have also been made in parts of Bali, for instance in Amlapura (the former Karangasem), Tabanan and Gyaniar,” according to ten Hoopen. Amlapura is not “the former Karangasem,” but rather the capital of Karangasem Regency, and to my knowledge it was never a center of cepuk production.  

P. 183 ill. and p. 184 

The depicted figures do not represent Dewi Sri but show the cili motif, a symbol of wealth and fertility, with the characteristic fan-shaped headdress (see Ramseyer 2002 for illustrations and explanations). 

P. 185 

The author’s description of the illustrated textile as “[m]ade in a predominantly Muslim region of the Buleleng Regency, most likely Singaraja” is incorrect. In the 1990s, the Muslim population of Bulèlèng came to only 8 percent (Barth 1993:178), and in 2019, no district in Bulèlèng was predominantly Muslim (Kabupaten Buleleng 2019:217). To my knowledge all endek weavers were Hindu Balinese, and they also were the people who used these textiles. 

To imply that the use of ikat lozenges…created, simply by the crossing of diagonals” is in any way particular to Islamic weavers in Southeast Asia is debatable. Furthermore, the design style of the borders is typical for Hindu-Balinese songkèt cloths, and the pattern of the central ikat field is strongly reminiscent of patola from Gujarat, exported to Indonesia and particularly to Bali and Java. 

P. 188 

The claim that the deep red of Nusa Penida cepuk cloths “was achieved by the addition to the dye of sirih (betel) juice” is nonsense. According to natural dye chemists, adding sirih spit to a dye bath would produce no lasting dye reaction (Prof. Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer, pers. com.). Regarding Bali, ten Hoopen provides only dubious references to the unnamed “Bali-based dealer who sold it” and to “two anonymous sources, one on Nusa Penida and the other on Bali” (p. 567, n. 29). He also makes a reference to Geneviève Duggan’s work on Savu, but he has misinterpreted her writing. Duggan wrote that “a good spit of red saliva resulting from betel chewing is still added to the morinda dye” (2001:24). This comes at the end of a paragraph about mythology and beliefs related to dyes. In other words, the saliva is added to the dye bath for reasons related to the honoring of ancestors rather than to dye chemistry. This is why Duggan wrote “still added” (pers. com.). In sum, the addition of sirih to a red dye bath is most likely an example of the “imitative” or “sympathetic magic” discussed in early anthropology. 

P. 189 

The motif of the illustrated kamben cepuk cendana kawi is indeed “patola-inspired.” It should not, however, be compared with jilamprang, which is a Javanese term for the same motif on batiks, but with the original Indian patola pattern chhabadi bhat meaning “basket-design” (Bühler and Fischer 1979, I:106, 290f.; II, col.pl. XVIII, pl. 47). 

The “nearly identical cepuk” mentioned by ten Hoopen (Hauser-Schäublin et al. 1991:fig. 8.12) is of a totally different type called kamben cepuk tangkariga, named after a species of coral (see Nabholz-Kartaschoff 1989:189, fig. 17). The other “similar cepuk” he refers to (Gittinger 1979:fig. 106) is also quite different; it is a kamben cepuk padang angket (named after a grass species) with a design derived from the Indian patola motif tran ful bhat (see Nabholz-Kartaschoff 1989:190–91, figs. 22–23, 25). 

P. 193 

The claim that “the Bali Aga descended from nobles of the East-Javanese Majapahit empire” contradicts the author’s own assertion on p. 178: “Bali Aga, believed to have originated from the pre-Majapahit Bali kingdom of Pejeng, and to have settled in Tenganan before the occupation of Bali by the Hindu Javanese who fled in the 15th c. as the Majapahit Empire collapsed under Muslim pressure.” 

Neither sources nor detailed information are given regarding the hypothesis that “[t]he original source of the motifs most likely is much older than the Majapahit period, as it is also seen on a fragment of a Liao (11th c.) textile from Taiwan or Southeast China.” 

Additional References 

Barth, Fredrik 

1993 Balinese Worlds. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 

Bühler, Alfred, and Eberhard Fischer 

1979 The Patola of Gujarat. Basel: Krebs. 

Hauser-Schäublin, Brigitta, Marie-Louise Nabholz-Kartaschoff, and Urs Ramseyer 

1991 Textiles in Bali. Berkeley and Singapore: Periplus Editions. 

Kabupaten Buleleng 

2019 Kabupaten Buleleng dalam Angka 2019. Singaraja: Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Buleleng. 

Nabholz-Kartaschoff, Marie-Louise 

1989 “A Sacred Cloth of Rangda: Kamben Cepuk of Bali and Nusa Penida.” In Mattiebelle Gittinger (ed.), To Speak with Cloth: Studies in Indonesian Textiles, 181–97. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, University of California. 

Ramseyer, Urs 

2002 The Art and Culture of Bali. Basel: Museum der Kulturen Basel and Schwabe & Co. AG. 

Appendix E—Roy W. Hamilton 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Flores” (pp. 206–59) and “Timor” (pp. 386–441) 

P. 208 

The Nagé Keo cultural area is no longer part of Ngada Regency. A separate regency named Nagekeo was established in 2007. 

P. 214 

The correct term is mité méré, not mita méré (Hamilton 1994b:124). 

P. 215, also PC 238, PC 239 & PC 246 pp. 235–37 

Ten Hoopen has used the Lio name, luka semba, to identify Endenese men’s ceremonial shoulder cloths. The Endenese cognate of luka is zuka, but in Ende a zuka is a man’s tubular hip-wrap cloth, not a shoulder cloth. Endenese shoulder cloths normally are referred to simply as semba

P. 217 

The correct name is Onelako, not Onelaku. Since my publication (1994b), the area has been subdivided into newly named villages (desa). The official desa names have always been less widely used than the general term for the area, Ndona. Semba are not blankets; they are ceremonial shoulder cloths. 

PC 076, p. 230 

Ten Hoopen states that “[t]his particular type of sarong is known as lawo keto jara or sapu jara,” but the depicted garment is a woman’s while a sapu is a man’s garment

PC 116, p. 231 

The depicted garment is a shoulder cloth, not a “blanket.” 

PC 259, p. 238 

The woman’s skirt illustrated here, described by ten Hoopen as a “classical Ende zawo manga,” is not a zawo mangga at all but actually a zawo ngéra (see Hamilton 1994b:131–32). In zawo mangga, all of the main pattern bands are dyed only with indigo. In this skirt the weaver has combined surplus pattern bands from the making of other skirts, the defining characteristic of a zawo ngéra. A zawo mangga would not have the morinda-dyed pattern bands with the horse motif. 

PC 083, p. 241 

I have never heard any person in Ndona liken the motifs to “linked genealogical figures.” Any weaver I have ever asked has said that the pattern does not have a meaning. 

P. 387 

Many Topasses had no mixed Portuguese blood, but were purely indigenous people who assimilated to Portuguese mestizo culture (Hägerdal 2012:135). 

P. 388 

Ten Hoopen states that most East Timorese are fluent in Portuguese, but this is an exaggeration. While estimates vary widely, a 2002 U.N. report found that only 5 percent of the population spoke Portuguese (Mydans 2007). The most widely used common language is an urbanized/creolized version of the Tetun language called Tetun Dili or Tetum Praça. 

P. 389, photo caption 

The hip wrapper worn by the man second to left, which ten Hoopen praises as “very fine ikat work,” is not an ikat cloth at all. It was made with the characteristic technique of Boti village, a warp-faced alternating float weave (Hamilton 2014:42). The stippled appearance in the last couple of inches of the pattern band before the fringe is the diagnostic give-away, uniquely produced by this technique. 

P. 392–93 

The cloth in photo number 4 is not an example of Yeager and Jacobson’s Type 4, which they describe as Belu-style cloths with side design stripes (2002:89). It is instead another example of their Type 5, like the one in ten Hoopen’s photo number 5. Correct Type 4 cloths can be seen in Yeager and Jacobson (2002:pl. 224), Hamilton and Taromi (2014:fig. 7.34), and in ten Hoopen’s own 2019 book (Catalog 58, PC 224). 

PC 031, p. 405 

This cloth might possibly have been purchased in Niki-Niki, but it is not from there. It is almost certainly from the area around Manlea and Uaba’u in Malaka Regency. In his Timor book of 2019 (p. 168, cat. 57) ten Hoopen corrects this error and places the cloth generally in the right part of Timor, but the makers of the cloth are Atoin Meto people, not “Belu people” as he states there. Belu is a place name rather than an ethnic designation, and it no longer includes the area where this cloth was made although it formerly did. The district (kecamatan) named Malaka Timur has shifted around the map over time, and Manlea and Uaba’u are not currently part of it. 

PC 182, p. 410 

The decorative technique in the side panels is discontinuous supplementary weft, not supplementary warp. 

PC 183, p. 411 

The makers are Atoin Meto people, not Tetun. 

PC 181, p. 425 

The description of the technique makes more sense without the confusing parenthetic addition “one weft double weave.” Double weave is the name of a complex weave structure not found in Timor.  

Additional References 

Hägerdal, Hans 

2012 Lords of the Land, Lords of the Sea: Conflict an Adaptation in Early Colonial Times, 1600–1800. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, no. 273. Leiden: KITLV Press. 

Hamilton, Roy W. 

2014 “Textile Style Areas in Timor,” In Roy W. Hamilton and Joanna Barrkman (eds.), Textiles of Timor: Island in the Woven Sea, 136–65. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA. 

Hamilton, Roy W., and Yohannes Nahak Taromi 

2014 “Malaka Regency: Cloth of the Plain, Cloth of the Hills,” In Roy W. Hamilton and Joanna Barrkman (eds.), Textiles of Timor: Island in the Woven Sea, 38–87. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA. 

Mydans, Seth 

2007 “A New Country’s Tough Non-Elective: Portuguese 101.” The New York Times July 31, 2007. 

Ten Hoopen, Peter (ed.) 

2019 Timor: Totems and Tokens. Lisbon: Fundação Oriente Museu. 

Yeager, Ruth Marie, and Mark Ivan Jacobson 

2002 Textiles of Western Timor: Regional Variations in Historical Perspective. Bangkok: White Lotus. 

Appendix F—Geneviève Duggan 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Savu and Raijua” (pp. 296–319) 

P. 297 

On Raijua the main crops are sorghum and mung beans, not cotton. This is documented in the annual statistics from the regency government, Savu Raijua dalam Angka, available online. Too little cotton is grown on Raijua for trading or exchange purposes. 

P. 298 

Savu had over 80,000 inhabitants in 2018 (Kabupaten Kupang 2018:44), not “around 30,000” as stated by ten Hoopen. 

Ten Hoopen claims that the people of Savu “look quite different from the inhabitants of neighboring islands, more similar to people of Indian stock,” and he cites as evidence of this the writing of Alfred Russell Wallace (2000 [1869]:143). Wallace, however, did not visit Savu; if he had he would have observed that there are many more people with flat noses than with “straight thin noses” (to use his descriptive term). The photograph (p. 299) of the ruler’s family also contradicts Wallace’s observation. 

It is doubtful that Hindu religion was ever practiced on Savu so it is not surprising that the author did not find any traces of it. Neither attendance at rituals, nor frequent contacts with the various male clans support the existence of a link between Hinduism, a caste system, and the local religion Jingi tiu, which is primarily an ancestor-based worship. This does not rule out the possibility that Indians may have visited Savu, but if they did, they left no influence (see Duggan & Hägerdal 2018:3, n. 5; appendix II). 

P. 300 

All women of Hubi Ae have in common the wo kelaku (or wokelaku).  

Ten Hoopen’s term “bunga wurumada” cannot be traced to any field observation. Bunga (Indonesian) means “motif” when referring to textiles; wurumada (Savunese) means “delicate eyes.” The correct Savunese name is juli wurumada, or “the section with the delicate eyes,” as parts of a textile are named after parts of the body. 

P. 300 ills. 

The third from the top (PC 026) is kobe molai. No example of wokelaku for Hubi Ae is to be found in the book

The fourth from the bottom (PC 142) is Hubi Ae, not Hubi Iki

All women of Hubi Iki have the motif ei ledo; second (PC 136) and third (PC 144) from the bottom. 

P. 301 

Ten Hoopen mentions "gatherings in the wiki's ritual house, tegida." "Wiki" here is an error and should be "wini." Ritual houses belong to maternal lineages (wini). Each wini has a tegida

Regarding the sacred ritual house (tegida), the author refers to a personal communication with Ms 

Dorothé Swinkels (p. 574, n. 280), although this information is to be found in a work published by me (Duggan 2001:61–64) and listed in ten Hoopen’s references. 

Pp. 302–3 

The diagram “after Geneviève Duggan” is incomplete and information is missing (see Duggan 2001:124 and 2013:11). 

P. 302 

“Sambungan tengah” (Indonesian) does not mean “northern connection.” It literally means “middle seam.” 

P. 304 

There is no field research confirmation by Duggan or Kagiya, who worked on Raijua textiles over decades, to indicate that “petite sarongs [are] made for the occasion of the birth of a child.” As infant mortality is high on Savu and Raijua, infants (ana Jawi) are not considered yet “full” persons; they are not allowed to wear the color red nor are they entitled to the same type of funerals as adults. No handwoven cloths are made for them before the age of three to six. 

P. 305 

Ten Hoopen cites the scarcity of Raijua’s small ceremonial ei in collections as evidence to refute what I have written about the reason these garments were produced. Sacred cloths, however, are never worn but are kept in heirloom baskets, and as inalienable heirloom cloths they are not for sale—hence their scarcity in collections. The few small-size ei from Raijua that are in private collections today are likely to have been stolen. Kagiya (2010) mentions that entire heirloom baskets were stolen when she was on Raijua in 1983. 

PC 185, p. 308 

Mesara is not in the “southern part” but in the western part of the island. 

Patola wore is not the sole prerogative of noble women of the moiety Hubi Ae in Mesara, but is worn throughout the entire island. 

PC 255, p. 309 

Wo kejanga is one of the heraldic motifs and would appear as a main motif, not in a secondary band. Moreover, it is displayed on men’s cloths, not on women’s skirts. The visual comparison with wo kejanga is improbable.  

PC 026, p. 310 

The author writes, “similar to a sarong in Duggan, Textiles of Savu, fig. 15.” Presumably he means Ikats of Savu (2001). Actually the illustrated cloth is similar to that in Duggan (2013:61 bottom,) kobe molai (or mola’i) meaning “male kobe” (see also Duggan & Hägerdal 2018:fig 44). 

PC 087, p. 311 

Criteria for identification as Hubi Iki are missing. 

PC 135, p. 312 

Hi’i worapi” is incorrect. See Duggan (2001:133, figs 76–77). The comparison with ketu pedi is fanciful. 

PC 142, p. 313 

Men of both moieties have the hi’i wo hèpi cloth; however, the lozenges are different. There are no examples of hi’i wo hèpi for Hubi Iki in ten Hoopen’s book. 

Pp. 316–19 

These pages show textiles referred to as pana in Savunese, which literally means “hot,” indicating these cloths are sacred and imbued with power (see below p. 317). 

P. 316 

Wei labe” is incorrect. The correct term is wai mea, mea meaning red. For wai labe (or wai made, made = dead), including a ceremony for weaving a wai labe, see Duggan (2001:143–46, figs. 113, 120, 121). For wai mea and a ceremony for weaving wai mea, ei mea, and hi’i mea, see Duggan (2006:46–47, figs. 10–11). 

P. 317 

Ten Hoopen’s term “swaddling sarong” is his own invention and is not known or used locally; more importantly, the term gives a false idea of the sacred nature of this category of cloths (see above). 

P. 318 

It is fanciful to call the motif on this cloth patola jilamprang, as it is a Savunese motif restricted to noble women of Hubi Ae

Textiles of the category pana are considered sacred; their message is not to show the status of the wearer, but to confer energy and power (see Duggan 2013:37). 

Additional References 

Duggan, Geneviève 

2006 "Ancêtres et tissages sacrés à Savou." In Geneviève Perret (ed.), La fibre des ancêtres: Trésors textiles d’Indonésie de la collection Georges Breguet, 43–49. Geneva: Musée d’Ethnographie. 

2013 Woven Stories: Traditional Textiles from the Regency Savu Raijua. Museum Tekstil Jakarta. 

Duggan, Geneviève, and Hans Hägerdal 

2018 Savu: History and Oral Tradition on an Island of Indonesia. Singapore: NUS Press. 

Kabupaten Kupang 

2018 Kabupaten Sabu Raijua dalam Angka 2018. Kupang: Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Kupang. 

Wallace, Alfred Russell 

2000 [1869] The Malay Archipelago. Boston: Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd. 

Appendix G—Tim Babcock 

Review of Peter ten Hoopen (2018): “Sulawesi (Celebes)” (pp. 532–45) 

I am not a textile researcher per se, but I do know something about Sulawesi. I lived in North and South Sulawesi for several years and have worked throughout Sulawesi in a variety of capacities since 1973. During this time I acquired a range of textiles from most parts of the island and have read much of the literature on the subject. 

I found the chapter on Sulawesi disappointing. Admittedly, Sulawesi has not seen comprehensive and detailed scholarly research regarding textiles, with a few exceptions mostly on the weavings of Tana Toraja. One would have hoped that this book might have added some important new data and insights, but I fear this is not the case. 

There are many spelling errors and inconsistencies, e.g., Senkang instead of Sengkang (p. 533); Rantepeo instead of Rantepao (p. 534); Tanah Toraja instead of Tana Toraja (p. 535); both Torajas and Torajans for the name of the ethnic group. Ten Hoopen’s use of Indonesian terms also involves infelicities, with simplistic use of root words as if in some kind of travelers’ pidgin. An example is his use of berani for “bravery” rather than keberanian when the noun is intended (p. 532). 

Some of the background information suggests “pop anthropology” and “potted history,” e.g., reference to the Bugis (or a subgroup of Bugis) as “without ever holding land beyond their sliver of South Sulawesi” (p. 533). The Bugis hold more than a “sliver” of South Sulawesi, where they are the dominant and by far the largest ethnic group, and they certainly hold much land elsewhere in Indonesia, in particular the east/south coast of Kalimantan and the east coast of Sumatra. 

P. 532-33 

The author discusses “silk sarongs made by the Buginese” but does not use the Bugis name for these garments, lipa. Instead he describes them as “often referred to as tenun pagatan after the chief producing village Pagatan.” In all my years living in or studying Sulawesi, I never heard of such a village/place. Pagatan is in Kalimantan Selatan, an area of centuries-old Bugis colonization on the island of Borneo. Yes, Bugis lipa from Kalimantan (often called “sarung Samarinda”) are well known, but they are a product of old Buginese settlements in Borneo, not Sulawesi. 

P. 533 

With only one small illustration (a detail from a lipa), ten Hoopen really underrepresents and underappreciates Bugis silks, referring to them disparagingly as “folksy weft ikat silks.” He could have included some glorious illustrations, but he states in his introduction that he has deliberately not collected cloths (with a few exceptions) that are dyed with chemical dyes. That of course is his choice, but then the book's title is misleading as it might lead readers to assume that it is comprehensive when in fact it omits particular (still very much alive) types of ikat textiles such as the bright, chemically dyed Bugis ikat lipa (as well as much of the current production in various areas across Indonesia). 

P. 534 

Regarding the Toraja area, ten Hoopen does not refer to the relatively recent high quality weavings produced at a workshop in Rantepao, where good quality (handspun, natural dyed) weavings made in Rongkong/Galumpang are also sold.  

P. 535 

He mentions correctly that the pre-Christian religion is known as Aluk To Dolo, but in reference to funeral ceremonies he then writes “the deceased is also accorded a portion [of the slaughtered buffalo], called aluk to dolo.” 

P. 538 

Ten Hoopen refers to the “Palu region of northwest Toraja,” but the Palu region is actually in today's province of Central Sulawesi (and was never part of any colonial administrative unit that also encompassed Tana Toraja). In colonial times, the term “Toraja” was used to mean in some contexts the entire upland area of the central part of Sulawesi and its diversity of ethnic groups, and in other contexts just the ethnic group that we know as (and who call themselves) Toraja, mainly living in the districts of Toraja and North Toraja. As in other instances, the author collapses different time periods and sows confusion. The term “Palu region” would have had little meaning during colonial times when “Donggala” was the usual name for the area. 

Pp. 539–40 

Regarding the Minahasa peninsula, he refers to cloth (formerly) made in "Tondano, Tobulu or a few other villages." Tondano is not and has not been for a very long time a "village"; it is a town and capital of a district. I do not know where Tobulu is; it has probably been miscopied from an old source and should be Tombulu, one of the “traditional” sub-ethnic/territorial subdivisions of the Minahasa people. This is another example of uncritical use of sources and lack of knowledge of the area. I did find on the internet an article by an "amateur" who went in search of kain Bentenan (see below) and uses virtually the same phrase. They probably copied it from the same erroneous source. 

P. 540 

For Donggala, ten Hoopen has only two short paragraphs and is generally disparaging. Again there is only one poor, small illustration (probably because no natural dyes have been used in living memory). This is disappointing, especially since this is one of the very few places in Indonesia where (simple) double ikat patterning is to be found. 

In the brief section on “Limboto” (i.e., Gorontalo), he states that “weft ikat is produced” there; I strongly doubt this. About twenty-five years ago, the historian David Henley only managed to find one elderly woman who had some distant memories of weaving and could produce for him a cloth of very poor quality. If there is indeed anything produced today, it needs to be referenced and illustrated. I suspect it would be made by people with Bugis/Arab connections, just like the “sarung Donggala” from Central Sulawesi. 

Under “Minahasa” he refers to the port of Bentenan “from which it [kain Bentenan] is exported.” This is most unlikely if not impossible: original kain Bentenan have not been made for perhaps a century or more, and recent (mostly poor quality) reproductions are produced in larger centers on semi-mechanized looms and would certainly not be “exported” from isolated Bentenan. 

P. 541 

There is no illustration from Buton, and in fact this section says almost nothing. No mention is made of the very attractive cotton hip-wrap cloths made on Kaledupa island, generally using indigo dye; some of these have double or compound ikat patterning.