Traditional textiles from across Borneo
Sarawak Textile Museum’s ‘Serupa Tapi Tak Sama: Mengasyikkan’ exhibit highlight the differences and similarities between native Borneans across the region.By Patricia Hului @pattbpseeds
There’s a white colonial building in a familiar but old part of town opposite the General Post office, located on Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg. Formerly known as The Pavilion, it was the first public building in Kuching to be over two storeys tall.
Built in 1907 by the British, it was the Medical Headquarters of Kuching, known about town as a ‘European hospital’ because it was reserved for Caucasians only.
During World War II, Japanese Occupational Forces used it as their headquarters.
After the war ended, the state Education Department took over the place until the 1970s followed by the Judiciary Department.
Its current incarnation since August 2005 under the Sarawak Museum Department is as the Sarawak Textile Museum housing our traditional costumes and fashion accessories.
For the next six months till April 2015, the building will play host to the Wastra Borneo Exhibition; a collaborative programme between several museums in Borneo from Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Indonesia.
The exhibition is aimed to showcase the diversity of textiles here in Borneo and to raise awareness on the richness found in our textile collection.
Eight museums came together to put together this exhibition namely Sarawak Museum, Sabah Museum, Brunei Museum, West Kalimantan Museum, Kapuas Raya Sintang Museum (West Kalimantan), East Kalimantan Museum, South Kalimantan Museum and Central Kalimantan Museum.
According to Director of Sarawak Museum Department Ipoi Datan, ‘This exhibition was firstly organized at Jakarta Textile Museum in 2013 with the theme The Beauty of Diversity’.
The theme for this year’s exhibition is ‘Serupa Tapi Tak Sama: Mengasyikkan’.
‘What it means by Serupa Tapi Tak Sama: Mengasyikkan is that they are ‘similar’ in terms of construction techniques, shape and materials used but they are ‘not the same’ in terms of belief, motifs and lifestyle,” he said.
Ipoi pointed out that Wastra also meant textile in Malay referring to flexible weave of natural fibres or artificial fibres such as thread.
Local Sarawakians will find the exhibition intriguing because the textiles found in other parts of Borneo are similar to ours yet we cannot tell they are not from our area.
For instance, the bridal attires from Sintang, West Kalimantan are made from barkcloth and woven textiles, bells, beads and coins.
The outfits really resemble a hybrid of our Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu traditional costumes. What do you think?
Two common textiles we shared across the boundary are pua kumbu and sidan cloth. Pua kumbu is an Iban traditional multi-coloured weave found both in Sarawak and Kalimantan.
The Betang House in Kelam Permai District, Sintang Kalimantan is also known as The House of Weavers.
Hundreds of Iban weavers live there and they usually weave after a day spent in the fields.
Here in Sarawak, pua kumbu is a dying art as many young people have taken up modern living and lifestyles and not taking up traditional crafts.
Sidan cloth is what our local Iban women as wear as skirts as part of their traditional costumes.
It is also being worn the same way by Iban women of West Kalimantan especially during festivals in Kabupaten Kapuas Hulu.
While Malay traditional clothing for men here in Sarawak are simply called Baju Melayu, as you head to West Kalimantan, the men’s clothes are called Baju Telok Belanga.
The shirt and trousers are made of yellow satin with long sleeves. There are three buttons along the side and three packets with one on the upper part and two on the lower part, just like our Baju Melayu.
Their Malay womensclothes are also called Baju Kurung just like ours.
There are other textiles to see like songket, batik and bark cloth all from three different countries to see from the Wastra Borneo Exhibition at Sarawak Textile Museum.