Arts and Culture
In the beginning of the 20th century the Tropenmuseum acquired several looms from Central Borneo. One loom from the Pnihing Dayak was collected by geographer and ethnologist A.W. Nieuwenhuis. He described the loom as a simple apparatus that only can produce weavings with ´diamond patterns´. B. M. Goslings, curator at the Colonial Museum (now Tropenmuseum), described the technique however as ‘puzzling’ and ‘mysterious’. Goslings asked film-maker and ethnologist H.F.Tillema to collect a similar loom and document the technique. Tillema could not find weavers still working with this loom on his trip to Borneo, but did find elderly women in the Apo Kayan region, who in a joint effort produced a model of a backstrap loom with a twill weave, with the ‘diamonds’ mentioned by Nieuwenhuis. The technique was far too complex to describe and Tillema decided to film the whole process in order to clarify the extra rods and sticks inserted in the loom.
This paper will discuss the use of the materials and products of these looms and the similarity of the twill weave patterns to Neolithic motifs on basketry and mats. It will further discuss the historical setting in which the objects were collected; the manner in which the technical aspects of this type of weaving were studied in the Netherlands; and the possible ‘enchanting effect’ of this technique and textiles on those who made and used them, and on those who collected and studied them.