Bemban Woven Mat with Traditional Motif

Weaving a mat that has a motif is like painting on a canvas for the painter!

In terms of weaving, for the Dayak Iban money is not the main motivation, so they are enthusiastic about making weaving. Weaving is a work of art as well as a spiritual journey. In the Iban tribe, there is a traditional "gawak" or thanksgiving party for a good harvest, this opportunity is used for women to show their best-woven mats to invited guests. Iban women must be good at weaving from a young age. One of the conditions for a woman to be called an adult. Men usually look for the woman who is the best at weaving, the woman who is contested.

In the "gawak" ritual, usually the head of the longhouse invites a Lemambang (a kind of minstrel) who sings the traditional song known as “nimang”. He will chant praises upon the beautiful woven mats with motifs. He will praise the neatness of each woven sheet, the density of the woven, the beauty of the motif and so on in front of the invited guests. Of course, this is a matter of pride for the woman who made the woven mat.

For the Iban, woven mats are used as daily necessities, as a place to sit, as a place to dry rice, and other. But there are woven mats that are sacred, namely woven mats with motifs and are only used in traditional ceremonies such as wedding ceremonies, praying for the sick, as a base for sacrificial animal offerings to their God.

There are several types of woven mat materials (rattan, pandanus, etc.), but only the Iban pay special attention to the bemban (Donax canniformis) to make woven mats motif. They believe that the bemban mat is a suggestion from ancestral spirits, they believe that the evil spirits around them are afraid of this plant because it can unlock invulnerability and mystical powers. In addition, this material is stronger and has a smoother surface and doesn’t have joints like rattan or bamboo.

Women who are most proficient in weaving are given rights and marked with tattoos on their hands which are called “tegulun” tattoos. Because of his skill in creating motifs and duplicating motifs from previous generations of weavers. Tegulun tattoos can also be given to strong and powerful men who have had the enemy's head in war.

There are many kinds of bemban mat motifs, but there is one motif that is most known to be feared, namely the "antu gerasi masir" motif. Antu means ghost and gerasi means giant. This motif is believed to have a spirit, for people who dare to weave this motif is a woman who has produced many woven mats motif and is usually old, which means she has a lot of experience.

In weaving this mat there are very strict rules, when starting to weave the head of the giant ghost, the weaver is forbidden to stop until the neck, after that it can only rest, then continue until it is finished. Likewise, this giant ghost must be given food in the form of offerings. Otherwise, they will eat the weaver's spirit which can cause serious illness and even death.

Although very risky, this is a challenge for Iban women. If someone dares and succeeds in weaving this motif, this is like a prestige for the weavers, the woman will become the talk of the people in the village, because she is considered brave and skilled in making woven Iban motifs.

In making mats with motifs requires special skills. The images in woven motifs are not only inspired by the plants and animals around them, but also by the universe and invisible spirits, for example the "padung kumang" motif, which means the bed of a beautiful angel from heaven named "kumang".

Iban woven mats have many motifs. The three-fruit mat motif, the oldest motif, was first woven by the Ibans. Then known other motifs such as tanjak ae, sebuyau, silup langit and aji. The most beautiful one is “sebuyau” motif, the motif in the form of tree trunks and twigs, whose leaves resemble rattan leaves. There are at least more than a hundred types, of which we can categorize the Iban mat motif into 3, namely continuous repetition, branched coils and solitary motif.

Nowadays, Iban weavers are decreasing from time to time, because young people are not interested in weaving. Young people, from an early age, have attended school and then migrated to pursue higher education. Meanwhile, the elderly are increasingly unable to weave. Therefore, the Riak Bumi Foundation in collaboration with other parties determined to preserve this weaving culture, by supporting weavers, especially young weavers, to continue to preserve the Iban mat weaving by promoting their products and market access, so that their products can be recognized and appreciated by others.

In order to make these carrying mats more functional, we make a variety of products such as bags, cosmetic storage holders, soft cases for laptops and tablets, wallets, and coin holders. Or if you want to use mats directly in large and small sizes for wall decorations, mats for tables, placemats, and many more.

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