Pua Kumbu – Dream Weavers

The Pua Kumbu was used extensively by the Ibans in various traditional and religious ceremonies. The cloth welcomed the newborn baby, appeased the spirits after a headhunting expedition or were hung overhead as a canopy during weddings.

The Pua Kumbu designs can symbolise mythological, religious or personal tales.  But they are all artistic expressions of the Iban weaver that come to them in dreams.  A family is said to own “ copyright” over its designs, and if another family wishes to copy the same design, royalties in the form of baskets of rice, a corkerel, or the year’s harvest need to paid.

The Pua Kumbu today stirs a different kind of curiosity when a local fashion designer, Edric Ong stumbled upon the idea of galvanising the dying heritage as textile art.  He coordinates the weaving community at selected Iban Longhouse community and encourage the women to experiment with new dyeing techniques.  So exquisite are the pua kumbu produced by the weavers that they have been awarded the UNESCO-AHPADA Seal of Excellence.  This recognition has helped revive interest in Pua Kumbu and improved the Iban’s women livelihood.  However, Weavers cannot be rushed to weave on the spot.

As designs are inspired from dreams, they generally take six months to make an exquisite piece. But what is a six-month wait to acquire and enjoy an exquisite piece of artwork?