The word “ikat” itself means to tie or to bind. Unlike fabrics in general, each sheet of ikat born from the hands of the artists has their own story and uniqueness. Every piece of Sumba woven cloth that is ready to use has passed 42 stages of the work process and can not be done alone.
Like paintings, each strand of ikat weaving illustrates the creativity, imagination, and mood of the weaver. It is not a cloth that can be created by just anyone because it needs a complex and lengthy process to produce a large piece of ikat woven fabric and the whole process of collecting materials and making ikat weaving are done manually.
Sumba Ikat Weaving is one of the traditional cultural wealth owned by Nusa Tenggara Timur Province of Indonesia. Until today, although most people have converted to Christianity or Islam, the people of Sumba, nonetheless, still follow megalithic traditions as taught by their ancestors.
Weaving artist usually work on a piece of woven fabric for 2 to 3 month and can be 5 months if the size is large. Sumba ikat fabric itself is usually decorated by various motifs inspired by flora and fauna. Ikat weaving is an exotic fabric created by weaving artists from East Sumba. It is a long process because they have to look for raw materials and coloring materials in the forest.
All Sumba ikat fabrics are made entirely from plants, including the coloring too. Each region in Sumba has its own variety of ikat motifs and patterns; in Wanokaka, Lamboya as well as at Tana Righu there are the kain (cloth) called panggiling, pahikung and pawora while in the Loli region there are the kain lambaleko cloths. The motif of a human-headed lion symbolizes power, floral motifs symbolize human social life and the motif of snakes symbolizes the life after death. Each motif certainly has its own story.