West Timor, Insana, Manufui, 1950s
Handspun cotton, natural indigo dye, warp ikat, commercial coloured thread (pinstripes), twining
Description: An elegant vintage men’s cloth (beti) from the area around the market town of Manufui in Insana, renowned for its ikat roosters that are the finest birds woven in West Timor, with detailed eyes, beaks, feet, and elaborate tail feathers and wings. The textile is constructed from two identical panels sewn together along the selvedge, marked by a red line on one panel. Each panel has a broad band of white ikat roosters on deep blue indigo. The stylized birds have a striking upturned triangular form, alert heads, and raised wings and tail as if about to take flight. Placed alternately upside down, they form a dynamic graphic as well as figurative pattern. Small chicks and lozenge motifs animate the picture. The clarity of the ikat line is a remarkable achievement in handspun yarn, giving a beautiful vividness to the motifs.
The body of the cloth has a rich, subtle arrangement of light-coloured stripes on the indigo ground. Sets of soft pink and lilac, and pale yellow, olive-green and brown, are interleaved with indigo broken meander ikat, which creates a sparkling effect. When examined closely, the finely balanced composition of colours and ikat stripes is quite lovely in itself for its rhythm and colour contrasts. The textile is finished by a line of yellow / brown twining at the ends, and finely twisted and knotted fringes.
Context: Insana is said to produce the finest weaving in West Timor, the refinement of its textiles being particularly apparent in the colour composition, balanced design, and execution of the ikat. One of Insana’s most characteristic textiles is this type of two-panel men’s cloths with design stripes of a chicken or rooster motif in white ikat on an indigo or black ground. The birds show quite a few variations, and are more finely detailed than those of other kingdoms. Other motifs are crocodiles or the hooked rhomb (kaif) fundamental to Timor textile design. The softer colours used in this piece mark its vintage, compared to later more vivid colours favoured from the 1970s.
Condition: The textile is in excellent condition, showing practically no wear, with no holes, stains, or tears. The chemical colours are gentle but clear, the white is bright, and the indigo a deep rich tone. The cotton is quite heavy but soft, not stiff, with a fluid drape and grainy texture. The textile has been stored with aromatic herbs and has a lovely scent.
Length: 205 cm plus 8-10 cm fringes at each end. Width: 97 cm.