Pou dula nggeo no dula penis (tubeskirt with “black” and “cross” motifs)
Indonesia, Rote island, 1920s
Handspun cotton, natural dyes, warp ikat
An early tubeskirt (pou) woven on the small island of Rote in handspun cotton with a complex series of fine floral-geometric ikat motifs inspired by the Indian patola trade cloths. The skirt is atypical, in being shorter and wider than usual, without the conventional striped center portion. It is constructed from 2 mirror-imaged panels, probably woven as a single piece, then cut in half and sewn together along the selvedges. The centerfield extends across the whole width, with the classic pretty Rotenese bud and flower trellis of dark rose red and off-white 8-rayed dula nggeo (“black motif”).
This centrefield is followed on either side by successively narrower bands that vary its design, with ½ dula nggeo growing from triangular mounds, or combined with an undulating line called the dula pilas (snake motif). A band of small dula penis (cross motifs) near the edges is framed and highlighted by the concentrated color of red-boxed white Xs alternating with diamonds. The side borders are asymmetrical: solid red or white right-angled teeth on one side, and notched upright white triangles inset with red on the other. This interesting asymmetry is pursued throughout the design, such as the single discrete column of the trellis, or the single segment left black in the outermost boxed X on one side.
Context: This unusually short tubeskirt was possibly a ceremonial item of clothing used to cover the head and shoulders of the bride and betelnut bag presented to the relatives of her fiance at the betrothal ceremony (called sidi ana soka, see Maxwell, Textiles of Southeast Asia, 91, fig. 130), a possibility supported by its fresh, hardly used condition. The dula nggeo (“black motif”) and dula penis (“cross motif”) are the 2 most important patola-inspired motifs that came to be associated with the rulers of each small Rotenese princedom. These motifs were used on local textiles as symbols of noble birth and authority (Maxwell 360), and reserved for aristocratic use. Both motifs are illustrated in Khan Majlis, Woven Messages, 267, fig. 241. In contrast to these patola-related designs, the dula pilas is the oldest motif on Rote, associated with the snake figure of oral legend.
The tubeskirt is in excellent condition, with no holes, stains, or tears apart from 2 or 3 very tiny yellow marks on one side that appear to be turmeric (used in some ceremonies, see images). The red is deep and warm, the white is bright, and the black is very dark. The handspun cotton is very fine, soft, slightly spongy, and grown crisp with age, with a fine grainy texture. The skirt can be unstitched to show a double width of the design, but I have left it in its original condition.
Length: 108.5 cm. Width: 67.5 cm (stitched); 135 cm (unstitched).