Sylvain Savolainen

Reporter / Photographer


Ikat: A textile for the living and the dead

The word «Ikat», of Indonesian origin, refers to both a rare textile found in very few spots around the world and its complex weaving technique.

Ikat is extremely sought after: collectors, fashion designers such as John Galliano, Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Yves Saint-Laurent and others; tourists, world ethnographic or textile museums around the world fight over it for thousands of dollars. One of the most important and most stunning production is found on several islands of Indonesia.

The interest of the feature story lies in the fact that the ikat textile has much more value than a simple piece of cloth. It is linked to the founding myths of several islands and used during funerals, weddings, sports contest and other celebrations. Even in day to day life, ikat is honoured, and can be the main element of a ceremony.

From island to island, from Sumba to Bali and Sarawak, it is believed that ikat has supernatural powers. Its appearance differs depending of the island. Ikat culture is fully alive around the Indonesian archipelago.

This feature presents this particular fabric and sheds light on an unknown aspect of Indonesian culture. From a visual point of view, the story tries to convey more than a static presentation of the production of a textile. It also provides an insight into the intense and vibrant relationship Indonesians have with this particular type of weaving.

Through the discovery of ikat, the feature also questions Western and Asian “modern” societies in their use of “ethnic” objects for interior decoration.