chapter  9
Moving between cultures: textiles as a source of innovation in Kedang, eastern Indonesia
Pages 14

In many respects this paper returns to the very beginning of my work on historical textiles in Indonesia, although the main focus is on field research that records events currently happening in a community in the eastern Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). The material culture of the region is strongly textile-oriented, as is the case for much of the archipelago; linguistic evidence suggests the presence of indigenous weaving technologies for prehistoric times, possibly with a time depth of 4,000 years (Blust 1976:34). Although the ubiquitous back-strap loom used locally is the most basic form, generally set up even without a reed, the textiles produced on it include some of the finest warp ikat designs ever created. Cloths made on Sumba, Roti, Flores, and Lembata have been recognised as masterpieces of textile art. Yet despite the local production of quality textiles, the area has also been an eager recipient of fabrics traded from outside South-East Asia, with a special importance given to Indian imports. As elsewhere in the wider region, these were readily absorbed into the social and economic structure of indigenous societies. The importance of trade cloths therefore does not necessarily indicate a local absence of weaving, but may show the emphasis placed on foreign – and no doubt ‘exotic’ – items, in a medium already familiar and highly appreciated.