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ISSN : 1226-0401(Print)
ISSN : 2383-6334(Online)
The Research Journal of the Costume Culture Vol.21 No.3 pp.457-465

Traditional Celebes textiles of Indonesia

Kahfiati Kahdar, Adriane Yuanita

Craft Department, Faculty of Art and Design, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia
Fashion, Master Degree in Design Departement, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia
Received 23 April 2013, revised 18 June 2013, accepted 19 June 2013.


It’s been a common knowledge that Indonesia has a multicultural nature which produces a rich civilization,traditional textiles is one of the examples. Indonesian textile is one of the earlier/oldest artefacts being studied. Thewide range of its selections also a proof that Indonesia already had an advanced culture. In Indonesia, textile isn’tjust a mere cloth; it also used to refer your social statuses, a ritual complements aspect, and many other symbolicpurposes. Celebes textiles just a small example how rich this country culture is. The purpose of this study wasto convince people that Indonesian traditional textile has a potential to stand in same ground with any moderntextile produced around the world.

01(13)_Kahfiati Kahdar 외(영문).pdf336.7KB

I. Introduction

 It’s been a common knowledge that Indonesia has a multicultural nature which produces a rich civilization. But due the poor management this country never left their predicate as the third world nation, a country which still dependant with other counties support. Until today, this problem still unresolved. How should we chase after our delays from the improvements which already obtained by Japan, Korea, China, even the neighboring countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. If we insist to catch up our delays in technology, sure that’s not a wise decision because US, Japan and Europe already are leading countries. Well, Indonesia do has a rich nature source, but such things when not managed well will cease to extinct. So another possible alternative is to depend to our rich civilization, re-using traditional artefacts, having futher research and inventing other functions or them, thus apply it in modern context.

 One of leading point we can use to arm ourself in international market is to develop our cultural heritage like tratidional textiles which rich in patterns, techniques, and symbolization. Many Indonesian textiles are a cultural remark which reflects their daily activities and local customs. It works both for modern also traditional textiles. Textiles as cultural remark will still continues its being simultaneously, considering how important its role in people needs which happen until now. Indonesian people usually stand on two grounds, a traditional and a modern ground. In modern life, a traditional presence is still necessary. Based from this premise it’s not wrong to transform traditional textiles into modern forms like interior elements or change them into another new form of fashion. From wide range of Indonesian textiles, Celebes textiles chosen because it has universal motives which adaptable also easily applicable.

II. Review of Literature

 Celebes is one of the biggest islands in Indonesia which has significant role in inter island trade that connects several substantial trades in Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and all around. The people of Bugis, Makassar, and Mandar are native Celebes inhabitants who play the most important parts in wide-spreading the trade to the Eastern area of Indonesia such as West Timor, East Timor, Papua, up to Australia and Madagascar. Not only for trading, but they also sailing for glory, in order to conquer other island particularly in the golden times of the kingdom of Goa and Bone.

 The difference of socio-culture in Celebes can be determined from the different height of the plateau where local people live and interact with one another. For instance, in the lower plateau like Manado [North Celebes], Donggala Harbor [Central Celebes], Buton [Southeast Celebes], and Makassar Harbor [South Sulawesi], which are central harbors where the natives, local surrounding islands occupants, and nation-wide merchants meet and interact.

 The men of Celebes, especially in Bugis, Makassar, and Mandar, are sailing for months in their own self-made ships with remarkable sailing ability. Not only sheltering in the upcoming docks, but they also settle and marry local residents which expand their population primarily in the region of Samarinda [East Borneo], Sumbawa, and Lombok [West Timor].

 Meanwhile, the women of Celebes, especially in Bugis, Makassar, Toraja, and Mandar, spend most of their times doing household works and weaving (Fig. 1). Bugis is an example where the best weaves are made. They’re famous for their silk texture, which can be found in the texture of Mandar sarong, with the unique small dark checkered motif.

<Fig. 1> Women activity at Celebes.

 These hand-crafted fabrics of Bugis are named by the place where they’re made since the people of Bugis are settled in several regions such as Donggala [Central Celebes] and Samarinda [East Borneo]. Therefore, the fabrics can be specifically determined based on different local characters.

 The woven fabrics are made to fulfill primary needs such as daily clothes, up to other needs such as clothes for special occasions, wedding costumes, and even the sail of their ships (Fig. 2). They use the porch of their houses or the space below their long traditional house for the place of weaving.

<Fig. 2> Woven fabric as a Sarong.

 Their lasting culture of weaving is apparently undetached from the strength of traditional wisdom which also happens to be their philosophy of life. It bridges the gap between improvements of modern life in this era and their conventional customs. The adjustments of colors, motifs, and even materials can be clearly seen in the visual appearance of the fabrics, both fabrics for daily use and those for traditional occasions. Furthermore, patterns and colors are the identity for the users of those fabrics to determine their royal status and age. The more complicated the motif, the higher the level of their royal status. The darker the colors [the closer they are to black], the older the age of the user. All these identities are eventually accomplish the aesthetics of traditional fabrics.

1. Central Celebes

 Donggala is regency and a harbor city in the western area of Central Celebes which is famous for its ikat weaving. Merchants from other areas are coming to this city which then becomes the cultural influence as can be seen in the motifs of Donggala weavings with the elements of flowers and leaves, as well as the colors and technique which show similarities to Bugis weavings in South Celebes.

 Donggala also has a close correlation to several harbor cities such as Surabaya. They generate a mutualism symbiotic when Donggala trade their weavings to Surabaya and in return, Surabaya, especially Gresik, market their silk threads to the weavers in Donggala. This makes the weavings in both areas are influenced by one another with different characteristics yet still have each own uniqueness.

 The weavings of Donggala are inclined by the Moslem culture formerly spread in the beach area since 19 century. Those majority Moslem occupants are convinced that the using of human motifs is forbidden by their religion. Thus, they use floral motifs such as flowers and leaves in addition to the geometrical motifs. Besides, they also use several faunal motifs such as cockatoo and butterflies in the weavings with ikat pakan technique.

 Those woven fabrics are well known as bomba fabric or bomba sarong. Bomba, which means flowers, represents various ornamentations that have the shape of flowers in it. Therefore, buya bomba means the motif of ikat with flower ornamentations. The pakan thread of this sarong is the part of ikat ornamentation. It is then entered to the crossings of one or some plain colored lungsi thread which results in vague flower motifs. These vague areas are the shadow of colors from the vivid difference of darkcolored fabric base to the light-colored ornamentations.

 This fabric consists of two ornamentation motifs: the body of the fabric which is called cura or sura, and the head of the fabric which is called punjang. Punjang is usually filled with geometrical shapes of floral composition or diagonal lines in rhombus shapes, which then filled by small-sized flower sowing. The flower motif in cura is usually similar to the motif in punjang, yet it’s a bit larger in size.

 Some of the floral and geometrical ornamentations in Donggala weavings are tavanggadue or taro leaves, sesekaranji or the flowers of basket-shape fruits, vala or flowers, poindo tava ronto or the motif of flowers that looks like a hanging lamp with the falling leaves. Poindo means flowers that look like hanging lamps and tava means leaves, while ronto means falling or the falling leaves. Moreover, there are other motifs like tavanempule or the vine leaves, punanu unu or the motif of banyan tree, ukibanji or geometrical motifs that look like the shapes of meander, and kacandiva kao-kao or the shapes of linked tetrahedrons.

2. South Celebes

 The concepts which reflected in the visual motif of Bugis’ lippa are not only formed by the crossings of lungsi and pakan, which is the technology in its making, but also resulted from the philosophy of life widely implemented by the people of Bugis. It is the concept of sulapa eppana Ogie philosophy [The tetrahedron of the people of Bugis] which assumes that the universe is in square with the directions of wind. Sulapa’ eppa’ or well known as walasuji means the square of rhombus is extensively used in every aspect of their life (Fig. 3).

<Fig. 3> Woven chekerd fabric.(a) Curre’renni/small checkerd(b) Curre’tengnga/medium chekerd (c) Curre labbak/large chekerd

 The symbol and number are very valuable to Bugis culture. The first of the four layers [sulapa’ eppa’] has the meaning of life’s basic philosophy [cosmology] which consists of water, soil, wind, and fire. The second layer is the philosophy of traditional customs or ade' pangngadereng, which consists of ade’ (It means attitude/behavior/characteristic.) rapang (It means fate.), warik (It means destiny.), and words (It means talks). The third layer is the philosophy of life or ethos, which consists of ada tongeng (It means telling the truth.), getteng (It means being assertive.), warani (It means braveness, and lempu’ (It means honesty.). Last but not least is the top layer that bonds other three layers, which is also the true ethos of Bugis people, called “siri’ na pesse”. It means self esteem. It becomes the basic of cosmic pattern for the people of Bugis upon the langit / bena atas / botting langi’ dunia / middle continent / the underworld / buriliu. They are also known as the concept of walasuji.

 Acording to that symbol which represented on fabric by checkerd motifs formed by the crossing lines in the middle part can also be found in Sengkang, Wajo Regency, and usually known as Lippa Sabbe.

 These Bugis motifs are developed by the people of Bone area with some additions of colored threads and golden threads songket as well as various floral and flower motifs that make them appear more diverse and beautiful. One of the example is the ornamentation of pucuk rebung, which is an ikat motif used on the head part of the sarong.

 The threads used for weaving was firstly selfmade from wrench of cotton. Those threads were brought to this country in 15-16th century by foreign merchants. The woven fabric has small or large tiles motifs which is usually made into a sarong and the fabric made from thin threads are sewn into clothes called baju bodo.

 Other area in South Celebes is Toraja, which means the people who live in the mountainous area. The area covers the central and southwestern part of the mountains in South Celebes. In 20 century, missioners came to this area which makes most of its occupants are now Christians (Fig. 4). However, they still hold on to local beliefs. It is called Aluk to Dolo and has become a non detachable part of the culture in Toraja.

<Fig. 4> Roto fabric, from Toraja.(From Collection of Caecil Papadimitriou, early 20th century)

 Tana Toraja has a broad cultural area that reaches the outer part of South Celebes. It also ethnically covers the region of Central Celebes which consists of three main groups based on the category of language and culture. They are East Toraja, West Toraja, and South Toraja. East Toraja includes the tribe of Toraja Baree in the region of Poso. West Toraja includes the tribes of Western Palu.

3. North Celebes [Sangir & Minahasa]

 The region of North Celebes is directly bordered by the Pacific Ocean. Its location at the most North part of the country makes it strategic for regional and global economic activities. One of the regency in the region is Minahasa.

 The famous weaving from Minahasa is known as pinawetengan, which motif is inspired by the scratches found on Watu Pinawetengan [Pinawetengan stone] by the occupants of Kanongan Village in the end of June 1888. This 1200 years old scratches are honored by local inhabitants by holding a ceremony on that stone which was firstly celebrated on July 7, 1888.

 The pictorial scratch on the stone has its own meanings, for instance in the motifs of Karema, Lumimuut, and Toar. All of them depict the figure of human which is scratched on the down side of the stone. They’re the symbols of gods and goddess, such as Lumimuut the Goddess, Karema the Goddess, and Toar the God. All are pictured wearing some kind of robes or cloaks made of leaves since it was in the glacial era, 100 years BC, which is a lot colder than now.

 Next motif is a combination of Toar and Lumimuut. It depicts the figure of Toar [on the left] and Lumimuut [on the right] (Fig. 5). This motif of Toar and Lumimuut is located on the west side of the stone, and is similar in shape to the figure of human in Angano Cave – South Philippine, which has been existed for more than 3,000 years ago.

<Fig. 5> Karema, Lumimuut, and Toar.(From “Lost Treasure of Minahasa”)

 Another motif of this pinawetengan fabric is the picture of Lingkan Wene. It is a figure of woman which is considered as the goddess of fertility, who’s also the next level of Bumu the Goddess [Lumimuut]. People of that time strongly believe that the goddess brings wealth to the society (Fig. 6).

<Fig. 6> The motif of Pinawetengan fabric(From “Lost Treasure of Minahasa”)

 Some other pinawetengan motifs are depicting baby Toar, also depicting fishes that shows certain seasons or divisions of area in the rivers, lakes, and seas for fishing, as well as the picture of an entrance which depicts a gate to the land where the people are settled.

 Apart from fabrics with pinawetengan motifs, there are also fabrics with Pina Bia and Pina Tembega motifs (Fig. 7). Bia is the name of traditional musical instrument from Minahasa which has extinct for quite a long time, while tembega is the name of an accessory which was widely used by the people of Minahasa in that period of time.

<Fig. 7> The motif of Pina Bia fabric.(From “Lost Treasure of Minahasa”)

 The fabric of Pina Bia is inspired by the shape of Bia which is a shell or certain marine biota commonly found in the seashore of North Celebes. Bia is used to symbolize the marine and also used as a musical instrument. The motif of Bia on the fabric inspired by the music of Bia in Batu Village, Likupang, North Minahasa is now can rarely be found in the region. Therefore, the using of this motif is considered as an effort to conserve the marine culture that’s rich in biota as well as conserving the music of Bia which inspired this Pina Bia fabric.

 Beside Pina Bia, there is also fabric with the motif of Pina Tembega (Fig. 8). Tembega is one of the jewelries commonly worn by the people of Minahasa in any occasions that time. The copper culture is now tend to reach its extinction and replaced by the society’s keen on wearing gold jewelries. The using of this motif is also an effort in order to make the people of Minahasa always remember their culture in the past, and one of them is wearing copper as the material of precious jewelries.

<Fig. 8> The motif of Pina Tembega.(From “Lost Treasure of Minahasa”)

 One of the woven fabrics from the region of Sangir – North Celebes is Koffo (Fig. 9). The fabric, which is made from the fiber of abaca type of bananas or scientifically known as Musa textilis, is also dyed using natural organic textile stains with the ornament of pakan. The ornaments in this fabric are considered to have some cultural acculturation since it has European style of embroideries. This fabric is generally used as room partitions in the houses of occupants in the region of Sangir – Talaud Isles.

<Fig. 9> The motif of Koffo.(From the Jakarta Textile Museum, Himpunan Wastraprema, Core Collection, donated by Paramita Abdurachman, late 19th century)

4. Gorontalo

 Gorontalo is an independent province as it was formerly a part of Gorontalo regency in the region of North Celebes Province. This old city was the center of Moslem’s outspreading in the Eastern part of Indonesia, from Ternate to Gorontalo and Bone. It was also the center of trade and education in that period of time. People from the surrounding regions such as Bolaang Mongondow [North Celebes], Buol Toli-toli, Luwuk Banggai, and Donggala [Central Celebes], even from Southeast Celebes were coming to this city.

 Gorontalo is located face to face with the southern part of Tomini Bay and the northern part of Celebes Sea. Those make Gorontalo a strategic and busy kingdom city of trade. At first, this kingdom city was located in an area now known as Hulawa Sub-District, in the district of Telaga, right on the riverside of Bolango. Researchers said that in 1024 H, this kingdom city was then moved from Hulawa to Dungingi in the sub district of Tuladenggi, which is part of Kota Barat District. But then under the authority of King Botutihe, this kingdom was again moved to the Bolango riverside, in the region between the subdistrict of Biawao and Limba B.

5. West Celebes

 An example of weavings in West Celebes is Porisitutu (Fig. 10). It is a fabric made of cotton used for covering the clothes, made by the people of Galumpang with various color options such as maroon red, dark blue, and pale blue. This fabric is usually ornamented with geometrical shapes that form two-direction arrow that faces oppositely to one another, also with the ancestor’s abstract motif. The shape of this motif is made to symbolize the contrast power which contributes meanings in daily life of humans. This fabric is also specially used to cover the corpse of the maker. Yet in the other hand, this fabric is used as a sarong by women in Central Celebes for the beauty of its red. That red is gained by combining chili powder or pepper into a barrel where the dye is prepared.

<Fig. 10> The motif of Pori Situtu.(From the Collection of Caecil Papadimitriou, 20th century)

 Apart from Porisitutu, there is also a fabric named Pori Lonjong (Fig. 11). Since Pori means ikat weaving and lonjong means panjang, therefore this fabric is one of the long ikat fabrics generally used in various traditional ceremonies in the past. It is usually laid outward.

<Fig. 11> Porilonjong fabric.(Collection of Eiko Kusuma)

 Other kind of woven fabric is Sora langi (Fig. 12). It is merely a cotton fabric made of organic dye in the western region of Celebes and used widely as a partition or decoration in the arena where traditional ceremonies are held. In Central Celebes, this fabric can also be used to pay the fines or penalties traditionally, as a gift or dowry, as well as women’s clothes.

<Fig. 12> Sora langi fabric.(From the Collection of Eiko Kusuma)

This Sora langi fabric consists of two connected parts which is hand-sewn into a large fabric. It is usually applied with similar and symmetrical ornaments. The lines on this fabric are geometrically ornamented, while the other lines are applied with ikat motif made of decorative dots. The right and left side of the lines are applied with plain blue color, in contrast to the middle part of the fabric which has a color combination of rustic red and white. 

6. Southeast Celebes

 Weaving is the heritage from the ancestors of Buton people and its surrounding areas. It is also a tradition inherited from one generation to another. The weavers are women who express their emotions through the colors in the geometrical motifs of tiles and lines.These are some examples of Buton fabrics. The motif of Landaga has white basic color with small lines and dominated by pink, purple, and black. This motif is worn in daily activities (Fig. 13).

<Fig. 13> The motif of Landaga.

 The motif of Dalima Sapuna has quite large tiles and loose pattern. The dominant colors are mixture of red, pink, white, and green (Fig. 14).

<Fig. 14> The motif of Dalima Sapuna.

 The motif of Baralu has tiles of medium and quite dense. Its dominant colors are black, pink, white, and blue (Fig. 15).

<Fig. 15> The motif of Baralu.

 The motif of Ontimu Java has the tiles which are not actually large and quite dense, with the domination of purple, pink, and green in the mixture (Fig. 16).

<Fig. 16> The motif of Ontimu Java.

 The motif of Boke has white basic color while the dominant color is dark blue. The ornaments consist of blunt shapes, triangles, and mythical mountain, where the threads are dyed before being woven (Fig. 17).

<Fig. 17> The motif of Boke.

 One of the areas that develop the fabric traditionally is Buton, which famously known for bartering their fabrics with gold coins. The kingdom of Buton covers two administrative regions of Buton Regency and the city of Bau-Bau. The North border of this area is Muna Regency, while the southern part is directly bordered by the Sea of Flores. Furthermore, the eastern part of the regions is directly bordered by Banda Sea, and Bone Bay bordered this area in the western part.

 The popularity of Buton weaving is still widely known especially for its uniqueness. For the people of Buton, clothes are not only for protecting bodies from the heat of the sun and the cold of the weather, but also a social identity. For example, we can determine whether someone has a royal status or not by the fabric they wear. The Kasopa weaving is usually worn by most women, while the motif of Kumbaea which dominated by silver or gold threads, is the identity symbol of a royal member with the title of Wa Ode [woman].

 The motif of Buton fabric generally has geometrical shapes inspired by the surrounding nature, like fruits and flowers. Betano walona koncuapa is inspired by the flowing soft ashes from the burning of bushes when opening the land for cultivating new fields. That motif has a combination of brown, pink, red, blue, and white.

 The motif of Colo makbahu or wet matches mixes white, carmine, pink, and blue threads. Other motif is Delima bongko [rotten pomegranate], delima sapuua, delima mangura, kambano sampalu [the flower of tamarind], and bancamo kalukubula [the flower of coconut].

In general, the motif for men are dominated by the pattern of lines that shapes tiles, while for women, the pattern of the lines shapes several circular lines [on the sarong] and transverse lines [on the fabric]. 

III. Discussion

 To make the traditional Celebes textiles well known, several designers already applied them into their works. Two of them are Roland Adam, who uses the checkered patterns into his interior products and Denny Wirawan in fashion product, under guidance of Cita Tenun Indonesia Foundation. They chose Celebes traditional motives because this region has such universal pattern, the geometric and checkered which immediately remind us with tartan motives. Because of this familiar aspect, the designer thought this pattern will be easily recognized by foreign people as well. Thus they would be encouraged to learn more about these fascinating Indonesian traditional textiles.

 Indonesian textile is one of the earlier/oldest artefacts being studied. The wide range of its selections also a proof that Indonesia already had an advanced culture. In Indonesia, textile isn’t just a mere cloth; it also used to refer your social statuses, a ritual complements aspect, and many other symbolic purposes.

 Since Indonesian is a multicultural islands nation, this country also has wide range of variation in techniques, colors, pattern/motives, working process, etc. Celebes textiles just a small example how rich this country culture is. The needs of modern textiles also not obliterate the existence of these traditional textiles, in fact they coexist peacefully. This unique condition possibly allows the growth of both textiles.

 The rich variations of Indonesian traditional textiles also its selling point compared with other foreign textiles. Since the actual traditional pattern already uncountable, possibility of development from the existing design would also multipies into uncountable numbers. Hopefully this wide range selections would had an even ground if we set it against textile which processed with modern technology.

IV. Conclusion

 Indonesian textile has potential to be another alternative foreign exchange. A processed Indonesian traditional textile would able to compete with other international-class tertiles around the world. But this task would need a collaborative work from the important players of the textile field, namely the government, the textile industry, fashion house and the academicians. A comprehensive research about Celebes traditional textile which produce brand new product in interior and fashion by Roland Adam and Denny Wirawan could be used as example.


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