Reaching Austronesia - backstrap weaving

An experimantal Mish Mush Loom

There are not that much models of backstrap weaving looms with long stilts, actually just about five of them are known:


  • The Phang Thak of Bhutan
  • (and its several variations in Arunachal Pradesh and surrounding area)
  • the stilt loom of the Kanekes/Baduy people on Java
  • the Gorontalo Loom of Sulawesi
  • and the Hmong Loom in Southern China/Vietnam.


So we see, looms with that long stilts are not just a regional thing; even they are seldom, they are spread all over the Austronesian AND Austro-asiatic regions! 


We draw a theoretical connection between these here shown backstrap weaving stilt loom-types. The components of the looms stay the same, just the leading of the warp is changing.


1) The Phang Thak of Bhutan

Starting with the triangular leading of Phang Thak from Bhutan, we modify it by some further beams between the stilts.


2) The Zig-Zag of Phang Thak in Arunachal Pradesh

The warp is led on a zig-zag course between these extra beams, so the familiar triangular leading of the Bhutan Loom gets lost. Even the wooden components of the loom stay the same! You may find this kind of warp leading in Arunachal Pradesh. These extra beams don't just effect the aesthetic of the Phang Thak but the tension of the warp.  


This bears a lot of options of further modifications, mainly focused on manipulating the tension of your loom for different textiles!


3) The Gorontalo Loom of Sulawesi

The warp of a Gorontalo Loom on Sulawesi is L-shaped. For this we take off the zig-zag and lead the circular warp once up and down between the stilts. Already this one extra beam (4 beams) has an effect on the warp tension, comparing to the three beams of the original Phang Thak (3 beams). So you may imagine the strong effect of the Zig-Zag version! Of course, for a go with the Gorontalo Loom you need a long warp of about 4 m or more! 


4)  The Kanekes Stilt Loom on Java

As you may observe, all these three ethnical looms are done with one and the same pair of bamboo stilts. In another session we simulated with these stilts even a stilt loom of the Kanekes people in West-Java.




The exposed warp

All these looms, except the Kanekes Loom, prefer to expose the warp in its whole length unrolled for certain purpose. The extra beams needed for this support the tension management of such exposed warps. That's where the long stilts gets reasonable for. The Kanekes use a rolled-up flat warp instead of one of these exposing circular warps. Here we can't observe any special shaping of the warp leading. The height of this stilts may have lost their reason for further tensioning. The flexible fixation on their upper end spends another reason of their use.


Warping a cultural space

On top the characteristic shape of the stilts including warp board forms the basic element of a stilt house. All of these stilt models are aware of the representation of their cultural loom, not just the garment. What means, "the stage gets part of the loom!"



An early exchange of Austro-asiatic & Austronesian culture 

We are working on a theory, if there isn't a historical connection between most of this high stilt looms. Balinese people keep going on, that the inner circle of their people came down from the Himalaya, even there is not much proof! In the Majapahit-era there was a strong maritime trading connection between Northeast-India and Nusantara (Indonesia), most of Balinese connection to this region may result from that era. In this time the stilt looms may have been imported from Northeast-India to Indonesia. In this case the Balinese must have lost their high stilt looms meanwhile. But it seems Austro-asiatic people have reached the region overland before Austronesian people reached West Indonesia. That means, high stilt loom types may have been spread from Northeast-India all over the Southeast Asian mainland (Suvarnabhumi) downwards to the island world (Suvarnadvipa). 


Built-in Stilts of Karen People

Another proof for this theory may be the built-in stilts, Karen people in Myanmar/Thailand like to use. These stilts are not a part of their loom, but you can observe constructions of bamboo stilts like this inside of their weaving huts. This means, the transfer between verandah looms and stilt looms may get visible here. So verandah looms may not be a part of the stake looms, but the group of stilt looms!


Write a comment

Comments: 1
  • #1

    Seminyak (Thursday, 08 September 2022 11:45)

    Oh yes, please back home!

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