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  • 203 ACEH
    Ija (man's sarong). Warp ikat. 1800-1850. Village unknown.


This article is a stub, to be elaborated.

Aceh is the most westerly tip of Indonesia. It lies on the island of Sumatra, curving along the mouth of the Strait of Malacca, right across from Penang. It has always been a land of proud men and women, who fought colonialisation tooth and nail, and treasure their established ways.
     Even though it lay so close to the main Southeast-Asian trading route, and had an age-old trading tradition with India, Aceh stubbornly stuck to its time-honoured ways of ikat making when silk - first imported and later mostly homegrown - became the favourite material. While practically all ikat weaving regions in Southeast Asia switched to weft ikat, the Acehnese stuck to their trusted warp ikat. Weft ikat was never practised in Aceh with any material.

Aceh silk ikat is sometimes erroneously labeled Kelantan (Malaysia) as it was very popular there and held in the highest regard. Certain is that Aceh ikat also inspired Batak weavers, particularly the Toba Batak, who copied the typical 'arrowhead' or chevron patterns on these fine silk sarongs in many of their weavings. There is discussion over the way that the chevrons are created, in Aceh and by the Batak. The most likely manner, supported by reports from the field, is that, certainly in Aceh, the warp was ikated with alternating blocks of black and white, and that after the dyeing, as the warp was mounted on the loom,individual threads would be pulled out of alignment to form the chevrons.

As Batak-expert Sandra Niessen writes on tribaltextiles,info: "The design of the cloth is a tremendous lesson in the Batak skill in copying Acehnese cloth. Silk textiles from Aceh were coveted by the Batak and always a sign of high status when worn. Toba weavers didn't take that lying down -but rather sitting at their loom - and imitated many of them, so that they are now entrenched in the Batak repertory."



As of 2016 there is no literature specifically focusing on the ikat of Aceh. Most titles dealing with Indonesian textiles in general either devote a few sentences to the region or ignore it altogether.

Map of Aceh on Sumatra

map Aceh

©Peter ten Hoopen, 2018. All rights reserved.