Destinations in Indonesia
Minangkabau’s Shimmering Hand-Woven Songket, and Woodcarving
The province of West Sumatra is not only blessed with picturesque panorama, undulating hills and mountain ranges, mystifying Lakes , waterfalls and lush green fields, but also with the vibrant culture of its indigenous Minangkabau ethnic group. The colorful culture of the Minangkabau is etched in the widely recognized hand-woven Songket fabrics, - hailed as the most refined in the world, - as well as in other fine handicrafts.
Found also on other islands across the Indonesian Archipelago, the Songket is a richly decorative fabric, hand-woven in silk or cotton, and intricately patterned, But here in the West Sumatra’s highlands, Songket it is richly embellished with gold or silver thread. The metallic threads that stand out against the brightly colored or black background cloth creating a most dramatic and opulant effect. To get these effect, during the weaving process the metallic threads are inserted in the loom and woven in among the silk or cotton weft (latitudinal).
The term Songket comes from the Minangkabau’s Malay language of “Sungkit” which means “to hook”. It refers to the method of songket weaving which is hooking and picking a group of threads, then slipping in the gold and silver threads among the weft. Others suggest that the word is constructed from a combination of two terms, being : tusuk (prick) and cukit (pick) , which when combined becomes sukit, that was later modified to sungkik and finally to songket.
Rich in color and filled with intricate symbols, the patterns and motifs of Minangkabau’s Songket - in line with the norms of Islam, - largely depict nature and flowers. Among motifs applied in the Minangkabau Songket are: Kaluak Pakis (Fern), pucuak rambuang (bamboo), bungo mentimun (Cucumber flowers), biji ayam, ilalang rebah, and more.
All these motifs are imbued with lofty religious and social norms, giving lessons on good social conduct. The Balah kacang motif, for example, worn as headdress by leaders, means that leaders must uphold justice. While the Itiak Pulang Patang, meaning ducks returning home in the evening, denotes that leaders must be aware that they are models to their followers.
Songket plays an important role in traditional ceremonies of the Minangkabau from birth to , circumcision, to marriage and death. This iridescent and intricately designed textile forms the material expression of Minangkabau’s customs and beliefs There is even a local expression that states that “The fabric is the skin of tradition“.
Although found in many cities in West Sumatra, the most renowned producers of Songket are found in the village of Pandai Sikek which lies approximately 12Km from Bukittinggi on the Padang-Bukittinggi main road. Nestled between Mount Singgalang and Mount Marapi, Pandai Sikek has long been associated with the art of Minangkabau’s Songket. Literally translated as “The village of weavers”, Pandai Sikek women are known to create some of the most intricate and beautiful Songket weaving in West Sumatra.
Another village renowned for its songket was Koto Gadang, but much of its collection was burnt by a huge fire between 1879 and 1880.
Besides its fine weaving, the village of Panadai Sikek, located in the Padang Panjang Regency is also famous for its wood carving. The artisans of Pandai Sikek are known for the fine carvings that decorate MInangkabau’s famous traditional houses. Unlike Bali carvings, which depict legendary figures and animals, the carvings of Minangkabau are inspired by symbols of nature, predominantly of plants and flowers. This fine craftsmanship is also evident in the diverse selection of handicrafts available as souvenirs for those who visit the lovely little village
To view a collection of exquisite modern and ancient Songket fabrics, take time to visit the following gallery in Padang :
Jalan Angkasa Puri II no 43
Tunggul Hitam, Padang, West Sumatra
Tel +62 751 461752
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Courtesy www.indonesiakaya.com
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- Batang Palupuh
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- Lake Singkarak
- The Twin Lakes
- The HARAU VALLEY
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