Ceremonial breast cloth (kamben), weft ikat (endek), silk, handwoven in southern Bali, Indonesia, 1900-1940
This Balinese woman¬?s silk breast cloth, known as a kamben in Balinese, was hand woven. It is brightly coloured and decorated with weft ikat patterning. While cloths patterned with weft ikat, known as endek in Balinese, were once the prerogative of noble and royal families and were worn on ritual and festive occasions, this synthetically-dyed example from the early 20th century reflects the migration of high status textiles from Bali¬?s northern courts into everyday Balinese life.
Synthetic dyes were introduced in the early twentieth century and enabled endek cloths to be produced more cheaply, which contributed to their popularity and availability outside the court system. Throughout the 20th century, endek cloths were more popular and more widely worn by all classes of Balinese people than any other form of traditional textile.
Dr Philip Kitley, Research Associate, Curatorial, Design and Society
This silk breast cloth or kamben was made in Bali in the first half of the 1900s, perhaps about 1920. It is decorated in the weft ikat technique which in Bali is known as endek and is the form of traditional textile decoration most commonly seen on the island today.
The bands of white zig-zag patterning, which run the length of the cloth and contrast strongly with the red ground, may be interpreted as sacred mountain motifs. Synthetic dyes were introduced in the 1920s and 30s and add to the traditional red tones of courtly cloths. Here they have produced an elaborate cloth with coloured details in red, yellow, green, purple and black. Sections of the pattern have been spot dyed, a technique which involves painting on, or spotting, sections of the endek pattern after weaving.
The association of silk with weft ikat is largely due to technological factors. Silk is harder to handle than cotton, and a tie-dyed warp that needs careful alignment on the loom is prohibitively difficult to achieve with silk. When weaving with silk, the possibilities inherent in creating pattern through manipulation of the weft threads is a much more attractive proposition.
This breast cloth was used in Bali, until about 1930 ikat cloths were worn only by courlty families.