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Textiles of Savu & Rai Jua

Savu is known for its woven textiles that can take months to produce. Weaving is a social affair and several women, especially those living in villages, can still be found weaving on the back verandah of their houses. It is an inseparable part of the Savunese culture and tradition.


Hubi Ae and Hubi Iki

The translation of the term "hubi" by Western researchers as “flower stalk” is incorrect. Stalk is different to spadix. Hubi means spadix not flower stalk. The terms "ae" and "iki" have also been misinterpreted by foreigners. Ae means "big" not greater. Iki means "small" not lesser.

There exist no such thing as noble and common fabric in Savunese textiles as Western researchers have time and again claimed. The distinction is between two matriarchal lines, which have no association with status, despite being called hubi ae (big spadix) and hubi iki (small spadix). A commoner can belong to the hubi ae while a noble can belong to hubi iki. Textiles have no association with nobility. The confusion stems from Western researchers, who have misinterpreted the Savunese terms, which do not carry the sense of opposition resulting from the comparative inflection: -er. It is just “big” and “small” spadix. Otherwise it would be hubi rihi iki (lesser spadix) and hubi rihi ae (greater spadix). It is just hubi iki and hubi ae. So, it is more of an attributive form of adjective than a comparative or superlative.

The Process

The original blue ink is extracted from the indigofera tinctoria known as a native plant of India or rau dao in Savunese which is harvested yearly, due to the seasonal rain pattern. The yellow ink comes from extacted tumeric root as well as from another particular root. The beetle fruit/leaf and areca nut mixed with lime (calcium made of coral reef) which produced dark like red or almost brown red like colour while the tree bark called Lub’a (Savunese) can be extacted to produce red ink. The tulip pattern reveals the influence of the Dutch.

The process involves tightening the yarn into bundles with a particular type of dry grass or a certain kind of pandanus (plant) leaves. Then they are dipped into the dye. If certain parts need extra color, the bundles are untied. The parts to be left uncolored are tied-up again. So, it continues until the colors are perfect.

Copyright © 2006 Ina Tali/Francesca Von Reinhaart

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