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Bali Aga ikat

Katut knew kamben gringsing.

It took five years to weave the muted colors of reddish brown tones, eggshell and dark blue or black colors into a piece of magic cloth. In the beginning his mother gathered sunti roots and mixed them with indigo to make dyes. His father made narrow back strap looms from trees.

The women spun cotton cloth by hand. According to tradition the yarns were soaked in candle nut oil and wood ash water. They were stored for 42 days in an earthenware jar covered with a checked black and white cloth. The strands were dried for 42 days and covered with open hibiscus flowers to protect them from witches. 

Warp threads were woven up and down. Weft threads woven left and right on different frames for dyeing. Geometric stars, small crosses and flowers were woven into the threads and a very careful matching process tied or bound the different threads together to form intricate designs and patterns. 

Kamben gringsing patterns contained combinations of 14, 24, 37 or 40 fields to make healing garments for men and women in Tenganan. Katut knew there were over 20 basic designs of the cloth. His mother’s main concern was how the cloth was used in the village.   

She told him a story as they walked toward the mountain.

“The word gring means 'illness' and sing means 'not' she explained. “It is the most important social and sacred cultural symbol for the people in our village.”

Katut listened and understood kamben gringsing was their way of life. Kamben gringsing created a social identity, a relationship for their people. Ikat protected them from impurities and danger.

It allowed them to make transitions across boundaries in life’s journey. The villagers used kamben gringsing when they participated in rituals and rites of passage from birth to death.


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