Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Although textiles were a major focus of Laura Watson Benedict's work, the only book she published deals primarily with Bagobo ceremonial life and-only tangentially with textiles. She never fonowed up with any direct treatment of the textiles themselves and neither she nor anyone since has ever published a systematic description and classification of the warp ikat textiles of the various weaving groups in Mindanao. The work that went into developing From the Rainbow's Varied Hue, involving not only Benedict's collection, but several others around the world, has put us in a much better position for doing so. This paper will begin by reviewing the current status of such an effort, based on the methods used by Mindanao weavers, not only for the production of fiber and cloth, but also for the structuring of warp ikat designs.

In the process of this review, it will be apparent that the methods used in Mindanao differ in important ways from those in Indonesia (most obviously in fiber production), but also show some surprising similarities (especially in design formatting). These similarities and differences will be examined in terms of their implications for the textile history of the region. In particular, the often repeated assumption that warp ikat weaving on abaca fiber represents an "archaic" tradition will be called into question. Furthermore, similarities in design fomlats over wide areas suggest that something more than the often cited influence of Indian trade textiles might have been at work.