Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Sacred and Ceremonial Textiles: Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Chicago, Illinois, 1996. (Minneapolis, 1997).


Copyright 1996 by the author.


A range of hands pun cotton textile types, in earlier times possibly made throughout Java, continue to be manufactured by the village women of Kerek, a subdistrict 30 kilometers southwest of the ancient north coast port of Tuban.1 Cloth made in the Tuban area was mentioned by the first Dutch travelers as early as the late 16th century. Soon after Tuban harbor lost its importance to international trade and its hinterland became a backwater. The weaving enclave, enclosed by the mountains of the Northern Limestone Ridge, which offer access through a single entrance road, generated little economic interest from the outside world and could thus continue in its old ways. One of the culture's most striking features is its intricate textile system, in which the many types of locally made cloths are combined with a few imported textiles to function as clothing and ritual objects (see ao. Heringa 1994).

During the past two decades, however, this system has undergone numerous changes, as the outside world has finally encroached upon the area. Men and both sexes of the younger generation now mostly wear shop bought clothing. Young girls, in particular those belonging to the elite families, follow secondary schooling, and will no more acquire the complicated skills of weaving and batiking the cloths with the highest social and ceremonial value which used to be the prerogative of their social group. Still, a large number of older married women continues to express through the colors, motifs and technique of their home-made hipwrapper their village of residence, their age, and the social rank acquired through marriage.