Ikat FAQ- what is Ikat (/Kasuri) and why do we want to preserve it?

Here at CCD-NL, we are passionate about preserving and reviving tangible and intangible cultural heritage for sustainable development, and as you may have seen from our work over the last few year s, our recent projects have predominantly focused on different forms of ‘ikat’ weaving. This niche focus of our organization means that some of our followers may not fully understand what ikat is, or its importance.

What is Ikat?

Ikat is a weaving and dyeing technique which has different forms and variations all over the world. The technique involves resist-dyeing sections of yarn before weaving the fabric together to create patterns. Resist-dyeing is a method of dyeing which involves preventing some areas of the fabric from being stained by the dye to create patterns, a well-known example of this being the ‘tie-dye’ technique. ‘Ikat’ is an Indonesian word meaning ‘to tie’ or ‘to bind’ and is generally thought to originate from Southeast Asia.

Why is Ikat unique?

Unlike other well-known methods of resist dyeing such as batik and tie-dye, ikat uses a unique technique for dyeing the yarn. In ikat weaving, the yarn is dyed before being woven into cloth, rather than dyeing it after the cloth has already been woven. This makes ikat cloth uniquely complicated to weave, as the patterns are created by weaving intricate patterns with different coloured yarn threads placed very precisely to create the desired motif.

What is Kurume Kasuri?

Kurume Kasuri is a form of Ikat weaving found in Japan, and one of its many cultural heritages. It has its own characteristic colour of indigo blue, which is usually used to make the Kasuri patterns. You can find out more about the history of Kasuri by watching our previous webinar here, or by reading our blog post ‘The Historical Journey of Japanese Kasuri: Webinar Recap”  here.

What is CCD-NL's work with Ikat?

From the very beginning of CCD-NL, one of the main goals has been to empower artisans by giving them a legal and economic platform which they can benefit from. In order to accomplish this goal, CCD-NL worked directly with artisans in the Netherlands and Indonesia through the Binding with Ikat project. The first phase of the project was successful, but unfortunately, phase two was postponed due to the onset of the pandemic.

Our current ikat-focused projects at CCD-NL are in relation to Indonesian ikat artisans in the NTT region, and Japanese Kurume Kasuri weaving. In our ‘Training for Trainers’ project we are empowering women in NTT to preserve their ancestral ikat weaving, and to move away from the use of synthetic dyes and back towards using the traditional natural dyeing methods for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly ikat. This comes primarily in the form of running training sessions about making and using natural dyes and fostering knowledge exchange between different weaving groups. Our Kasuri project has recently been focused on our Webinar series, with the aim of educating about Kasuri and fostering conversations about innovation of this unique artform.

Why do we at CCD-NL want to support Ikat artisans in Indonesia?

Our main support for Indonesian Ikat is focused on weaving groups from the NTT province, where Ikat weaving is a local ancestral craft. While Indonesian Batik was officially recognised by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2009, Ikat has yet to receive such recognition. At CCD-NL we hope that the preservation of Ikat and its unique qualities will allow it to be officially recognised by UNESCO as a rich intangible cultural heritage of Indonesia.

In addition, Ikat weaving in Indonesia is a quintessentially female occupation, as a craft which has been passed down from mother to daughter for generations. Thus, the weaving groups we support are all made up of women from the local communities who use the small income they yield from their craft to supplement their already meagre income. Therefore, our support of these groups both financially and through education empowers women both economically and educationally.

Finally, we also aim to promote a sustainable Ikat through our work with these weaving groups within the previously mentioned ‘Training for Trainers’ programme, wherein we educate and fund the use of natural methods instead of harsh chemical dyes, as well as facilitating knowledge exchange between weaving groups.
Read more about the weaving groups we support here.

Why do we at CCD-NL want to support Kasuri artisans in Japan?

Kasuri is recognised by the Japanese government as an ‘Intangible Cultural Property’, but the craft still lacks the funding needed to allow the artisans to thrive. Additionally, there is a need for innovation within the craft to preserve it, and to attract younger generations to its preservation and allow them to appreciate its value.

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