Woven mats (Iban-"Tikai") serve many practical and symbolic purposes. Primarily, they are used as floor coverings for sitting and sleeping, but special mats, often with important motifs woven into them, are used for enclosing and defining ritual spaces.
Mats come in many shapes and sizes. They may be large enough for several ritual participants or guests to sit on or small enough for one person to use. Some mats are loosely woven and used to sift rice, while others are tightly woven and used to wrap various items. They may be plain or woven with various designs and patterns, usually plaited with dyed rattan strips. The principal materials used for weaving mats are cane and reeds. Depending on the purpose for which they will be used mats are woven of sturdier canes or finer reeds.
“The ritual importance of mats is captured in the expression "nganchai tikai", ‘spread the mats’ that marks the beginning of any festival, and "giling tikai", ‘roll up the mats’ that marks the formal conclusion of festivals. Failure to spread mats out for guests is considered an unpardonable breach of custom and hospitality. Certain mats are used only during the harvest; other mats are carried by the men when taking their infant to the river for its first bath. There are mats for use during healing and shamanistic rituals, while others define and protect the space used during important rites of passage. Mats used during the harvest ceremonies may be decorated with motifs of rice (padi) shoots or fern tops, while mats used for other important rituals may be decorated with motifs of omen birds, dragons, boats, gongs, ancestor figures, and the sacred tree-of-life.
source : www.markajohnson.com
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