Within iKat Weaving Production of Eastern Indonesia:
A tool to Promote Gender Equality


Report presented at the UN Women’s World Conference, Beijing, 1995.

Debates surround the issue of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). One question is the rights of indigenous communities over their knowledge and works of art. Can they be regarded as public property, such that they can be freely reproduced, bought and sold by anyone for commercial purpose, without acknowledging the rights of the communities involved, let alone paying royalties?

In reality the knowledge of the indigenous people are the result of a learning process, research and natural discovery that were carried out over hundreds of years. This can include works of art. For example, the weaving of ikat motifs and textile production processes of one group of indigenous peoples cannot be imitated by another group of indigenous peoples. Sometimes this form of art is strongly selected to specific ritual beliefs such that they pose a sacred character and cannot be carelessly made and used...The system of acknowledging ancestral rights over the motifs and process of weaving, however, is not valued by members of society outside these indigenous peoples.

Presently, weaving in Indonesia has decreased in its sacred value, but increased in its economic value. It also has become an economic benefit for the families of weavers that live in poor conditions. The design and motifs of ikat weaving become popular as textile design by the wider society, such that it has become a business opportunity that profits large producers of textiles. Unfortunately the mass-produced weaving in factories that is available in the large shopping centers or in the tourist centers for the most part is the result of this mass-production. This type of production naturally results in goods of low quality, but which are cheaper and of greater variety. The cheaper products have stolen the authentic techniques produced by the indigenous women. Thus, mass produced and inauthentic ikat not only stole the market share of the authentic ikat, but also the income of women.

Weaving is closely tied with women. The whole process of weaving starting with the thread-spinning dyeing, design, knotting and weaving, all are women’s work. ...Everything is done with their daughters, or in groups with women neighbors. The knowledge of weaving is passed down to the daughters. ...Many of these women weavers are widows or women who have been left by their husbands who have migrated to other areas in search of work.

The role of women can be increased further if they, who create the designs, process the colors and weave the cloth, are able to control the authenticity of their products, and set the price for royalties. Controlling the process and the property rights of the ikat weaving certainly will give women a significant role within a “paternalistic” community. In this way, women can pass a larger role in decision-making in the social life of the indigenous society and gain equal rights with the men.

There needs to be some incentives for peoples to preserve the authentic process and design of weaving....The existence of Property Rights (PR) and the national law of Indonesia has already acknowledge copyright for the design and process of textiles, therefore there needs to be a process that empowers the indigenous people to argue for stronger bargaining positions so that they can defend their PR in Indonesia’s National Law. This process must start on two levels, from below, that is from the indigenous peoples themselves, and from above, that is the National law Policies.

Presented by: The Indonesian Forum for the Environment

Influential Women Women and Silk Production Exploring Primary Sources
  Tang dynasty’s Wu Zetian   Making Silk   Primary Source Lessons
  Princess Wencheng   Wearing Silk  
  Sorghaghtani Beki   Reviving Silk Traditions  
  Empress Irene    

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