Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Apatani traditional textile techniques 2 - Weaving technique

In a previous post, the traditional process of cotton spinning has been presented, by which raw cotton is spun into threads. Once the yarn is made and dyed, it is ready for being woven on the loom. Weaving is done only by women, on a back-strap tension loom.
A Tanii weaver in 1954
(Photo source : Verrier Elwin's digitalized collection, Smithonian Institute)

The equipment (lobu-lome) is a simple collection of bamboo and wood sticks. Once a warp is set up and the various pieces placed on it, this framework (chiichin) occupies little space and can be tied to any fixed structure inside or outside the house. Each element bears a name :

1/ ako potin =>
2/ unidentified =>

3/ lome =>

4/ lobu =>
5/niiyi =>

6/ pintu nanii =>
7/ lokho =>

8/ tapii =>

9/ akan potin =>

  • The warp is formed by stretching cotton yarns tautly between 2 parallel bamboos or sticks (potin). The warp is passed over the upper bamboo (ayo potin) of the loom, then down underneath it again, and under and over the lower end, and then up over and under the lower bamboo (akan potin). This process of winding the warp on to the loom is continued until a sufficient number of threads is secured. For outlining the size of the framework, which depends on the cloth to be woven, a special rope (chiichin niipa) is used and later removed.
  • The upper end is fastened to any suitable horizontal structure (usually some element of the verandah railings or some bamboo attached to the outer wall of the house). The lower end (akan potin) is held firm by a hide strap (chiichin se) that goes around the weaver’s waist.
  • A light and smooth bamboo (lobu) separates the upper and lower warp. Above and below this element various sticks (lome, pintu nanii, niiyi) are inserted between the warp threads to prevent their slackening. They may also serve other specific purposes which I could not clearly identify. In particular, extra threads can be attached to niiyi.
Click to enlarge

  • The weft, i.e. the yarn running perpendicular to the warp, is threaded through the warp using a bamboo tube shuttle (lokho) on which the weft thread is wound. A round stick (gochi nanii) attached to the lower end of the warp serves as a support to roll the woven part of the cloth which otherwise would become loose.

A Tanii weaver in the 90's, weaving a jilan shawl (jilan pulye)
(Photo source : Ailenla project virtual museum, http://www.aienlaproject.com/)

During the weaving process the weaver sits on the ground with her legs staight with and her feet pressing on a firm support. She leans against the belt to keep the necessary strain, while the lower end (or breast-rod) rests on her thighs. The shuttle is passed over and under the warp threads by pushing and pulling, and the yarn is pressed against the previously woven portion with a smooth piece of wood called tapii.

Nowadays, shawls that are sold in private shops or government emporiums are made on other types of looms such as the one below :

Courtesy : Ph. Ramirez, CNRS

(Thanks to Tallo Gyati and NPR for their information on this topic)


Anonymous said...

in order to savt the apa tani traditional textile more efforts are needed. some one should fight for this.
local people need to be made aware of the old customs.
local govt, central govt, mainly misnistry of culture must be contacted. dr n k das anthropologist is to study the traditional knowledge of the apa tani .he should be assisted.
he may be contacted at nkdas49@gmail.com
some thing has to be done
dr m c behera at itanagar university at the tribal studies dept is right man too.
best wishes,
n k das

PB said...

@ anonymous,
Dear anonymous (or should I say dear Dr. das as u signed n k das ?...), thanks for stopping by. As an anthropologist myself I do agree with you that the weaving tradition should be preserved and promoted. But to be frank I don't see HOW exactly it could be promoted, I mean from a practical point of view. What we are doing here is only to document this knowledge, and that is surely not enough. So your ideas and suggestions are most welcome.

yasiyalow said...

One can think of developing it as an exotic items and metamorphose it as a fashion statement for local as well as foreign populace. It will depend on how well apatanis blend with modern fashion and market their products to modern world. Attempt should be to create a blend of which possesor is proud of and feels exclusive.

PB said...

@ Yasiyalow
Hello, it's nice to read your comments again on this blog. Do share with us your knowledge of Tanii culture and language in various topics, and do feel free to correct our mistakes. We really need it if we want to provide accurate information to all.

NPR said...

Well commented!! I agree with your points.

Although I may sound foolish to be contented with the present scenario of Apatani textile productivity; at present, I don't see any threat and need of preservation of traditional textile making as because many of our women folk are still engaged in textile making with new creativity. Hopefully, I wish and pray that this trend of textile making should last forever in Apatani society, my fingers are crossed.

I am bit worried that in future there might be a possibility of vanishing original exotica while trying to blend and metamorphosing as per demand of consumers. This is what I will say as an effect of modernization. In spite of this we need to think about large scale production of Apatani textile and requirements to fulfill the needs of consumers.

Kanno said...

Good job, especially the sketch.

The Apatani designs are too good to vanish. Let us keep our fingers crossed - they will thrive. Just as the Apatani fashion contest of 1997 - Trendsetters - was an important step to popularize the Apatani dresses, the need of the hour is for the trained Apatani designers to look back and see some merit in our own dresses.

NPR said...

Yes, you are right.Let's hope for the best about Tanii Textiles' future...cheers!!!