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The Woven History of Pahikung

Sumba Weave in Blue from Purse for the People used in Sequoia Backpack

Our handbags feature a very special handwoven textile, Sumba Weave, also known as Pahikung. It’s a beautiful, intricate, and unique handwoven textile for which the Island of Sumba is internationally known for. What makes Pahikung so unique is the painstaking way each design is created from a physical pattern or Pahudu.


This art form is steeped in ancient traditions. In the past Pahikung was primarily used to add dramatic decorative panels to women’s tube skirts (Lau). These were restricted to the nobility, but today there are no longer any such restrictions. Each design is recorded and passed from generation to generation in the form of a pattern guide and considered the intellectual property of each artist. Some designs can be several centuries old. 

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The patterns used in Pahikung are not reproduced from memory but from a pattern guide known as a Pahudu. The verb Hudu means to land, to fish, or to catch. The addition of pa- turn the verb into the noun Pahudu - something that has undergone the action of Hudu – in other words it has been captured or retained.

The more descriptive term pahudu ri kalanda means a coconut leaf pattern guide, referring to the coconut leaf ribs that are traditionally used to make the pahudu.

The advantages of the Pahudu design guide

  • It is a permanent record of a woman’s intellectual property.
  • It can be rolled up and securely stored in the roof of the house until required.
  • It can be used over and over again.
  • A mother can pass on her library of Pahudu to her daughter so that her designs and those of her ancestors will continue to be used down the generations.

Because Pahudu are passed down from generation to generation, some perpetuate Pahikung patterns that may have been designed a century or more ago. Some may be even older since even if a Pahudu deteriorates through repeated use it can easily be copied to make a new one. The dependence of Pahikung on the Pahudu system probably means that some designs and motifs have been preserved for a long time.

Every piece of fabric we use in our bags is a representation of generations of knowledge and skill and, yes, each piece is unique, and its own work of art. 

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Every textile created is a unique, one-of-a-kind personal work of art, expressing generations of creative work.

 Village weavers in East Sumba 

You can learn more about the textiles of the many island states of Indonesia and the beautiful diversity of traditional weavers at Threads of Life and more information can be found at Asian Textile Studies.

Special thanks to contributors:

Christine Amelia and Dwi Pravita Ganatri

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