Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Banig: intricate patterns

I'm in the Philippines again - this time for my grandson's third birthday. Yesterday we had an excellent lunch at one of Manila's many shopping malls. At this time of the year, when Manila is at its hottest, it's easy to see the attraction of the enormous shopping malls - air conditioning! Most of the malls are so extensive that you can stroll and admire and shop and have coffee (or ice cream) as you would in a suburban shopping street. But it's cooler. Far cooler than outside.

The visit to the mall had the added benefit of a small display of woven banig in its vast entrance atrium. Banig are woven from straw or grasses and traditionally functioned as sleeping mats. They still serve this purpose today, but over time banig makers have sometimes chosen to embellish their mats with colourful and intricate patterns. Nowadays they're as likely to be used for decoration as they are for sleeping.

Samar banig 1
Samar banig 4

Often the patterns are mesmerisingly geometric:

Samar banig 3
Samar banig 3 close-up

But occasionally you can be surprised by an exuberantly floral design:

Samar banig flowers

The banig in this display were from Samar, in the central Philippines. I learned that they are woven in Basey - a town renowned for the intricacy and colour of its banig weaving. The mats are made from tikog, a grass that is specially cultivated in the nearby province of Leyte. The tikog gives a sheen and pliability to these banig that makes them quite special.

I think the traditions of banig and of patchwork quilts share much in common. Both take materials that are readily to hand and otherwise without value and create useful, necessary, everyday objects. But with both these traditions the makers bring their sense of design and the desire for self-expression to the task. The results are idiosyncratic and often very beautiful.

Samar banig 2


Unknown said...

Banig is a new word for me. I love the rainbow geometric mat. It reminded me of Jim Lambie's colourful striped floor at the MCA (19th Biennale of Sydney) which shimmered when looked at from different directions. Barb

our7107 Islands said...

Bask in the beauty of our new designs for Banig (reed grass) products. These new designs are of the same quality and craftsmanship as the ones you find in Kultura but cheaper because we intend to offer reasonable prices so that you can all enjoy our own Filipino-made craft as well as share it to the world. This is our second batch of designs and we will be uploading more in the days to come. Check these out!