The term linangkit in general is used to refer to a special kind of needle work technique that is practiced by the women of several ethnic groups in the West and North of Sabah. The process of making this special Sabahan tapestry weave is somewhat similar to the European technique of ‘tatting’ or ‘frivolite’. Basically, the linangkit serves as decorative embroidery that embellishes the traditional attires of some the Sabahan ethnic groups.
Linangkit is created using a needle, wherein a thin thread is looped into countless interconnecting identical knots which produces a dense and strong fabric. The Sabahan linangkit tradition is believed to have originated from Kudat where the material culture displays strong Filipino influence.The Maranao and Magindanao people of the Mindanao Island in the Philippines create the langkit for the same purpose—decorating and joining two panels of hand-woven cloths. These are normally hand-woven at the loom.
However, some of the Filipino motifs seem to be older than the Sabahan ones, with the prevalence of prehistoric lozenges and hooks—which also appear in some of the Sabahan weaving, the Rungus floating weft motifs—though they are curiously absent from the linangkit motif inventory.
In these modern times, ‘tatting’ has become outdated as it requires time-consuming manual production methods. Apart from that, the age of the female makers is advancing each day. With the rapid urbanization process, it is questionable whether or not the skill is being passed onto the younger generation. It takes many laborious months to complete one piece of linangkit with its tiny knots.
Linangkit Makers in Sabah
The Dusun Kwijau in Keningau, Sabah’s interior, apply narrow strips of linangkit along the side seams of their ceremonial blouses. For the Papar Kadazan women, they traditionally decorate their knee length black skirts with a band of linangkit. However, in the modern days, it has conveniently been replaced by a panel of cross-stitch which is less complicated to be made.
In the black ceremonial costumes of the Lotud, the linangkit is a beautiful contrasting feature. Circular sashes, knee length skirts and the black below the waistband of the men’s trousers (binandus) are all adorned with the linangkit.
The wide continuous band displays a repetitive pattern with crosses (inspired by melon seeds) in the middle. These are usually surrounded by squares, built up of opposing triangles in contrasting colours. The squares are said to be a stylized beetle. Formerly, the curved iridescent hard wings of these same beetles were used to make the strings that dangle from the siwot (head décor).
For the Lotud women, the colour arrangement within the geometric motifs is a matter of personal taste, but like it is in any other districts; they stick to local traditions where the range of colours is concerned. Orange and red are the dominant colours, with smatterings of purple, green, yellow, as well as black and white for the smaller areas.
For the Bajau costume, a wide band of linangkit in the front of a long black matrimonial skirt used to be a tradition of the Bajau as well. For their wedding celebrations, the Bajau prefer motifs which represent the natural world which therefore, represents new life. Called berangkit by the Bajau, the linangkit on the bridal costume displays big stylized cotton flower (buna kapas) and bamboo shoot (pucuk rebung).
The Dusun Tindals in Tempasuk like to have linangkit on their wedding costumes. Men and women wear identical black blouses with linangkit running over the sleeves from the shoulders to the elbows. The sides running from the elbows to the wrists are slit open. Their sleeveless blouses also have linangkit along the seams.
In the Rungus version of linangkit, which they call rangkit, the geometric motifs are usually separated from one and the other in defined boxes or compartments. The Rungus women seem to favour a balance between warm and cool hues without any strongly dominant colour. The origin of most Rungus motifs is relatively easy to recognize as they’re taken from elements from daily life and nature such as butterflies, pythons, leaves, stars, shells, stairs, and the dog-paw prints.
The Pinakol motif of two diagonal lines represents the two sashes worn over the chest by men on ceremonial occasions. Linangkit also forms part of the Rungus costume for men (sarabulu) which is sewn below the waistband at the back of the trousers, like the costume for Lotud men.
It is fitted in two long strips into the sukolob, the calf length blue sarong which is the daily outfit of Rungus women. The sukolob is tied above the breasts.On the sukolob, one strip runs horizontal and the other encircles the hips. At the intersection, there is almost always a zigzag rice field-snake motif on the wider band going downwards. At the corners, radiating floral patterns are embroidered in a flat satin stitch.