The pua kumbu is the ritual cloth of the Iban people. Before a pua kumbu can be created, the threads must be dyed. Before the threads can be dyed, they must be mordanted in the Ngar ritual. But, not everyone knows how to Ngar.
The Ngar is arduous. The complete ceremony lasts many days and its many stages must be conducted precisely, filled with difficult work, and involving considerable outlay of effort as well as expense for a rural community in Sarawak. Now, as in the past, the welfare of an entire longhouse can depend on its successful outcome. At the end, a community of women will have all the threads they need, properly set, for the production of pua kumbu, the ritual cloth once created by every Iban community in Sarawak, depicting characters both natural and supernatural engaged in carefully constructed scenes from indigenous cosmology.
At Rumah Gare, one of the last kampungs in Baleh to regularly practice this ritual, the Ngar involves a good proportion of the women in the community. They are overseen with martial attention to detail by one of the last dream weavers in Sarawak, Bangie anak Embol, a woman sought out by anthropologists, pua kumbu afficionados and craft devotees from across the world for her skill at weaving and her standing in a lineage of master weavers. She and her family have been singled out by the spirits for seven generations, accorded the ability and the authority to properly lead the Ngar.