Coming from a nation of over 13,000 islands, the textiles of Indonesia are as varied as their sources, with each group employing unique motifs and imparting their own special meanings. As important cultural artifacts, these textiles tell us much about the beliefs and social systems of the people who made and used them.
From Sintang, West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), what is known by other Dayak as ‘pua’ is here called a ‘kumbu’. It is requisite for many traditional ceremonies including rites of passage and healing rituals, and serves to define sacred space, as well as provide protection and decoration. This exceptional textile is a recent weaving (less than 20 years), but beautifully captures the traditional spirit with fine weaving and materials, natural dyes and time-honored motifs.
Size: 76.75″ x 31″
Handsomely embellished with ‘nassa’ shells and beads on both sides, this type of skirt (‘lau wuti kau‘) was worn by noblewomen for sacred ceremonies and would have been decorated by a skilled artisan who specialized in the use of beads and shells for these special designs. The imagery is traditional and quite powerful: a figure, probably representing an ancestor (‘marapu‘ – usually male and important as intermediary in communications with the gods, as well as being a guardian/protector figure), is well-defined and rendered, and is flanked by detailed centipedes and seahorses, with a scorpion threatening the genitalia. On the other side a dragon motif was probably derived from imported ceramics and is surrounded by a bird, scorpions, and a seahorse. Made of two panels sewn together horizontally, the skirt forms a tube with a vertical seam on one side. Condition is excellent, tho the background color is a bit faded. From the 20th century, this exemplifies the continuation of production of fine, traditional textiles on Sumba. A similar one is included in the collection of the Museum Nasional in Jakarta. This makes a great display piece with each side decorated with different imagery.
Size: 47 in wide if opened x 42.5 in. high
Made of cotton, this textile from central Sumatera is ‘adat’, or made for ritual use. The unusual central field of purple/pink is created by rust-colored red warps and purple wefts; lengthwise edges are indigo. The ends are decorated in gold and silver songket and differ slightly, perhaps as gender references. It has one small hole and some old stains, but otherwise is in fine condition, reflecting its importance to its owners. Pasemah textiles were little known until a decade or so ago; they are now prized by collectors. First third 20thc.
Size: 56.25″ x 23.3″
This style of hipwrap/’kain panjang‘ is named after the two ways in which it can be worn: the dark end on the outside in the daytime (pagi), and the light end in the late afternoon/evening (sore). Possibly from the north coast of Java, it was drawn using the ‘tulis’, or hand drawing, technique and has amazingly complex patterning, fine detailing and sophisticated coloration; a lot of work went into this piece. The base material is fine cotton and the handle is lovely. Condition is very good and it could be worn or used decoratively. We think it is from the mid-20th century.
Size: 95″ x 41″
This finely woven silk and fine cotton textile from Pasemah, in central Sumatera, was probably used as a shouldercloth or headwrap, tho no fold lines are in evidence. It consists of a field of red and black plaid bordered by two identical ends with songket bands and rosettes (the metal has worn off most of the threads). The ends are beautifully finished with fine silk edging and small knots made from warp threads. This piece has a few small holes, one tear (see damage) and a few spots, but is in otherwise excellent condition. Pasemah textiles were little known until the last decade or so, but are now prized by collectors. First third 20thc.
This colorful four panel, all cotton tubedress is possibly from the Dirma region where it would have been worn as ceremonial dress for dances. Concentric diamonds and figures on chairs (kings?) in the ‘buna’ warp-wrapping technique, as on the bottom panel, are popular design motifs in this area. This piece also includes aircraft in the lines of decoration! Attractive bands of warp ikat in the two central panels in golden yellow and dark brown are accented nicely with red, light yellow and purple warp stripes. Condition is very good, tho a bit of discoloration is apparent along the seam, but not as dark as in the photo. This piece displays very nicely opened up, as shown, or folded in half in either direction.
Size: 60.5″ x 48″ if opened
Originally worn only by those of the high caste and nobility, songket textiles are highly prized by the Balinese. This old, and hard to find ceremonial breastcloth, or ‘curare’, was made in Buleleng (please see p.46-7, Balinese Textiles, Periplus Editions). Woven on backstrap looms, these textiles were made by women in their homes. Artificial gold and silver-wrapped threads form the rich geometric pattern in supplementary weft on silk. Patola-inspired floral-patterned ends nicely complement the angles of the central pattern. From the early 20thc.; condition is fragile with numerous repairs and tears; priced accordingly.
Size: 115″ x 13.25″
‘Tirai’ are decorative valances that originated in India and were brought to Indonesia through trade. Hung on walls, across windows and doors, or in one area of a room to form a special space, they are usually in this format, with tongue-like appendages hanging from the lower edge. This charming piece includes old beads and sequins, couched embroidery and traditional motifs in felt on wool and cotton. It is probably darker than originally due to a layer of soot-like color. Not as opulent as some, it has a folk art quality, unusual colors and pleasing simplicity.
Size: 45.75 in. wide x 16.5 in. high
Originally worn only by those of the high caste and nobility, songket textiles are highly prized by the Balinese. This old and hard to find ceremonial breastcloth, or ‘curare’, was made in Buleleng (please see p.46-7, Balinese Textiles, Periplus Editions). Woven on backstrap looms, these textiles were made by women in their homes. Artificial gold and silver-wrapped threads form the rich pattern of rectangles composed of contrasting triangles in supplementary weft on silk. From the early 20thc.; condition is very fragile with numerous repairs and tears; priced accordingly.
Size: 78″ x 12.5″
Woven in cotton, with a supplementary warp (‘pahikung’) forming the main designs, this handsome cloth from the area of Melolo in eastern Sumba is handsomely decorated with two ships carrying human figures and strange flowering trees, and with prows that resemble village skull trees. The areas around the ships are richly embellished with a colorful lattice of diamonds, and bordered with a parade of strange animals.Typically for Sumba, additional colors are applied by hand to the supplementary warp. This piece would be stunning mounted on a wall horizontally, or used as a table runner. Condition is excellent.
Size: 77.25 in. x 23 in. excluding fringe
From Negara, in the Jembrana regency of west Bali, these unusual embroideries, called ‘ider’ were used to decorate temples. Often commissioned for special occasions, pieces like this one depict a colorful array of flowers, leaves and vines. Rarely found, these are documented well in only one source: The Folk Art of Bali; the Narrative Tradition by J. Fisher and T. Cooper; Oxford Press 1998; Chapter 5. Silk & cotton on cotton; mid-20thc.; good condition, minor soil and some tears. These would make a great room valance.
Size: 180″ x 10.75″
Woven in cotton, with a supplementary warp (‘pahikung’) forming the main designs, this attractive cloth from the Melolo area in the east of Sumba is decorated with more life-like mythical figures flanked by smaller human figures and surrounded by a checkered ‘frame’. Sea creatures and birds also decorate the piece. Typical to Sumba, additional colors are applied by hand to the supplementary warp. This striking piece would make a beautiful wall hanging or table runner. Condition is excellent.
Size: 54 in. x 22 in. excluding fringe
From Negara, in the Jembrana regency of west Bali, these unusual embroideries, called ‘ider’, were used to decorate temples. Often commissioned for special occasions, pieces like this one depict a colorful array of flowers, leaves and vines. Rarely found, these are documented well in only one source: The Folk Art of Bali; the Narrative Tradition by J. Fisher and T. Cooper; Oxford Press 1998; Chapter 5. Silk & cotton on cotton; mid-20thc.; good condition, but soil and some tears. These would make a great room valance.
Size: 104″ x 10.5″
Embroideries were, and still are used in west and south Sumatra for special ceremonies, especially weddings. They grace pillow ends, walls and canopies of elaborate wedding ‘beds’, or ceremonial platforms. This one is composed of metallic couched motifs and metal sequins on a red felt background bordered by metallic and acryllic (added later?) thread. First half 20thc.
Size: 5.75″ x 10.75