Ceremonial Skirt from Sumba
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