Woman's ceremonial skirt (tapis)

Paminggir people
19th century
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General Description

Graceful ancestral boats with curving bows and sterns are embroidered with silk threads on two bands of this tapis. Each vessel carries five frontal figures. The central figure on the right boat—with a mica disk for a head—sits beneath a decorated arch and is flanked by others wearing feathered headdresses. Garlanded poles topped with mica disks separate them. The embroidered panels are displayed on richly dyed tricolored ikat panels inspired by imported Indian textiles. The addition of costly silk threads, mirrors, and gold foil gives this skirt a shimmering radiance.

Boats are a ubiquitous and seminal symbol in the textile arts of Indonesia, the world's largest island nation. They may simultaneously refer to the Dong Son era vessels (3rd-2nd century BCE) found on bronze ceremonial objects and large kettle drums, ancestral ships of the dead, and the role of women as "vessels" in perpetuating the survival of a clan.

Excerpt from

Roslyn Walker, Label text, 2016.