Sacred textile (mawa') with fish pond and leafy plants

Sa'dan Toraja people
possibly early 20th century
more object details

General Description

_Mawa’__ _are magic cloths painted by a ritual specialist. They are painted prayers to help ensure continued abundance, wealth, and reproductive success.

This lyrical mawa’__ _is filled with the life-affirming imagery of trailing water plants (_tangle lumu’). Water plants multiply in the rice paddies after a successful harvest, symbolizing rapid growth and abundance. Between the leaves are cross-shaped motifs (pa’doti) that are associated with the white spots found on the piebald buffalo, another symbol of blessings and prosperity. The center circle is both a watering hole for the buffalo and a place where fish are stocked. A male figure holds a fish, and the pond is surrounded by ducks. At the bottom of the composition, a presumably female figure holds stalks of grain near the family’s communal rice barn.

Mawa', which were often given personal names, were stored in baskets or wooden chests in the southwestern part of the traditional house, an area associated with the ancestors.

Adapted from

  • "Sacred textile (mawa') with fish pond and leafy plants," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Bonnie Pittman (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012), 118.

  • Roslyn Adele Walker, Label text, 2013.