Ceremonial cloth (tampan)

19th century
17 1/2 × 17 3/4 in. (44.45 × 45.09 cm)
Arts of the Pacific Islands
Not On View
Dallas Museum of Art, the Steven G. Alpert Collection of Indonesian Textiles, gift of The Eugene McDermott Foundation

General Description

Between the outer frame and indigo blue inner bands composed of precisely spaced and well executed repetitive patterns, the pictorial center of this tampan con­tains a riotous array of barely decipherable symbols, geometric conventions, and the bold rendering of otherwise familiar motifs. Its central crea­ture, the human figures, and several of the more enigmatic details seem more animated than those found on most other tampan. Normally, the execution of motifs similar to these is more mathematically precise, sharper edged, seemingly stiffer, and more predictable. This is in part due to the physical properties of the supplementary weft technique, which makes it inherently difficult to convey a perfectly curving line or a sense of flowing movement.

The unconventional arrangement of these motifs, and the fact that some of the secondary designs and minor animal forms are not fully realized, could suggest that this tampan was created by an inexperienced weaver still learning her craft. However, the overall result may also simply represent the mindset of a singularly origi­nal artist, more intent on conveying the main elements of her story than overly concerned with its surrounding details. While its exact function and narrative have been forgotten, the imagery on this tampan remains fresh and vibrant.

Adapted from

Steven G. Alpert, "Ceremonial cloth (tampan)," in Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art, ed. Reimar Schefold in collaboration with Steven Alpert (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), 100-101.