Ceremonial jacket (sape manik)
- Maloh people
- Probably early 20th century
In beadwork, the mythical dragon-serpent (aso) often merges like a chameleon with the background. On the back of this jacket, two aso figures with white eyes, green mouths, and curled black snouts face each other. Their orange bodies angle down to the lower edge, supported by a tightly coiled tail.
Myths about heroes making dangerous journeys in search of valuable glass beads are common to the Maloh people. Beads are hard and durable; they are thought to provide strength and longevity to the person who wears them. Beaded garments such as this one were worn only on the most important ceremonial occasions, including marriage, death, the opening of a new longhouse, or a successful harvest. The number of beads on garments worn to celebrate a bountiful harvest was thought to relate to the number of rice grains that would be harvested the following year.
Roslyn Adele Walker, Ph.D., Senior Curator, The Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific, The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art, July 2016