In Focus

Shroud or ceremonial hanging (sekomandi), 1983.126

The term sekonmandi appears to refer to a group of villages in the Kalumpang area where this style of warp ikat weaving originates. Working on the backstrap loom restricts the width of the cloth that can be woven; the larger textiles from this region are therefore assembled from multiple parts. This impressive example is composed of four separate pieces. It is dominated by a central panel (made from two sections stitched together) of complex interlocking hook motifs (sekong), very crisply executed in red, blue, brown, and natural colors. A small row of triangles borders the upper and lower edges of this center field, which is framed on either side by sections in which broad bands of red are punctuated by fine vertical stripes in shade of blue and brown.

These cloths were traded both south to the Sa'dan and Mamasa Toraja and north to peoples in Central Sulawesi. They were valued as ceremonial hangings and also as shrouds. Steven Alpert recounts the following story about how he came to collect this piece:

"In 1976, I was guided by a man of Mamasa to a marvelous, remote, and unusually "original" Toraja tondok (or village of just a few houses) on a mountain overlooking the town of Mamasa. I mention the originality of this tondok because there was so little evidence of contact with the modern world. The house where I stayed was ancient, carved, and surrounded by a low stockade. In fact, the only obvious bit of Western culture gave me a bit of a shock. On the wall a hook had been fashioned from the lower jaw of a wild pig. Hanging from the hook was a bucket of bright blue plastic—shocking blue—a sight you did not easily forget. I awoke one morning in this setting facing the old nobleman, who patiently waited for me. He pointed to an old lado-lado a beautiful (wooden) container, that held this particular blanket. The old man explained that with all his traditional wealth of land and buffalo, he still could not pay his taxes. It would be against his adat or custom to sell either of them. The blanket he had wished to use as a burial shroud for himself, but because of his situation he was willing to sell the piece to me. Early in [the 20th] century, as a young bachelor, he had traveled to Kalumpang and had exchanged among other items a white horse for this blanket." [1]

[1] Personal communication: Steven G. Alpert and Carol Robbins, 2010.

Excerpt from

Roxana Waterson, "Shroud or ceremonial hanging (sekomandi)," 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), 202-203.