Archive for March, 2017

Indonesian Textiles from the Collection of Roger Pratt

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2017 by rjohn

On October 16, 2016, Roger Pratt

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gave a program to an International Hajji Baba Society audience on Indonesian textiles from his own collection.

In his talk, Roger considered design influences and historical context for the pieces presented.

Roger is a textile enthusiast, collector and traveler.  He serves on the Board of Trustees of The George Washington Museum/The Textile Museum and is the outgoing President of New York’s rug and textile club, The Hajji Baba Club.  Roger recently retired from a 32-year career at Presidential Real Estate Investors, where he was Senior Portfolio Manager for a series of large commercial real estate funds on behalf of pension funds.  He and his wife Claire now reside in Washington, D.C.

Roger said that he had brought quite a few items of material and would speak to them, dealing with design influences, geographic locations where they were produced, and the historical context of their production.

He began with a series of maps indicating Indonesia’s location. First a comprehensive map of Asia.  On this map Indonesia is in the lower right corner in purple (not all of it shows clearly).

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The next map brings us a bit closer.  Here, Indonesia, again in purple, is at the bottom.

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With a third map things become more intelligible.

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As its name suggests, Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 10,000 islands off the subcontinent of India.   With 260 million people, it is the fourth most populous in the world and the largest Islamic nation.   The length of the archipelago exceeds the width of the continental United States.  The country’s culture, religion, and trade have been heavily influenced by India.  

Roger said that he would start with textiles woven in areas on the left (northwest) of the map above, the island of Sumatra (labeled more explicitly on the left side of the map below).

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Sumatran textiles were particularly affected through trading relationships between Arab communities and western India which preceded the western explorers by hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  

The first section of Roger’s talk highlighted a few of the major design influences from these regions and how they affected textile design in Europe and the United States as well as in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

He moved to the first piece.

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R1 is an 18th century fragment of an India made cotton chintz palampore ,with a fantastical flowering free design, which was exported from India to the Western European market.  Variations of these chintz textiles were also exported to Indonesia where they inspired indigenous local production, especially evident in batiks from Java.

Details of R1.

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Roger took us to his next piece.

R2

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R2 is a jacquard loom made shawl, thought to be made in France in the mid 19th century that was inspired by Kashmir shawls woven in India.  Napoleon and Josephine ignited the European craze for these textiles beginning in the first decade of the 19th century.  

Kashmir shawl designs in terms of format, layout, and designs such the boteh, buta, or “Paisley pattern” also influenced Indonesian local textile production, particularly in the areas of the main Indian trading ports on the north coast of Sumatra.

Details of R2.

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Roger  held up a piece related to R2.

Related to R2

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Comment on piece related to R2:  This is a Kashmir shawl sash or girdle with a large boteh end panel from the first half of the 19th century with a red rectangular center field.  This is an Indian design that captured the imagination of both European and Indonesian textile producers in a variety of formats and sizes.

Here is another piece related to R2.

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Comment on the second piece related to R2:  This is another European rendition of a Kashmir shawl adapted to the tastes of the European market.

Detail of second piece related to R2.

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Roger’s next piece was a considerable contrast.

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Detail of R3 below.  

India became the dominant player in the global textile trade when it developed a process where color fast textiles could be made with a consistently high grade of locally grown cotton.  These textiles were produced as daily wear for the slave market and the working class, as well as luxury goods for merchants and royal families.  

As noted India is particularly famous for its Kashmir shawls and elaborate chintz palampores, but they also produced simpler, more geometric designs for the mass market.  

R3 is a traditional headcloth, or keffiyeh, favored by the Arab market, which was also important to Indian traders.   India was also well known, then, for its plaid designs (most famously in the production center of Madras in southeast India), particularly in forming the border patterns of a cloth. 

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Again, a move to a very different type, a seeming kerchief.

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To complete the journey of a textile design from India to America, R4, pictured above, is a modern version of a red bandana with a paisley design, popularized by cowboys in the American west, as well as Harley Davidson riders.  

The name bandana derives from the Indian bandhani, which means tie and dye. The original bandanas, or kerchiefs or headcloths were exported from India to the United States, but subsequently were machine made in the US, and then in China, but still conforming to the original India design motifs, which hearken back to Kashmir.

Details of R4.

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Again, we move to a quite different format.

R5

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R5 is a vintage folk embroidery door surround hanging from Gujurat in western India, with many of the most popular images in Indian textiles, including paired peacocks, parrots, lions, palm trees, and the popular Hindu elephant headed deity Ganesh, among others.  As we’ll see later, these motifs often also work their way into Indonesian textiles.

Details of R5.

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Next was a hat-turban assembly, presented in two pieces.  R6a is the hat part.

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And R6b is the accompanying turban.

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Comment on 6a and 6b:  Hindu-Buddhist traditions likely arrived in Indonesia from India at the beginning of the Common era and have had a deep and profound impact on Indonesia culture and textile design.  

The first Islamic kingdom in Indonesia was established in the 13th century in Aceh at the tip of northwestern Sumatra through trade with Muslim merchants, which included both Arabs and Sufis from Gujurat, India.  This effectively grafted Islamic concepts onto the preexisting Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist belief system as well as native animistic tribal traditions.    Subsequent to the introduction of Islam, many Indonesians made the pilgrimage to Mecca.  

R6a and R6b, pictured above, are a pilgrim hat and accompanying turban, made near Mecca and acquired by an Indonesian in Sumatra in the 19th century.  It follows traditional geometric Arabic design. Whether it was through pilgrimages or trade, Sumatrans were exposed to a variety of Arabic textile designs most notably the cotton tabby with warp ikat lozenge, or rhomboid patterns often made in gold and blue, or red and blue, which were frequently inscribed with calligraphy.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in NYC, and the  GW/Textile Museum, have numerous examples of this type.   Below is an example of a Yemen ikat from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dated to the 10th century.

Tiraz fragment from an ikat shawl

With R7, below, we move to textiles that a newcomer would say look like Indonesian textiles they have seen.

R7

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R7 is a Toba Batak “Ragidup”.  “Toba Batak” is a mountainous area proximate to the northwestern Sumatra port area of Aceh.  “Ragidup” means most well-known, raja, number one.  It represents totality and the concept of dualism.  

The white ends are joined into the field by a complicated technique called warp extension.  A continuous textile is achieved by introducing new warps from the end panels.  This is an ancient supplementary weft pattern reminiscent of stone work.  The end fields differ with one being male and the other female.  There are 23 stripes in the plum field and reflect the design impact of India trade cloth.

This piece dates to the early 20th century and was exported to a collector in Holland.  The Ragidup is often used as a ritual gift to women when pregnant with a first child; it can also be used to cover a coffin, or to recognize social achievement, or the parent of  the bridegroom.

Details of R7.

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R8

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R8 is a Bingtang Maratur, also made by the Batak people.  Its 12 bands of ikat mean “ordered stars,” which is a reference to the regular arrangement of the body of the textile.  It indeed does look like a starry night. It has a predominantly blue coloring, with seven bands of refined supplementary weft end finishes.  

The format also reflects the Indian tradecloth with side and end borders accompanied by a multi section central field.  The central field ikat is likely an interpretation of the Yemen/Arabic lozenge design as mediated by local interpretations in the port of Acheh, where there was an Arab community.

Details of R8.

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R9

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R9 is another Batak textile, entitled “Ragi Angkola,” made in the first quarter of the 20th century.  It has  34 stripes with three pronounced bands of diamond lattice ikat,  It has a distinctive beaded pattern on the ends which may have a colonial inspiration.

Details of R9.

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R11

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R11  is a mid 19th century shimmering silk textile from Minangkabu, located to the south of the Batak area in western Sumatra.  

It has metallic thread overtones that display a prestige version of the plum diamond lattice design.  Sumatra is known as the Isle of Gold and is a major gold producer.  It is thought, however,  that the metallic thread used on these textiles was imported from China.

Details of R11.

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(Color differences are due to lighting and camera processes.)

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R12

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We now move to the Palembang coastal area of southern Sumatra which was a heavily traveled trade route by the Indian market.  

R12, above, was locally produced in the early 20th century as a version of a classic Indian tradecloth pattern that was revered in Indonesia.  The underlying cotton cloth was likely obtained commercially from India which was superior and more consistent than what could be made locally.    

It features triangle patterns on the border end panel (tumpal)  associated with the Islamic faith.  The design can have multiple meanings.  Its “filling” is often vegetal and is associated with the bamboo shoot or the cosmic tree, which is a sign of fertility and the life force.  It can also be considered to be the protective teeth of the deity Barong.  The central field is a regular arrangement of rosettes in a mosaic like pattern.

Details of R12.

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R14

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R14 is a cotton India tradecloth from the 18th century of the type traded to Indonesia and subsequently imitated there, per the image shown above.  It can be considered a “proto” batik and is a combination of mordant block printing and pigment painting.  The image in this example appears on only one side of the cloth.

Details of R14.

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R15

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R15 is a dramatic luxury tube skirt or tapis from Lampung an adjoining south coastal area to Palembang.  This piece features heavy elaborate gold embroidery work with fantastical elephants, roosters, peacocks, treasure chests etc. inspired by motifs favored by the princely families of India and emulated in Indonesia.

Details of R15.

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R16

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R16 is a double ikat  (warp and weft) silk “patola” cloth from Patan in Gujarat, India.  This is a luxury prestige cloth which is done in a very technically precise manner in Gujurat which results in a sharp pattern design and jewel like colors in contrast to the typically “cloudy” images in most ikats done on cotton (or silk and cotton).  

This patola was made for the Islamic market (note the triangular tumpal on the border).  The patola, particularly a version with a eight pointed pattern known as “flowering  basket” was coveted and imitated in Indonesia.  Less than 10% of cloth exported to Indonesia was silk and the patola was a particularly valued textile that was considered to have  unrivaled power and meaning.    Patola has a similar format and pattern to the previously discussed Indian tradecloths.

Details of R16.

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R17

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R17 is a late 19th century Kain Limar (shoulder cloth) that has design inspiration from the Patola cloth and is an expensive and prestigious production of Palembang.  It is silk plus weft ikat (limar) and supplementary weft gold metal thread brocade (sungkit).  

This is a classic example of the type.  The weft ikat design  in the center field appears in many Indonesian textiles as the garuda double-wing symbol.  The end panels feature flowering botehs derived from Kashmir shawls.   This type of end panel is typical of Kain Limar (in addition to the triangular tumpal).

Details of R17.

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(Color differences are due to lighting and camera processes.)

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R18

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R18 is a Sarat Nanas from the Lampung area of south Sumatra (late 19th to early 20th century).  It is a provincial version of the more formal Kain Limar discussed above.  It has silk and metallic thread as well as pineapple fiber.  The unevenly dyed muted colors and pineapple fiber create a beautiful textured abrash.   The central rosette lattice pattern is derivative from Patola and Indian tradecloth.  This piece, too, features the Kashmir boteh design in the end panels.

Details on R18.

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R19

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R19 is an elaborate silk hat, believed to be from Gujuarat, featuring a  metallic thread Kashmiri boteh design.  This type of workmanship may have served as design inspiration for the Kain Limar and the Sarat Nanas shown above.

Details of R19.

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R20

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R20 is a silk and applied gold leaf headcloth, Prada Pudang,  from Palembang which is rather more elaborate than the Arab headcloth shown at the beginning of the program. The underlying form the  of the design is geometric with a rectangular border and diamond inset flanked by triangles.  

A tie and dye technique was used to create the rich purple center and red border, after which the gold leaf was applied in variety of rosettes and scrolling vine motifs using the goldleaf prada gluework technique, producing a sumptuous prestige garment.

Details of R20.

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R21

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R21 is a Tatibin from the late 19th (ceremonial textile) which is a smaller version of the famed shipcloths from the Paminggir people of  Lampung (the coastal southern part of Sumatra) which relates to the journey of life.    

This piece is made of cotton with supplementary metallic and cotton weft decoration. This one features confronting lions with a decorated mast or tree between them, a design that goes back at least to the Sassanian empire in Iran and spread to India, East and Southeast Asia from there.  Two simplified ancestor figures stand above the lions.  

Details of R21.

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R22

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R22 is a late 19th century tapis or ceremonial tube skirt (sarong) worn by women of Lampung, Sumatra.  They are warp faced but worn so that the stripes are read as horizontal bands.  This one is decorated with couched gold metallic threads and discs of mica, or little mirrors in a sun pattern, layered between archaic indigo bands of batlike forms that may relate to ancestor worship.  

Details of R22.

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R23

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Back of R23

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R23 is an elaborate jacket with silk, metallic thread, extra-weft weaving , shells and mirrorwork worn by women of the Kauer people of Lampung and would accompany variations of the tube skirt shown above.  The stripes of the jacket, in contrast to the skirts, would be read vertically.  The format of the jacket is derivative of Indian and Persian dress.  Local Indonesian costume would typically use a breastcloth rather than a jacket.  The jacket, particularly when accompanied by the nassa shell adornment would be heavy and warm and not practical for regular use.   

Details of R23.

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R24

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Comment on R24.  

We now travel to the next island south and east of Sumatra, Java.  

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Another map with clearer labels. (See Java. lower, left center)

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Java has long been the seat of governmental power for Indonesia, and was the base of the Hindu/Bhuddist Mahapahit Empire from 1293 to 1527 when it was replaced by the Dewak Muslims.  

With the rise of the Muslims and the availability of commercially available high quality cotton material, the practice of batik flourished, particularly with the development of the Canting pen, which had a reservoir to hold the wax and which made the creation of sophisticated designs easier to execute, proving to be a technological advance over India’s block printing and pigment painting.  Designs of batik were influenced by Indian, Chinese, European, and local sources, so there is now quite a variety of production.  

This is an older  classic batik from the 19th century featuring the exaggerated Wayang shadow puppet motifs of the Indonesian version of the Indian Hindu Ramayana, an epic narrative of the life of Rama, which remained beloved in Indonesia and Java after the fall of the Mahapahit Empire.   This piece features the use of Soga, the brown dye typical for older batik production.

Details of R24.

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(Differences in color are from lighting and camera processes.)

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R25

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R25 is another classic batik design from Java from the early 20th century.  Stripes on batik are typically on an angle, which when worn provide a sense of movement and flow.  The stripes in this pattern include both the Parang rusak pattern (meaning broken knife) and the patchwork pattern.

In India, the Tambal patchwork of triangles and squares  is worn by monks and the poor. Here, it is incorporated into the batik stripes.  The broken knife or broken dagger pattern suggests supernatural power and is believed  to be enemy destroying.

Details of R25.

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R26

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R26 is another classic batik design from the second half of the 19th century and relates to the India Chintz flowering tree design.  It has a version of the “Semen” pattern, meaning to sprout or grow.  It emphasizes fertility and belief in the cosmic order.  The head of the batik (kepala) is a particularly intricate patchwork triangle and diamond pattern.

Details of R26.

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R27

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Comment on R27.

We now travel to the next island south of Java, Bali, which is where the Mahapahit escaped following the fall of Java in 1527.  

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Bali is still more than 80% Hindu/Bhuddist.  Bali also revered the Indian double ikat patola as a powerful holy cloth and used them ritualistically during major transitions in life such as birth, marriage, and death and other significant occasions.  Symbolically they epitomize the struggle between good and evil as described in the drama of Barong and Rangda.  

The Cepuk is a locally made version of the Indian patola produced in South Bali using weft ikat.  The Cepuk follows a strict design discipline and always has a red background (varying shades, accompanied with a patterned frame of black, white, blue, and yellow lines).  The longitudinal border consists of white arrowheads, called the teeth of the Barong (the deity of goodness).  The weft ikat technique squeezes the roundels and other designs typical of the center field of patolas into more of an elongated egg shape. 

Details of R27.

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(Color differences are due to lighting and camera processes)

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R28

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R28 is a “Geringsing,” a  double ikat sarong made of cotton in Bali and also inspired by the double ikat patola and related designs in India tradecloth.  It has a floral lattice pattern and a rich brick red color made with morinda citrifolia, a member of the coffee tree family as well as indigo.  The production process is extremely exacting with the warp and weft overlapping perfectly.  

It is said that God taught the Bali villagers of Tangan the art of double ikat which was used in rites of passage and served as protection from danger.  This is considered the most powerful cloth of Bali because of its link to the past, the consistent design tradition, the muted color palette of brick and purple red, and the technical virtuosity and structure of the weaving. 

Details of R28.

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Roger had a scarf-like textile with a very similar design and coloration.

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And here is this scarf-like textile by itself.

R29

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R29 is an older, “gauzy” breast cloth double ikat Geringsing ,using the same design as the sarong, which demonstrates the staying power of the design. The pieces would have been worn together on special formal occasions.  Older pieces were considered more powerful than younger ones.

Details of R29.

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We now move to the small island of Sumbawa, which is directly east of Bali. 

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Look at the map above.  Find (lower center) the words “Bali” and “Flores.”  In between them are three small islands.  The middle one is Sumbawa.

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R30 is the first textile from Sumbawa.

R30

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R30 is an uncommon men’s ceremonial shoulder cloth that is made of cotton and uses the tapestry-weave technique and supplementary weft brocade (silver metallic) on the border.  

This piece appears simple but is deceptively exacting in its weaving technique. The center field design and polychromatic colors create a serene statement of power, while the complex silver border on a red background provides a sharp contrast.  Note the tumpal teeth surrounding the center field.  This version of an elongated  oversized diamond is a variant of ones we’ve seen before in a smaller lattice format.

Details of R30.

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R31

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CR31 is another dramatic Indonesian tie and dye textile made on silk, called a “Lawon ritual cloth” from Palambang, Sumatra made in the 19th century.   We have seen previously the appeal that the elongated diamond lozenge or rhomboid has in Indonesia in a variety of sizes.  Here, the large red diamond stands out against the beige field and the unusual purple scalloped border in a very graphic, “modernistic” manner.  

This piece derives its design from large scale Indian bandhani, a technique which lends itself to oversized  central patterns such as squares, rectangles, diamonds, and circles.  Many of the Lawon pieces have a rectangular center field set against a contrasting border design that collectors find reminiscent of paintings by Mark Rothko.

Details of R31.

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R32

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R32 is a classic  Java batik breast cloth made in the early 20th century. The piece features another another take on the elongated lozenge design contrasting with the “Semen” flowering tree design of abundance that surrounds it. For some, this “empty” space in the center is like a beam of light, or an opening to pass through.

Details on R32.

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R33

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R33  is a silk tie and dye Bandhani from Gujuarat which is an overscaled head cloth, odhani, used at wedding ceremonies and special occasions with metallic trim on the borders.  

This piece relies on rectangles and circles for its design, which when combined with brilliant contrasting colors makes a dramatic statement even when seen at a distance on a parched landscape.  This type of textile helped inspire the Lawon pieces shown above as well as other “empty” field textiles of Indonesia.

Details of R33.

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R34

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R34 is a hat from Sindh Pakistan, which adjoins the Kutch area of Gujurat and shares its weaving tradition.  This is an example of fine mirrowork, which this region of India and Pakistan excels at and which migrated to parts of Indonesia.

Details of R34.

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For the next piece we travel to the large north central Indonesian island of Borneo (upper left center in the map below). 

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R35, below, is from Borneo.

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It is a beaded cane baby carrier of the Kenyah Dayak People, from the mid 20th century, which I am showing in honor of our three grandsons, born in 2016.  

It is a typical design for baby carriers and has been in use for many generations.  The central beaded panel features the image of Aso, a demon dog deity that would serve as a protector guardian of the baby.  Images of Aso also frequently appear in the woven textiles of Borneo.

Details of R35.

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R36

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R36 is a sun hat made of woven rattan and beadwork using a sun design also made by the Kenyah Dayak People in Borneo.  This would have been a harvest hat and is oversized to provide shade for the baby carrier.

Details of R36.

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R37

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R37 is another similar  sun hat that includes a band of cloth with an attractive  floral design on a contrasting green background..

Details of R37.

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Roger took questions,

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and his wife, Claire, modeled one of the hats at the end.

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I want to thank Roger for permitting the fashioning of this virtual version of his program and for his considerable help in both assembling and editing it.

I hope you have enjoyed this fluent presentation of some strong Indonesian textiles.

R. John Howe