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Kain Raja, Sumba

Item: Kain Raja, Sumba

Size: 30 x 96 in (76 x 243 cm), 560g

Provenance: Sumba, Indonesia; mid 20th Century

Method: Handspun and commercial cotton, hand woven, vegetable dyes, warp ikat and twining. The colors in the piece are ecru (natural cotton color), the prized kombu red from the mengkudu tree and indigo. The dark background color is red over-dyed with indigo.


This piece was woven for nobility. The lion figures in the piece amplifying this status. Fine edge work and twining on the ends. The dyeing of the cotton itself takes between 6 to 12 months before the weaving begins. Like almost all Sumba ikat hinggi, the textile is constructed from two long identical panels hand-stitched together along the warp to form a double width. This width is limited by the size of the backstrap loom that is used in traditional weaving. The piece is a bit narrower and longer than a traditional hinggi.


There are different types of Sumba weaving. The hinggi ikats are rectangular textiles worn by men around their waists and as sarongs with with matching ikat wrap draped over one shoulder. The designs can be geometric or organic for example animals or skull trees. By contrast, kain raja, royal textiles, are very high quality weavings that are reserved for nobility. This piece was described as a piece that was ceremonially hung behind an officiating chieftain.

In general, Sumba textiles were traded between the coastal regions where they were made and the interior, where the making of textiles was proscribed, and many of them were made for the nobility who at one time had the sole right to wear decorated textiles. As prestige clothing and gifts, textiles were used and given in large quantities on ceremonial and ritual occasions, and marked the prosperity of the ruling class and thus of the society as a whole. The display of exceptionally rich colors and bold motifs on these occasions makes a visual statement of the physical and social universe, and affirms the working of that universe by the show of wealth and vitality (M. Gittinger, Splendid Symbols, OUP, 1990, 159).


Excellent condition

Item code txtl0401 - SOLD!