To Bada or To Kaili people
Bada or Kulawi district, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Man's ceremonial headcloth
late 19th-early 20th century
99.0 (h) x 98.0 (w) cm
Acquired through gift and purchase from the Collection of Robert J Holmgren and Anita E Spertus, New York 2000
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
The designs on men’s headcloths [siga] are painted onto paper-thin barkcloth. Felting bark pulp was one of the earliest techniques for creating fabric in Southeast Asia, and the stone beaters for pounding bark into cloth have been found in long-established habitation sites.
Arranged in bands, the most prominent motifs on the I allude to the water buffalo. A symbol of fertility connected with wet rice cultivation, the buffalo is crucial to agricultural success and prosperity. As a marker of wealth and the principal sacrificial animal, certain features of buffalo are accentuated in art. Combinations of double-hook horns, oval-shaped ears and round eyes form the overall designs. Other motifs on siga may represent the sun, valuable beads and sirih leaves, an ingredient in the ancient custom of betel-nut chewing.