| Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom [mawa or ma'a]

Coromandel Coast, India
traded to Toraja region, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom [mawa or ma'a] late 17th-early 18th century
cotton, natural dyes and mordants
315.0 (h) x 113.0 (w) cm
Purchased 2005
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 2005.152


Among the rich variety of Indian textiles traded centuries ago into the Indonesian archipelago, some designs were especially made, or modified from Indian prototypes, to suit particular market demands. The imagery on cloths specifically created in India for the Toraja market alludes to prosperity and abundance, qualities also attributed to the textiles themselves.

Flanked by large flowering trees, the stylised central design on this textile suggests the village corral. The surrounding double leaf motifs may indicate the horns of many buffalo. Indian textiles with impressive tree images abound and were particularly prized by Torajan communities. During important rites, the ancestors are invited to join the mortal world by travelling down mythical trees, rainbows or the smoke from incense.

Subscribe to newsletter

You can also follow developments on twitter or facebook