| Heirloom textile [leluhur]

Coromandel coast, India
traded to Sumatra

Heirloom textile [leluhur] mid 17th-mid 18th century
cotton, mordants, dyes
340.0 (h) x 240.0 (w) cm
Acquired through gift and purchase from the Collection of Robert J Holmgren and Anita Spertus, New York, 2006
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 2006.713


A considerable number of Indian textiles, traded over centuries to the Indonesian archipelago, have survived in remote parts of the region. These highly prized heirlooms are found in the treasuries of prominent families, particularly in the Toraja districts of Sulawesi, the islands of the South Moluccas, and throughout the Lampung region of southern Sumatra.

Indian trade cloths are rarely worn, displayed instead on ceremonial occasions as items of immense value. They are associated with spiritual power and high authority, particularly those related to fertility and agricultural cycles. Bold designs on some large textiles made them especially well suited as hangings for walls and ceilings during ceremonies and feasts. Terms such as lelangit and leluhur suggest connections with the upper realms of the ancestors.

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