| Man's cloth

Kisar or Luang Island
south Moluccas, Indonesia

Man's cloth 19th century
cotton, natural dyes
220.0 (h) x 105.0 (w) cm
Purchased 1984
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1984.605


On the island of Kisar in the south Moluccas, males and females wear different forms of garment—the long narrow loincloth or rectangular fringed wrap for men, and the cylindrical tube skirt for women. The motifs and designs decorating Kisar clothing, however, are virtually identical for both genders. Similar images of humans, chickens and schematic stars appear in the bands of warp ikat on both men’s wraps and women’s skirtcloths. Only the elite were permitted to wear designs of this type, so the imagery is probably a marker of status rather than of gender.

With outstretched arms and raised hands, the human motifs are depicted in similar stances to wooden sculptures created in the south Moluccas to honour ancestors. It is possible that the stylised images depict revered forebears or legendary heroes.

Subscribe to newsletter

You can also follow developments on twitter or facebook