Warp-Ikat Cotton Man’s Cloth (Hinggi Kombu) East Sumba, Indonesia
early 20th century
length: 237cm, width: 115cm
The cloth woven is from the Sumbanese people of East Sumba in Eastern Indonesia. It comprises two panels that have been sewn together lengthwise. It is decorated with natural vegetable dyes with bold, geometric and elongated patterning that features central warrior figures astride rearing horses and wielding sword-like devices surrounded by other figures or spirits with their open hands held aloft, roosters or fighting cocks, and borders or friezes of horned demon figures.
Both ends are finished with fine, tightly woven borders decorated with green, red and cream bands and checks, with ample fringes.
The horse is an important motif in Sumba and evolved to symbolise kingship and power. Horses were first imported to Indonesia from India perhaps as long ago as two thousand years. Horses arrived on Sumba from Java during the late Hindu-Buddhist period. The Sumbanese became skilled horseman and bred a small but sturdy horse known as the Sandlewood Pony. In local mythology, Umbu Walu Sasar, one of the two fraternal first ancestors, descended to Earth from the heavens upon a noble horse (Richter & Carpenter, 2012, p. 119). Possibly, this is depicted in this cloth.
Such textiles often were worn as mantles by Sumbanese men. They were used in formalised gift exchange at important, ritualised ceremonies such as those associated with marriage and death rites. In some villages, such textiles were brought to death ceremonies by guests so that the soul of the dead could take them into the afterworld. The bold patterns and bright colours of these textiles meant that they were some of the earliest that the Dutch collected and took back to Holland in the nineteenth century.
The condition of this textile is excellent. There is some minor fading consistent with age and the use of natural dyes but there are no obvious holes or repairs.
Traditional Indonesian Textiles, Thames & Hudson, 1995.
Gittinger, M., ‘Southeast Asian Textiles at the Textile Museum’, in
Arts of Asia, January-February 1996.
Sari to Sarong: Five Hundred Years of Indians and Indonesian Textile Exchange, NGA, 2003.
Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation, Periplus, 2003.
Richter, A., & B. Carpenter,
Gold Jewellery of the Indonesian Archipelago, Editions Didier Millet, 2012.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 1737
to see other Asian textiles.