Rare Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt (Tapis)
Kampung Terbanggi Besar, Pubian People, Central Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia
length: 118cm, width: 60cm (these are the dimensions for one side of the double-sided skirt)
This tapis (ceremonial skirt) is from the Pubian people of central Lampung in South Sumatra. It remains closed and sewn as a skirt (rather than having been opened for display purposes).
It comprises silk-cotton dyed with natural red, purple, mustard-yellow and orange dyes and is densely embroidered and couched with bands of metallic thread wrapped in gold, applique work including metallic sequins, and lettering work which spells out the name of the village – Kampung Terbanggi Besar – in which the embroiderer presumably lived, and a name – ‘Hamidah’. As such, it is one of a rare group of
tapis textiles that have been embroidered with lettering and words. There are three separate bands of lettering, with varying ‘typefaces’, and these run right around the skirt. But each gives the name of the village and perhaps the owner or maker ‘Hamidah’. (Today, Terbanggi Besar has a population of around 53,000 and is Lampung’s third largest city.) One of the bands of lettering in reverse – a mirror image of the usual way. Possibly, this was done for talismanic reasons.
Maxwell (2003a, p. 339) illustrates an Abung
tapis embroidered with a band of Abung jawi (localised Arabic) script. Totton (2009, p. 84) illustrates a related tapis which has seven registers of lettering in Romanised script.
Another aspect that makes this
tapis particularly special is the use of small applique shapes, probably of card, which have been covered in metallic thread and sewn into the design. These add to the relief of the surface but also to the skirt’s weight.
The copious use of gilded metallic thread makes the skirt heavy – almost too heavy to be worn comfortably, and so such skirts were worn for only brief periods and for ceremonial occasions.
See Brinkgreve & Stuart-Fox (2013, p. 115) for an example, attributed to the 19th century, and which employs similar motifs.
Among the motifs are large round snowflake-like motifs which are the
kibang motif, modelled on a slice of breadfruit (Brinkgreve & Stuart-Fox, 2013, p. 113).
The condition for this piece is excellent, particularly given its age and the material from which it is made. There are some loose threads but the losses are minor. The condition and styling are of museum-quality.
Brinkgreve, F., & D.J. Stuart-Fox (eds), Living with Indonesian Art: The Frits Liefkes Collection, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, 2013.
Sari to Sarong: Five Hundred Years of Indians and Indonesian Textile Exchange, NGA, 2003a.
Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation, Periplus, 2003b.
Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity: Tapis from Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Hood Museum of Art, 2009.
Magie van de Vrouw: Weefsels en Sieraden uit de Gordel van Smaragd, (The Magic of Women), Wereldmuseum, 2012.
Acquired in the UK, from the estate collection of Dr George Yuille Caldwell (1924-2016). Dr Caldwell, an English-born physician moved to Singapore in the 1950s, from where he built up a collection of Indonesian textiles and other ethnographica.
Inventory no.: 3812
In this photograph, taken in central Lampung, in 1901, the woman on the left wears a tapis that includes bands of script.