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    Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt (Tapis Tua)

    Pubian People, Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia
    circa 1900

    58cm x 45cm



    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.

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This tapis  (ceremonial, cylindrical skirt) is from the Abung people of North Lampung in South Sumatra. It remains closed along the seam and sewn as a skirt (rather than having been opened for display purposes).

    It comprises silk-cotton dyed with indigo, orange, red and black and is couched with metallic thread wrapped in gold arranged as geometric bands and abstracts naga motifs.

    See Totton (2009, p. 44) for a related example.

    One name given to this genre of cloths – tapis tua – literally means the ‘ancient skirt’ (Maxwell, R., 2003, p, 184.) But the Abung term for this specific type is tapis dewasano (‘fully-laden cloth’), or tapis jung sarat in Indonesian (Totton, 2009, p. 99).

    Noblewomen wore such cylindrical skirts on ceremonial occasions. Or such skirts were worn by brides from wealthy families. The wealth for such ostentations displays was afforded by the lucrative pepper trade with which the south of Sumatra became associated during the colonial era, and which benefited the Lampung people directly.

    The skirt is in excellent condition. There are few or no losses and no repairs.


    Brinkgreve, F., & D.J. Stuart-Fox (eds), Living with Indonesian Art: The Frits Liefkes Collection, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, 2013.

    Maxwell, R.,S ari to Sarong: Five Hundred Years of Indians and Indonesian Textile Exchange, NGA, 2003a.

    Maxwell, R., Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation, Periplus, 2003b.

    Totton, M.L., Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity: Tapis from Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia, Hood Museum of Art, 2009.

    Vanderstraete, A., Magie van de Vrouw: Weefsels en Sieraden uit de Gordel van Smaragd, (The Magic of Women), Wereldmuseum, 2012.

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