This pretty, whole panel of cotton and gold thread kain tenun (literally, ‘woven cloth’) was acquired new in the 1930s or earlier by a British colonial official. It was brought back to England and has been in storage since. As a consequence, it seems in almost ‘as new’ condition. It is of purple and red cotton woven with gold thread in stripes and stylised blossom motifs.
Kain tenun was handwoven often by small family enterprises in the traditional way using the Malay or Siamese floor weaving loom known as a kek Siam. It was produced on the Malay peninsula, mostly in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang states. The resulting textile was used for sarongs but also for kain samping – the shorty sarongs Malay men traditionally wore over their trousers. Kain tenun was also tailored into traditional shirts for women (known as baju kurung and baju kebaya) and shirts for men (baju Melayu). The finest producers of kain tenun received commissions to supply the Malay peninsula’s many royal courts for most of the sultans, their families, and officials all wore the textile.
As mentioned, it is in excellent condition. The colours are as bright as the day the textile was woven. Possibly, it was never used.
Ismail, M.S.Z., et al., Muzium Tekstil Negara/National Textile Museum, Department of Museums Malaysia, 2012.
Uda, Y.M.R.D.P. Fuziah Raja Tun et al., Tradition & Continuity: Woven and Decorated Textiles of the Malay Peninsula, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2013.