Cloth hangings such as this example were used on festive occasions such as weddings to decorate walls, doorways, and so on by the Malays of Sumatra and elsewhere. It comprises black velvet with red cotton borders and backing, and is decorated with a fringe of scalloped flaps towards the top, sewn-on spangles, and motifs in couched metal-wrapped thread. Probably this example was produced along the east coast of Sumatra. It was likely that such textiles were exported to Malay communities on the Malay Peninsula and in Singapore.
Such hangings show Islamic, Indian and Chinese influence. The hanging is decorated with three tree motifs (possibly tree-of-life motifs) and two serpent-dragon figures, as well as borders of scrolling vines. Other awnings are decorated with Buraq figures in place of the serpent-dragon figures, suggesting more Chinese influence in this example. Buraq is the mythical creature said to have carried the Prophet Muhammad to Heaven.
The overall condition is very good. There are minor losses here and there, minor rubbing to the surface of the velvet, but no repairs and no tears of insect damage.
Lau, A.T. & B. Platzdasch (eds.), Malay Heritage of Singapore, Suntree Media/Malay Heritage Foundation Singapore, 2010.
Maxwell, R., Textiles of Southeast Asia: Tradition, Trade and Transformation, Periplus, 2003.
Summerfield, A., & J., Walk in Splendor: Ceremonial Dress and the Minangkabau, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1999.