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Exhibit: Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity

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Kauer Jacket

Unknown artist, Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century. Crafted from cotton with silk floss, muscovite, bast fibers and cowrie shells. 

If you love textiles, you won’t want to miss the current exhibit at The Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, New Hampshire, running through August 31–“Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity: Tapis From Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia.” The amazing display of tapis chronicles its use from the earliest days recorded to the present. This beautifully ornate, artful fabric was often fashioned into garments that communicated a woman’s clan, identity and social prestige based upon the fabric’s opulence and detail. The meticulously stitched fabrics were often created with gold and silver-wrapped threads producing heavily detailed embroidery. The colorful dyes were formulated using ancestral “recipes” producing lavish, sumptuous fabrics. Our modern-day fabrics seem so bland in comparison.

If you can’t make it to New Hampshire for the exhibit, you’ll want to invest in the 188-page companion book, of the same title, which is available by calling the museum. The book’s full color images are beautifully presented and complemented with in-depth historical information. 

The exhibit and book are both devoted entirely to the extraordinary Indonesian tradition of textile weaving, dying, and decoration based on exciting new research undertaken by Dr. Mary-Louise Totton, author of the book. The history of the fabrics and their use as a cultural “name-tag” is fascinating, and the methods used to produce the fabrics is nothing short of amazing. Both exhibit and book will keep you enthralled with the complexity and detail of both the fabric and the fabric’s underlying cultural significance.

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