Exhibit: Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity
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.
Unknown artist, Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century. Crafted from cotton with silk floss, muscovite, bast fibers and cowrie shells.
Unknown artist, Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century. Shows the detail of the bantam rooster in Tapis Balak.
An embroidered band on a tapis ceremonial sarong from Indonesia. The composition depicts a ship, a powerful metaphor of wealth and status in this maritime region. Unknown artist, Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, 19th century. Crafted from silk and cotton cloth with gold-wrapped thread, mirrors, and red wool.
The companion book "Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity: Tapis from Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia" by Dr. Mary-Louise Totton is available from Hood Museum (603-646-2808).
Tapis Pucuk Rebung or Tapis Balak, silk and cotton with silver- and gold-wrapped thread, metal sequins, and glass beads.
Companion book, pg. 8: Tapis Jung Sarat; cotton with gold-wrapped thread. Over a base cloth of indigo, raspberry, mango yellow, and deep brown are couched gold-wrapped threads (S-twist over yellow cotton substrate) formed into faceted diamonds. These small pyramidal shapes texturize the entire dress.
Tapis Kaca (Mirror Tapis); cotton with silk floss, lead-backed mirrors, and gilded thread. This tapis has a base cloth of mostly dark brown alternating with narrow stripes of mango yellow and cherry red. Irregular bits of lead-backed mirror are appliquéd onto the surface textile with similarly colored silk floss and form the primary ornamentation.
Tapis Kaca; silk and cotton with gold-wrapped thread, mirrors, and red wool. This tapis has a ground cloth woven entirely in stripes of peachy brick, deep maroon, and indigo that are accented with lines of mango yellow. The weaver then embellished these cloth panels with couched threads, which were once completely wrapped with gold gimp in a Z-twist. Hundreds of tiny hand-cut colored mirrors and bits of bright red wool are appliquéd to the tapis ground cloth. Unknown artist, Lampung Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, tapis (woman's sarong), 19th century.
Companion book, pg. 121: Tapis Kibang (Breadfriot Tapis); silk and cotton with gold-wrapped thread and silk-floss embroidery. This tapis has a silk and cotton base striped in bright and dark indigo blues, brick and cherry reds, and a gourdlike color so over-dyed with tumeric that its powder can still be rubbed off. Plotted across three registers, the breadfruit motif, presumably the roundish, quatrefoil design, appears to abstractly depict a slice of this fruit.
Companion book, pg. 141: Women walking in procession to an event, 2003. They stride through a neighborhood wearing tapis according to their social rank. The first three ladies wear Tapis Jung Sarat, "fully-laden," all-gold tapis; the ladies behind them have tapis with less gold coverage. The headwraps mimic buffalo horns.