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Sumatran Lampung Kain Tapis Tua Sarong

Sumatran Lampung Kain Tapis Tua Sarong

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Pubian people, early 19th century, Lampung, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Fantastic old ceremonial skirt, tapis tua, with alternating bands of different shades of black, Indian red and burnt orange. Finely embroidered with warped and couched golden thread. It is a full tapis skirt but the seam that allowed the textile to be worn as a skirt has been opened for display purposes. Lampung is a vast territory that lies below Palembang at the southernmost tip of Sumatra. The term "Lampung" is actually a generic term and refers to three ethnic groups: The Abung (Abung Siwo Mego), a people that inhabited the mountains in the north of the province; The Pubian (Pubian Telu Suku), from the eastern lowlands (when grouped together, are also referred to as Pepadun) and the Paminggir, who lived along the southern coasts (Saibatin group). The three groups consider themselves related to one another.

The women of Lampung developed a rich variety of textiles that included ceremonial forms as well as other types, which were used as clothing. Traditionally, the heavily embroidered tapis is worn as a sarong for weddings, festivities including the week leading up to the end of Muslim Fasting month (Idul Fitri), and welcoming ceremonies. The embroidery of its major design features distinguishes it from women's sarongs elsewhere in Indonesia. Meticulously woven (the weaving process is called mattakh) textiles were decorated with mica, glass, polychrome silk and predominantly metallic gold or silver wrapped threads attached and held in place with decorative stitches on the underside, using a technique called "sasab". Some old tapis (called tapis tua), are covered entirely in golden embroidery. Ornamentation exist on a piece of tapis symbolize a form of Lampung public confidence towards the grandeur of nature and the greatness of God. Traditionally using floral motifs, it has numerous variations. The word "pucuk rebung" means bamboo shoot and its elongated triangle is a common motif found in the designs of the Lampung tapis. Other designs may include snakes, elephants, birds, ships, and various mythical creatures.

Colours can vary depending on the region in which the tapis is made, and can take several months to complete, depending on the complexity of the pattern and the amount of gold or silver thread. Traditional textile colours came from nature. For red colorant, they used sepang (Caesalpinia sappan), tamarind (Tamarindus indica), areca nut (Areca catechu) and henna (Lawsonia inermis). The turmeric (Curcuma longa) and tamarind (Tamarindus indica) was used for yellow. Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) was used to obtain black dye. Durian (Durio zibethnius) was used for brown and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and the lanson fruit (Lansium parasiticum) for the blue. To  preserve yarn, they used the roots of the fragrant citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus). Then, to avoid discoloring, they used betel leaves (Piper betle). 

Absolutely gorgeous, large tapis tua has a traditional pucuk rebung motif. Excellent condition. Tapis is carefully stretched into modern, double-sided frames. Age-related light wear. Thread loss, small holes and loose threads. Stains. Size approx. 123,0cm x 104,0cm (including modern frames)

Provenance: Finnish private collection

NB! We don't ship this item. Pick-up from the shop.

For a similar examples see:

Tapis, Asian Art Museum Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture, Accession Number: 1991.38 ($0040:12371)

Woman's Ceremonial Sarong, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Accession Number:  90.436 (

References and further reading:

Textiles of Southeast Asia, Transition, Trade and Transformation, Robyn Maxwell, Australia: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 113.

Traditional Indonesian Textiles, John Gillow, Thames & Hudson, 1995.

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

The ship textiles of South Sumatra: functions and design system, Mattiebelle S. Gittinger, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1976, 132 (2/3): 207–227.

Sumatra, Crossroads of Cultures, Ed by Francine Brinkgreve & Retno Sulistianingsih, KITLV Press, 2009.

Splendid Symbols: Textiles and Tradition in Indonesia, Mattiebelle S. Gittinger, Washington DC: The Textile Museum, 1979, p. 157.

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