About this artwork
The Paminggir aristocracy employed a type of ritual hanging commonly known as a ship cloth, a name that refers to one of the principal motifs of such textiles. These hangings display a very limited repertoire of patterns, including one or two red ships, a single blue ship, tree images, buildings, and rows of stylized anthropomorphic figures. The indigenous name for textiles of this type, palepai, probably goes back to the old Javanese word lepih, which means “to fold” or “to double.” Palepai served as markers of status and perhaps even denoted descent. Indeed, title, claim to leadership, and certain other privileges accompanied the possession of palepai. These textiles were also important requisites during rites of passage, such as marriage, death, or accession to a higher rank—events that were thought to be unstable moments fraught with danger. The ship images that appear on this palepai would have indicated an appropriate agent of safe conduct from one stage of life to another. The red vessels are also understood to represent the upper world, the abode of the ancestors, which can be reached by the ship of death. Since the Lampung economy was based on sea trade, ships served as symbols of wealth and power as well.
Currently Off View
- Ceremonial Hanging (palepai)
- Cotton, silk, and silver-leaf-over-lacquered-paper-strip-wrapped bast fiber (probably ramie), plain weave with supplementary patterning and brocading wefts, main warp fringe
- 290.2 × 66 cm (114 1/4 × 26 in.)
- Gift of E. M. Bakwin Indonesian Textile Collection