Ikat and batik textiles loom large in popular American and European imagination, but the textile forms associated with these techniques are hardly the only fabrics made in Indonesia. Just as technically impressive, though aesthetically and functionally different, the textile traditions of Minangkabau weavers in Western Sumatra deserve similar acclaim.

In an effort to bring greater attention to the historic and contemporary weaving traditions of the Minangkabau, we here at Sarajo have decided to put together an online and physical exhibition of the 19th and 20th century Minangkabau textiles in our collection.

In the 14th century, a Javanese prince introduced a Tantric form of Buddhism to the Minangkabau. Islam followed in the 16th century, and by the mid-17th century most Minangkabau had adopted a belief system that combined these religions with their traditional wisdom, or adat.

By the 19th and 20thcenturies, when the textiles in this exhibition were made, the Minangkabau were living in a constellation of independent villages that shared similar cultural traditions. Each village debated and established its own guidelines for how to apply adat and Islamic traditions to their daily lives, which resulted in a diversity of locally-specific traditions. Those traditions and the effects of global exchange are evident in Minangkabau weaving practices, and will be discussed more in depth further on.

This exhibition focuses on Minangkabau ceremonial head cloths, shoulder cloths, and waist sashes from the 19th and 20th centuries. Minangkabau weavers made them out of silk, cotton, and gold- and silver-wrapped thread, using supplementary wefts to ‘float’ beautiful designs over the richly covered ground fabrics.

Enjoy browsing this collection online or come to see the exhibition in person at Sarajo’s gallery at 31 Howard Street. Contact Yosi Barzilai at yosi@sarajo.com or call (646) 370-6801.


Achijadi, Judi. Floating Threads: Indonesian Songket and Similar Weaving Traditions. Indonesia: BAB Publishing, 2016.

Eiko Kusuma Collection. Weaving, Dyeing and Embroidery: Diversity in Sumatran Textiles from Eiko Kusuma Collection. Japan: Fukuoka Art Museum, 1999.

Summerfield, Anne and John. Walk in Splendor: Ceremonial Dress and the Minangkabau. Los Angeles: UCLA Flower Museum of Cultural History, 1999.

Summerfield, Anne and John. Fabled Cloths of Minangkabau. Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1991.