Minangkabau Festooned Shoulder Cloth (Salendang Gaba)
This festooned shoulder cloth (salendang gaba) was made by Minangkabau weavers out of silk, cotton, and gold-wrapped thread. The Minangkabau are a historically matrilineal Muslim society organized in small democratically-run villages in Western Sumatra that are known for their richly symbolic and regionally-specific ceremonial clothing. Each village reaches their own democratic consensus about how villagers should wear their ceremonial clothing. Minangkabau people can therefore usually identify where strangers are from based on the way they wear their skirts, hats, and shoulder cloths, or from the motifs woven into their clothing.
Western Sumatra has rich natural gold deposits and so it is hardly surprising that Minangkabau weavers use gold-wrapped thread as one of the main decorative elements in their ceremonial clothing. This shoulder cloth is especially interesting because it has a gold lace fringe and a cotton panel inserted just before the final decorated border. The gold lace fringe is indicative of the Minangkabau’s cross-cultural exchange with Europe, and the way textile makers incorporated the European craft of bobbin lace into Minangkabau clothing. Minangkabau lace-makers usually made the lace separately and added it onto textiles after they were woven, but would sometimes create the lace or crocheted border directly onto the garment.
Many of the motifs the fabric designer chose to incorporate into this shoulder cloth are easily identifiable. The second band from the bottom is the pucuak rabuang bungo sikaku, or bamboo shoot combined with cornflower or tree of life. Two biku biku, or zig zags, filled with “s” shaped motifs run up either side of the border panel. These “s” motifs are called lundi badadak, or the beetle larva has a sound, after a proverb. This garment was likely the sort of shoulder cloth that a mother going to visit a son- or daughter-in-law or a woman going to a formal visit with her in-laws would wear wrapped around and tied so the decorated ends would drape on her right arm.
Circa: 19th or early 20th century
Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia
Material: Silk, cotton, and gold-wrapped thread
Dimensions: 102" x 31.5"
Inventory number: TX4281