Minangkabau Shoulder Cloth (Salendang)
This shoulder cloth (salendang) 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. Since each village is run by democratic consensus, each locality has its own specific rules about what and how ceremonial clothing should be worn. 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. The plaid of the ground material and the sparsity of the gold decoration on this shoulder cloth make it seem likely that it was made in the Limo Puluah Koto region.
The weaver designed this textile with several very popular Minangkabau motifs. The overall composition is batabua as opposed to balapak, which means the composition of gold decoration is dispersed instead of all over. The body of the textile is decorated with a motif called bintang or star, which is sometimes interpreted as representing the way Minangkabau villages are scattered throughout the region.
The ends of this shoulder cloth each have three horizontal bands of decoration. The first is the pucuak rabuang bungo sikaku or bamboo shoot with cornflower or tree of life. This motif is tied into adat (traditional teachings) about the three roles men play in society to support their communities: chief, religious leader, and intellectual. Each side of the triangular bamboo shoot represents one of these roles. The second band of decoration might be a floral design Minangkabau weavers derived from Middle Eastern textiles they had seen. The third seems to be either white chain (barantai putiah) or a reference to a ceremonial tobacco box (salapah). If this is meant to be a chain, it would be related to the adat teaching that just like a single link is useless on its own but powerful in a chain, a community must work together to contribute to the overall success of the group.
Circa: 19th century
Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia
Material: Silk, cotton, and gold-wrapped thread
Condition: Good. Minor fraying at edges.
Dimensions: 77" x 21.5"
Inventory number: TX4528