Minangkabau Shoulder Cloth
This shoulder cloth (salendang) was made by Minangkabau weavers out of silk 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.
Western Sumatra has rich natural gold deposits and so it is hardly surprising that gold is one of the main decorative elements in much of the ceremonial clothing woven by Minangkabau textile artists. This shoulder cloth is made out of silk and gold wrapped thread. The weaver designed this textile with several very popular Minangkabau motifs.
The sharp isosceles triangles in the border pattern represents bamboo shoots (pucuak rabuang), a plant that is symbolically connected to many different adat teachings (traditional wisdom). The way the designer used this motif as a horizontal line of triangles on the border of this shoulder cloth is called the paga nagari or (protecting) fence of the community. Each individual triangle refers to the three important roles men play in the community to maintain adat: chieftain (pangulu) religious leader (ulama), and intellectual (cadiak pandai).
Circa: 19th century
Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia
Material: Silk and gold-wrapped thread
Condition: Good. A few pinholes from use.
Dimensions: 94" x 28"
Inventory number: TX4527