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Kain songket


Unknown Artist


One of the most prestigious of locally produced cloths is the colourful silk weft ikat textiles of Palembang in Sumatra. This elaborate ‘red and gold’ example is woven with an intricate pattern in a supplementary weft weave (‘songket’) which replicates the motifs of the coveted ‘patola’, and uses, as in this piece, gold metal-wrapped threads. These textiles were folded lengthwise and worn over the shoulder or wrapped around the waist. They were usually worn on important ceremonial occasions. The richer and more sumptuous the display of gold on any particular textile, the greater the wealth and prestige of the wearer’s family. Palembang, on the eastern coast of Sumatra, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Srivijaya. As a wealthy trading power in Southeast Asia, it attracted Indian and Chinese traders, who introduced silk and the technique of silk weaving. A social class wealthy enough to enjoy such luxurious textiles ensured their production.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.346.


Place where the work was made

Sumatra Indonesia

Media category


Materials used

Songket, silk, gold thread and natural dyes


86.0 x 203.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Dr John Yu 1998


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Robyn Maxwell, Textiles of Southeast Asia : tradition, trade and transformation, Canberra, 1990. Compare with 258

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 346-347 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 347 is a detail of this work.