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An image of Kain songket by

Sumatra, Indonesia

Kain songket
Place of origin
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
Accession number
Upper Asian gallery
Further information

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.

Bibliography (2)

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.

Exhibition history (2)

Symbols and Ceremonies: Indonesian Textile Traditions, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Apr 2006–28 May 2006

Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–05 Sep 2015