The ship is a vital symbol associated with the legendary travel of ancestors and the life journeys of individuals. In Sumatra rituals to mark significant events from birth to initiation, marriage and death are accompanied by ship imagery, often in the form of textiles. Large palepai cloths such as this are associated with nobility. Made by women, they were passed down from father to son in high-ranking families.
Here a large elaborate ship carries a fleet of smaller boats as well as two pairs of human ancestor figures atop elephant-like mythological creatures. Also present are bird and tree motifs linking the watery lower world to the upper world of the sky.
late 19th century
cotton, plant fibre, metallic strips, natural dyes; supplementary weft weaving, couching
54.0 x 268.0 cm
D G Wilson Bequest Fund 2003
Not on display
Shown in 3 exhibitions
Symbols and Ceremonies: Indonesian Textile Traditions, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Apr 2006–28 May 2006
Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019
In one drop of water, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Jun 2019–Dec 2020
Referenced in 3 publications
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 345 (colour illus.). The colour illus. below on page 345 is a detail of this work.
Susan Scollay, Hali, 'The Art of Half the World', pg. 110-111, Mar 2004-Apr 2004, 110 (colour illus.), 111. no.3
Jane Somerville, Look, 'All the Gallery's objects', pg. 10-11, Sydney, Apr 2006, 10 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on pg.10 is a detail of this work.