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Asian art

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Ceremonial hanging (palepai)

late 19th century


Unknown Artist


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.


Place where the work was made

Kota Agung Putihdoh region Lampung Sumatra Indonesia


late 19th century

Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

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.