Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, consists of a large landmass and series of smaller islands that cascade across the Sulu Sea towards Malaysia. Its east coast and interior is home to a number of different indigenous people whose textile traditions share technical and material features, including the use of abaca fibre, ikat dying methods and the use of backstrap looms. Although technically similar, the textiles display patterns and motifs designed to meet social or spiritual functions specific to each community. In some cases motifs reflect a deep respect for local flora and fauna and are believed to act as conduits to the divine. Other textiles are designed as ceremonial gifts on occasions such as marriage, or are hung to designate spaces of spiritual importance.
Much of the west coast and archipelagic parts of Mindanao are home to Muslim communities who have strong links with early seafaring Sultanates that resisted Spanish imperialism. They share cultural and religious practises with neighbours in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia and are renowned for their architectural woodcarvings.
Over the centuries, international and local trade introduced new materials and modes of production. This led Mindanao’s artisans to abandon some materials and adopt others to create innovative textiles and crafts for exchange between the region’s diverse communities.
The Sultanate of Sulu was established in the 15th century and maintained a well-travelled maritime trade network between Brunei, Malaysia and the different ethno-linguistic communities of Mindanao, bringing many of the communities together through commerce and marriage. As a result the Tausug, who were originally from east Mindanao, migrated and established a Muslim community in the Sulu Archipelago on the west coast of Mindanao.
This type of waistcloth is known as a 'kandit' or 'kambut', which means a long rectangular piece of cloth. They are produced by women but are worn only by men. This example displays the geometric 'syabit' design executed in tapestry that is also found on Tausug men’s head cloths ('pis'). 'Kandits' were usually worn as a belt or to hold a knife, or occasionally as a protective talisman.
silk; dovetail tapestry weave
29.5 x 234.0 cm
Gift of Dr John Yu and Dr George Soutter 2005
Not on display