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Asian art

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Cloth with Islamic calligraphy

20th century


Unknown Artist


When Islam was first adopted in Indonesia it was quickly incorporated into existing religious and cultural practices, likewise those pre-existing cultural forms were employed to express Islamic thought. So, while many of the motifs of Islamic calligraphic textiles remain consistent with those more globally their meanings and methods of production are deeply imbedded in local custom.

The calligraphy on this cloth was written using hot wax. Afterwards the cloth was dyed and then the wax was boiled out, leaving the letters and motifs clearly visible in white on the blue background. The central motif has eight small motifs which circle it, resonating with Buddhist cosmology and Islamic numerology, being the eight paths to Buddhist enlightenment and the nine Islamic saints of Java. The double-bladed sword of Ali is also visible. In Java, large rectangular calligraphic batiks are known as 'kerudung', literally 'shroud'. They are worn wrapped around the head and draped on the body as a shoulder cloth. Other possible uses are as temporary covers for coffins or tombs in funerary rituals, as well as ceremonial hangings or banners.


Other Title

Cloth with Islamic inscriptions

Place where the work was made

Java Indonesia


20th century

Media category


Materials used

cotton, dyes: batik


264.5 x 91.0 cm


Purchased with funds provided by the VisAsia Dinner Fund to commemorate the ‘Arts of Islam' exhibition 2008


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history