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Shawl or scarf ('phaa biang')

20th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Title
    ceremonial cloth, possibly the end panel of a ceremonial shawl
    Place where the work was made
    Houa Phan Laos
    20th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    cotton, silk, natural dyes; discontinuous supplementary weft weave
    47.5 x 107.0 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Bequest of Alex Biancardi 2000
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Copyright reserved

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    This is an excellent example of a 'phaa biang'. Unusually, it has a dark indigo blue background covered with patterns woven with discontinuous supplementary weft threads. The background warp threads are silk, and the weft ones are cotton. The patterns are woven in silk and comprise chickens, the tree of life (running down the centre of the textile), birds with two legs, a feathery tail, and a curved beak, and ancestor figures standing on the backs of elephant-birds ('saang hong') with four legs. The latter's trunks reach down to touch doubled-headed naga boats called 'huea hong' (meaning flying boats). Both types of bird shelter their young beneath them. The borders contain a single-headed naga as a decorative zigzag motif, 'dork khor' (hooks), and stylised floral motifs set in diamond shapes. Lao-Tai women wrap phaa biang cloths around one shoulder and the torso. These cloths are also used for healing practices ('phaa sabai'), as head wraps ('phaa khan soeng'), and as shoulder cloths ('phaa phai'). As a curative cloth, the textile was believed to be powerful enough to help the healing process through its combination of colours and motifs.

    Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2011