We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Warrior's headcloth (ilaf)

early 20th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Pilu Salif, Meo regalia (headhunter’s apron)
    Head ornament (ilaf) for a ritual leader (meo)
    Place where the work was made
    West Timor East Nusa Tenggara Lesser Sunda Islands Indonesia
    Cultural origin
    early 20th century
    Media categories
    Ceremonial object , Textile
    Materials used
    cotton, natural dyes, glass beads, seeds; tapestry weave, twining, supplementary weft wrapping
    72.5 x 27.0 x 0.3 cm
    Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    Among the Atoni of Timor, the actions of warriors and headhunters were subject to a ritualised cult of warfare governed by ‘le’u musu’, a sacred force essential to success in battle and the spiritual welfare of the entire community. Strict taboos, divination ceremonies and talismanic blessings were all believed to render warriors invulnerable to their enemies. Infused with ‘le’u musu’ prior to battle, a warrior’s regalia of fine textiles, adornments and weapons expressed the wearer’s courage and glory. It also represented male and female duality.Although tapestry-woven headcloths (‘ilaf’ ) and elaborate pronged headdresses were the prerogative of initiated warriors (‘meo’), these items and other garments were also worn ceremonially by women upon the death of their father, and following childbirth. Woven with protective motifs, the ‘ilaf’ was worn wrapped around the head with the fringes framing the face, its striking colour denoting courage and victory.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

  • Provenance

    Nomadic Rug Traders, pre 2004, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased in Bali, Indonesia.

    Mariann Ford, 2004-Dec 2010, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased from Nomadic Rug Traders (art dealership). Gift to the Art Gallery of New South Wales as part of the Christopher Worrall Wilson Bequest 2010.