Indonesia, Java, Cirebon
Woman’s Hip Wrapper (Kain Panjang Kepala Tumpal, Kain Sisihan), circa 1910-circa 1920
Textile, Hand-drawn wax resist (batik) on machine-woven cotton, natural and synthetic dyes, 42 1/2 x 107 in. (107.95 x 271.78 cm)
Inger McCabe Elliott Collection (M.91.184.54)
This particular bridal cloth was worn in Cirebon, but it would also have been accetable to Muslim Sumatrans because of its abstracted style. In java the human figures with their contrasting colors may have representated bride and groom. The cosmological association of the sea, land, and sky creatures would have made it a perfect gift for a bride at a time when she was considered the center of the universe. Wishes for marital happiness were expressed by the flowers, birds, and butterflies. The turtle, apart from having medicinal and therefore protective properties, is, according to the Chinese, an emblem of spirituality endowed creatures who attained a great age (Williams, 1976). The S figure are reminiscent of the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol, which expresses the balance between male and female properties, similar to the meaning of the traditional gandawari border.
Williams, C.A.S. (1976). Outiline of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives, 3rd-ed. (New York: Dover).