To Rongkong people
Rongkong district, Sulawesi, Indonesia
second half 19th century
cotton, natural dyes
730.0 (h) x 72.0 (w) cm
Acquired through gift and purchase from the Collection of Robert J Holmgren and Anita E Spertus, New York 2000
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Long cotton banners are displayed at the many rites of the Toraja ceremonial cycle. The bold tie-dyed roto appear to have been associated with feasts of agriculture and abundance. On such occasions lengths of fabric are hung from the ends of the high roof gables of the noble houses. Tie-dyeing, where sections of soft supple fabric are bound with thread to resist the dyes, is a rarely used technique in animist Southeast Asia.
Simple but eye-catching circular motifs are formed using this technique, with each section displaying a different combination of large and small spots. Similar sunburst patterns appear on the region’s barkcloth skirts, although the less pliable nature of beaten bark means that the patterns are painted onto their surfaces rather than tie-dyed.