To Mangki people
Kalumpang district, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Ceremonial hanging and shroud
cotton, natural dyes
137.0 (h) x 181.0 (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
Textiles are ubiquitous at complex mortuary rites in animist Southeast Asia. Costly and laborious preparations and the need to select an auspicious date result in the funeral ceremony often being postponed for months, even years, after a death. In the Toraja communities of Sulawesi, heavy warp ikat cotton cloths [paporitonoling], woven on simple back-tension looms, function as shrouds and funeral hangings. In the intervening time between death and burial, the body lies in the great family house wrapped in a number of the boldly decorated textiles.
To Mangki shrouds display interlocking angular spirals, crosses and triangles. The abstract forms have sometimes been interpreted as ancestral beings, their repetition evoking succeeding generations of forebears and the power of ancestors to protect the soul.