cotton, beads, metal bells, natural dyes
37.0 (h) x 132.0 (w) cm
Acquired through gift and purchase from the Collection of Robert J Holmgren and Anita E Spertus, New York 2000
Conserved with the assistance of Maxine Rochester
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Few of these dramatic jackets with radiating sunburst designs in valuable beads survive. From the Batak regions of Sumatra, the foundation fabric of this rare ritual garment suggests it was probably made in the Lake Toba district.
Displaying the same distinctive supplementary floating weave of the powerful ulos ragidup and the village datu priest’s headdress, the jacket undoubtedly had supernatural properties. It was worn by male masked mourners in a number of Batak communities during funerary rites. The bells along the edge of the jacket would have sounded during such performances. 19th century photographs also show young Mandailing women from west Sumatra wearing similar jackets.