West Sumba, Indonesia
Nobleman's cloth and shroud
[hanggi ngoko; hanggi wolo remba karaha kaboko]
cotton, natural dyes
149.0 (h) x 274.0 (w) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
This type of man’s cloth from the Kodi district of west Sumba is rarely worn and then only by members of the local aristocracy. It is largely intended as a shroud for mature men of high rank. Its design is likened to the dappled pattern of the python’s skin. In Kodi, snakes and other reptiles are associated with ancestral deities and the afterlife, and the python’s ability to change its skin is a powerful analogy for rebirth. When used as a shroud, the hanggi serves the deceased in his travels to the next realm.
Across each end of the central field of this textile are omega-shaped motifs depicting sacred gold mamuli heirlooms. Emblems of female sexuality, mamuli are an important element of the gifts from the groom’s family to the bride’s during marriage negotiations.