Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom [mawa or ma'a]

traded to Toraja people, Sulawesi, Indonesia17th century

National Gallery of Australia

National Gallery of Australia
Canberra, Australia

Textiles were India’s great contribution to the maritime commerce that connected it with Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Europe. Made in Gujarat, one of the most important textile centres of western India, this cloth was traded to the Toraja region of south-central Sulawesi, Indonesia around 400 years ago. There it was treasured as a sacred heirloom (ma’aor mawa) and brought out only on ceremonial occasions, particularly those relating to fertility and the agricultural cycle.

The design is purely western Indian. Female musicians are depicted in the same manner as medieval Gujarati manuscript paintings. The protruding far eye, a peculiarity of Jain miniatures, suggests that the imagery may have Jain origins. In procession, the women hold stringed instruments and parrots, with goose (hamsa) motifs appearing within their earrings.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011

From: Asian gallery extended display label


  • Title: Ceremonial cloth and sacred heirloom [mawa or ma'a]
  • Creator: traded to Toraja people, Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Date Created: 17th century
  • Location: Gujarat, India
  • Physical Dimensions: w5000 x h1070 cm
  • Type: Textile,cotton, natural dyes, mordants
  • Rights: Conserved with the assistance of Gabrielle KibblePurchased 1984
  • External Link: National Gallery of Australia

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