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This is an exquisite and refined example of the gold and silk thread textiles associated with the Balinese royalty. The elaborate and time-consuming manufacture of cloths like this was the prerogative of aristocratic and brahman women in service to the pre-colonial courts and they were worn only by members of the high castes. When the island of Bali became part of the colony of the Netherlands East Indies in 1908, villages like Sidemen and Gelgel continued to make these textiles but over the 20th century their use has expanded to all members of Balinese society who can afford to purchase them.

The textile is made using the technique of supplementary weft weaving ‘songket’ on a body-tension or backstrap loom ‘cagcag’. The weaver sits with a cloth beam stretched out in front of her which she attaches to herself with the backstrap. This allows her to control the tension of the warp (vertical threads) with her body; she then passes the weft threads between passages in the warp. Pattern sticks made from wood or bamboo are inserted across the weft so that they hold down a few threads and pull up others. A flat, narrow blade/beater is then worked in and out of the warps from right to left and turned up to create a space through which the weft thread can be passed. Then, using their fingers, the weaver places the thread at desired intervals to create a supplementary weft pattern.

Although high-status cloths like these are worn in different styles by men and women, this long, narrow, rectangular piece of cloth could potentially be used by either gender. It would fasten around, or bind, the waist in the manner of a belt ‘saput’, to hold up the lower garment worn underneath it (a length of rectangular cloth wrapped around the body to cover the body from the waist down).

The decoration on this textile features a repeating demonic face ‘karang kala’ with large, bulging eyes and a row of sharp upper teeth. Similar forms are found over the gateways of Balinese temples and represent the face of the demonic deity Boma (the son of God Wisnu and the goddess of the earth, Ibu Pertiwi) whose presence keeps malicious spirits away from temples and other unpolluted spaces.


  • Songket - is hand-woven in silk or cotton, combined with gold or silver threads. Inserting the metallic threads between the silk or cotton weft (horizontal) is known as a supplementary weft weaving. The metallic threads stand out against the background cloth to create an impression of embossing, thus songket is broadly classed as brocade – an embossed cloth.