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Every day the Balinese people make and present numerous offerings to their gods, ranging from elaborate tower-like constructions of fruit for large temple complexes, to simple combinations of flowers, incense, rice and snacks placed in house yard shrines and altars on roadsides, shops and public places. One of the most common objects seen accompanying these offerings are long rectangular shrine hangings lamak, which drape vertically down the front of a shrine or altar, with the top section folded over or attached to the shelf of the shrine as an underlay for the offerings.

The lamak itself is like a seat or a mat placed out for the gods, and once a shrine or altar has been decorated with a lamak the gods will know that they have been invited to attend. In this way lamak serve as a bridge between this world and the upper world, enabling the gods and ancestors to descend to the realm of humans and enjoy the offerings in the shrine. Although often made from fresh palm leaves or coconut palm that will decompose over time, more permanent versions of the hangings are made from textiles.

The hourglass form of a female figure, known as cili, is the archetypal image frequently represented on lamak. She is typically depicted with a body consisting of a pair of inverted triangles, long arms bent upwards from the elbows or down to the ground and a fan-shaped headdress [E097496]. The cili figure is associated with Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice, agriculture and fertility and is accompanied by geometric patterns representing mountains, plants, flowers, seeds, the sun, moon and the cosmos. Sometimes lamak feature well known figures from the epic narratives [E097499].

The women who make these textiles demonstrate great creativity in the materials, designs and techniques they use. Until the mid-20th century the textile lamak were predominantly woven on looms, creating delicate pieces with cotton, silk, and metal threads with beaded fringes made from glass beads [E097495]. These have largely been superseded by longer cloths with more dramatic colour combinations, produced using appliqué, embroidery, couchwork, painting and silkscreen techniques with materials like felt cloth, ribbon, sequins and mirrors [E097504].


  • Appliqué – a method and product of forming ornamental patterns by attaching, typically by sewing, smaller pieces of fabric onto a larger canvas.
  • Couchwork - stitching cords, yarns, and other fibres, in a variety of ways, to the surface of a fabric to add colour and texture.
  • Embroidery – forming a pattern on the fabric by applying thread or yarn with a needle, it could include other materials such as beads, quills, and sequins.
  • Sequins – usually small, coloured metal (or imitation) pieces with a hole in the middle sewn into garments as decoration, have their origin in ancient customs of sewing coins into clothing, as in ancient Egypt and India.
  • Silkscreen printing - a technique where a mesh (of various materials) is used as a ‘stencil’ to transfer ink or dye onto a fabric (or paper) – design on the screen is formed by blocking selected areas that prevent the ink to go through.