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This long narrow embroidered cloth was created as a valance to hang around the eaves of a temple or shrine It was made using an embroidery technique associated with the area of Negara, the capital of Jembrana district, in the west of Bali. This is a form of narrative art similar to the painted cloths produced in the village of Kamasan in East Bali, and they illustrate scenes and figures from the epics, though the embroideries usually depict the stories in less detail than the painted versions. They have a shared iconography with paintings, an iconography based on the forms of shadow puppets.
These types of embroidered cloths ‘kain sulaman’ appeared from the early 20th century as an alternative to the more intricate supplementary weft ‘songket’ versions, with cotton thread replacing metallic threads, and often a bright palette of colours. They are usually made by women, who stretch the cloth on a wooden frame then draw the motifs and figures onto the cloth with a pencil before embroidering using a chain stitch.
The scene depicted on this cloth is from the Ramayana, relating a scene prior to the abduction of Sita by Rawana. On the far left is the figure of a deer. This is in fact, Marica, one of Rawana’s demon retainers, who has been sent to lure Rama and his brother Laksamana away from where they are living in their forest exile. Laksamana is depicted next to the deer and Rama next to him. An ornamental fishpond – with a lotus bloom and fish -separates this ‘scene’ from the four figures on the right side of the cloth. These figures include a refined male figure and a demon, possibly Marica, separated from the next two figures by a pair of trees. The figure with a halo encircling the figure (worked in purple thread) is a deity, possibly Wisnu who is Rama’s incarnation, and another refined male sporting the clab-craw hairdo is depicted on the far right.
There is a row of triangles gigin barong’ along the lower horizontal border, which have protective qualities, and a row of linked diamonds along the top horizontal border. There has also been a fringe attached along the bottom edge of the cloth, only parts of which remain, constructed from pieces of cloth, cut and folded, then sewn to form bell-shaped appendages with small beads attached.
- Embroidery – is forming pattern on the fabric by applying thread or yarn with a needle, it could include other materials such as beads, quills, sequins.
- 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 threads) 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.
- Weft - the set of threads that are woven across the loom (or horizontal threads).