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These long, rectangular cloths ‘lamak’ are designed to drape vertically down the front of a temple shrine or altar, with the top section folded over or attached to the shelf of the shrine as an underlay for offerings. Hangings like this are typically made from fresh palm leaves or coconut palm, and feature combinations of geometric patterns ‘ringgitan’ and representational motifs ‘raka’. Cloth varieties are made using different techniques, including songket, embroidery, screen printing and appliqué. This appliqué pair dates to the mid-twentieth century and is probably from the Tabanan area in West Bali, similar to another lamak acquired in 1976 from the same area [E074106].
These textiles have been made on a white cotton base cloth - coloured felt has been cut into shapes then attached with small stitches using white cotton thread (and possibly machine sewn in parts), then decorated with silver thread couchwork, sequins and pieces of mirror. The upper sections of both cloths feature the hourglass female form of the cili, one of the most common motifs associated with lamak, a symbol representing human life and a symbol of life and fertility. The cili is often associated with the goddess of rice and fertility Dewi Sri.
One of these cloths [E097503] features a pair of cili figures and the other [E097504] a single figure. It may be that the cloth with the cili pair was made as part of a wedding ceremony to hang in front of a house where a marriage had taken place. Their long, elongated bodies are dressed in an upright headdress made of orange, green and pink felt strips, round ear ornaments ‘subeng’ and skirts decorated with sequins. The arms of the single figure are bent upwards from the elbows, as are the outer arms of the pair though their inner arms are joined at the elbow. The pair is identical apart from different coloured felt in the patterns of their skirts.
Beneath the cili figures on both cloths is a large square panel consisting of bands of alternating colours around a mirror disc in the centre. When placed at the top of a cloth this motif is known as ibu, referring to Mother Earth ‘Ibu Pertiwi’, but when placed in the middle it is referred to as an enclosed building ‘gedong’. This is the type of building in which husband and wife sleep and the traditional place for giving birth. In temple settings, sacred objects are often kept in enclosed rooms. Below the squares are the geometric motifs representing plants, flowers, and seeds. The decoration at the very bottom consists of rows of diamonds.
- Appliqué – a method and product of forming ornamental patterns by attaching, typically by sewing, smaller pieces of fabric onto a larger canvas.
- Couchwork - is stitching cords, yarns, and other fibres, in a variety of ways, to the surface of fabric to add colour and texture.
- 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.
- Silkscreen printing - is 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 which block the ink to go through.
- Songket - is hand-woven in silk or cotton, combined with gold or silver threads. Inserting the metallic threads between the silk or cotton weft (latitudinal) 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.