Man’s shoulder or hip cloth (Hinggi)

Sumba Island

Not on view

The islands of Indonesia have always been at the crossroads of cultural interaction and commerce and this long history of exchange is reflected strongly in this genre of Indonesian textiles, or hinggi. Impressive works such as this hinggi (man’s shoulder or hip cloth) were prestige garments used as formal attire by Sumba men at important events and ceremonies. Worn in matched sets, one around the hips and a second around the shoulders, cotton dyed hinggi were also an indispensable component of ceremonial gift exchange. In addition to their decorative quality, hinggi reflect the social and religious life of the community, while also validating and confirming royal wealth, privilege and power. In general, indigenous motifs include ancestor figures, iconography relating to the skull trees which were associated with the capture of neighboring enemies and a lively range of creatures relating to the realms of land, sea, and sky. In addition, foreign symbols of authority and power -- such as elephants, roosters, flags, crowns, lions and Dutch heraldic figures taken from coinage -- are also frequently incorporated. This particular example, thought to be from the collection of the Rajah Pao, blends indigenous and foreign imagery in particularly novel and striking ways.

Complex iconography, a painterly ikat weaving style and deep saturation of color are all aspects which attest to the quality of textile works from Sumba, a small island in south-central Indonesia. The range and variety of motifs depicted on this hinggi are exceptional. Their rich diversity suggests that this textile may well be a sampler, showcasing the skill and virtuosity of the weaver as well as a detailed selection of available iconography. The plethora of images relating to royal insignia suggests that it may well have belonged in the royal collection of the Rajah Pao. Since crowns, flags and heraldic insignia were equally to the taste of visiting Dutch colonial traders, this textile may well have been produced in response to the particular aesthetic sensibilities of the market.

No image available

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.