Ceremonial Textile (Tampan)

Lampung people

Not on view

Indonesia’s long history of maritime trade and the immense wealth that it brought are embodied in the remarkable textiles of the Lampung region of southern Sumatra. Lampung is situated on the western side of the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra and has been a vital trade route since ancient times. The region is known for its black pepper, which historically was highly valued in the spice trade ad is still produced there today. The cosmopolitan influences resulting from Lampung’s strategic location are evident in its ritual textiles. The two most abundant types are tampan and palepai which incorporate imagery that predominantly depicts stylized ships, outside Indonesia, these are often referred to collectively as ‘ships cloths’. These four high-quality Lampung textiles tampan significantly enhance our holdings in this area, adding important depth to the current collection of textiles from the region. All four of these textiles are in excellent condition, expertly executed in bold red or tan against a natural background, they retain a depth of color that animates their lively designs.

Of all Lampung cloths, tampan enjoy the widest range of ceremonial use. They are owned by almost every family, and function at the ritual heart of the community. Small, roughly square textiles, they are used and exchanged by both the region’s hereditary nobility and commoners at all major transitions in life (or rites of passage) - from the birth and naming of a child to marriages and mortuary rituals. In these ceremonies, tampan often accumulated into large numbers, are employed in a great diversity of ways, ranging from wrapping ritually prepared food to being stacked in a pile to serve as a pillow for the deceased.

The ships portrayed on Lampung textiles are large sailing crafts, their design and composition often inspired by the constructed elements of trading vessels that once plied the Sunda Strait. Typically, the ships are highly stylized and appear in cross section, divided into a complex series of interior cabins in which humans and a variety of creatures, animals and birds, sometimes realistic, sometimes fanciful, engage in a variety of activities. Compared to the ships depicted on the more formal cloths known as palepai, the ships on tampan are usually rendered more realistically, with distinct bows and sterns and a great level of internal detail.

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