Zone of Attraction: Indonesian Textiles from the Permanent Collection
Selections from the Museum’s permanent collection offer an investigation into Indonesia’s acculturation of pan-Asian textile and clothing traditions. Due to centuries of influence from India, China, and Europe, as well as the impact of trade, migration, and religion, Indonesia has one of Asia’s richest and most distinctive textile legacies. Examples from Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and other locations illustrate the nation’s textile panoply and its significance within the society’s rites and rituals and across its gender and hierarchical lines.
The Indonesian archipelago straddles the Indian and Pacific Oceans-a geographic fact that has contributed to creating one of the most complex and varied textile cultures in the world today. Not only is there extensive multiculturalism within the republic’s thousands of islands, these islands sit at a crossroads of trade among many other countries as well. “Zone of Attraction” presents a diverse range of Indonesian textile arts that collectively speak to this rich cultural past and present.
Each Indonesian island and region is unique in topography and climate: there are highlands, fertile tropics, inviting ports, and a host of distinctive plants and spices. Religious migration, maritime exploration, and mercantile activity beginning in the 8th century BCE have led Indonesia to become a culture of more than three hundred ethnicities and a wealth of spiritual beliefs. All of these factors have affected the making and use of cloth. Techniques such as batik, embroidery, ikat, supplementary patterning, and gilding, for example, reflect the influx of foreign contacts and assimilation.
Since the Age of Discovery, when centers for trade were established along the northern coasts of Sumatra and Java, Indonesia has been a vital junction in the global marketplace. Its history of transmigration and cultural transformation, aligned with that of the Silk Road across Asia, is suggested in the variety of techniques and aesthetics exhibited here, many deriving from India, Japan, China, the Middle East, and Europe. Sometimes the iconography and range of materials-gold, silk, cotton, shells, and mica among them-reflect indigenous ceremonial or social exchange, while at other times indicate a more recent catalyst for textile production in the region: the tourist market.