Sunday, 13 November 2016

Balinese Silk Songket Hip Wrapper (Kamben)

Indonesia, Bali, Singaraja, 1900 -1920
Silk, silver-wrapped thread, supplementary weft weaving

An elegant rose silk women’s hip wrapper (kamben), woven in the principality of Singaraja in north Bali and decorated entirely in silver thread. The design is rhythmical and stately: paired foliated meanders extending the width of the textile hold a row of butterflies between them; mirroring birds, smaller than the butterflies, stand between the meanders. Lines of triangles combine to form rhombs at the seam joining the two panels along the selvedge. At each end, large elaborate tumpal (triangles) forma broad border.

Context: Songket, the supplementary weaving of silk, gold and silver thread in a pattern over the base cloth, is a distinctive and dramatic Balinese textile tradition closely associated with its old kingdoms and royal families. Dating back to the centralized kingdom of Gelgel in the 16th century, these textiles were intended for the grand gesture—public theatrical performances and ceremonial displays of wealth and status. Songket textiles were for centuries the prerogative and mark of distinction of the upper classes, and were woven by the women of the royal courts and upper castes—in the past, almost every member of a princely family know how to weave songket, but the tradition has now died out.

The textile is in very good condition other than a few small repairs, the most significant of which occur at one end (see images). The red has aged to an old rose, the silk is fine, densely woven, nubbly and slightly stiff, with a sandy hand. The supplementary silver thread is not as bright as it would have been, but still retains a glittering sparkle.

Length: 96 cm. Width: 155 cm.

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