Wearing Wealth and Styling Identity: Tapis from Lampung, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Located between the two maritime routes connecing East and West Asia, Sumatra, the fabled Isle of Gold, was for centuries the source for much of the world's pepper. In the southern tip of Sumatra, the peoples of Lampung, or "Pepperland," poured the profits of their trade into ceremonial materials and adornments. The ornate tubular sarongs known as tapis were hand-woven from cotton and silk threads, colored with ancestral dye recipes, embellished with gold- and silver-wrapped threads, embroidered with silk or pineapple fiber threads, and appliqued with mirrors and mica. These sumptuous garments communicated a family's global contacts, social station, and clan identity. Mary-Louise Totton writes about the history, materials and techniques, content and imagery, and present-day contexts of these extraordinary textiles.