Walk in Splendor: Ceremonial Dress and the Minangkabau

SUMMERFIELD, Anne and John (eds. 1999). Walk in Splendor: Ceremonial Dress and the Minangkabau, Los Angeles: Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA. ISBN 978-0930741723, hardback, fully illustrated with colour photographs, glossary and extensive bibliography, pp. 368. USD 85.

This is an ethnographical study with textiles as a central focus. The Minangkabau are a large matrilineal society in West Sumatra. Their ceremonial textiles were relatively unknown until the 1990s, with the few examples outside Indonesia mostly found in Dutch museums. These textiles, with detailed geometric motifs worked in silver and gold thread on a silk background, are now highly prized. This is rightly so, as the lavish colour photographs in this book show.

This book, with contributions by thirteen researchers, is divided into three sections. The first section introduces Minangkabau culture and ceremonies. The second part is devoted solely to the ceremonial textiles. There are chapters on motifs and their meanings, often proverbs about good behaviour; separate chapters on women’s and men’s ceremonial dress; fibers and patterning techniques; and lastly an examination of metallic threads used in these textiles. The last section of the book looks at related ceremonial arts, such as jewellery, dance, food, architecture, and the proverbs themselves. There is an extensive bibliography and glossary.

Recommendation: This book puts textiles in context and shows the importance of textiles in fostering and preserving a people’s history and culture. It will be of interest to curators and collectors of Indonesian textiles and to academic researchers in this field.

Shelley Anderson

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