An image of Cloth with Islamic calligraphy (kain kaligrafi) and three central medallions

Unknown Artist

Cloth with Islamic calligraphy (kain kaligrafi) and three central medallions

Not on display
Further information

This object features forms of Islamic expression unique to Southeast Asia that illustrate the combination of Islamic teachings with local customs and material culture. When Islam was introduced to Southeast Asia it was quickly incorporated into existing religious and cultural practices. At the same time, aspects of earlier cultural forms were employed to express Islamic ideas. Calligraphy is central to Islamic art and as calligraphers applied their skills to different materials and surfaces they found a means to express the word of God, to write poetry, to tell stories and to decorate architecture and objects of daily use. So, where Islamic calligraphy appears in Indonesian textile design its inclusion can have multiple purposes. The text may be an Islamic prayer and also appeal to local belief in the protective nature of talismanic cloths. The designs and illustrations that accompany the text frequently express local interpretations of Islam. Like most textiles from Indonesia the work was produced by women. After the calligraphy was executed in hot wax the cloth was dyed and the wax was boiled out, leaving the stylised Arabic letters beautifully articulated in white on a blue background.

Place of origin
Java, Indonesia
early 20th century
cotton, dyes; batik
94.0 x 220.0 cm
Gift of John Yu 2020
Accession number