Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1901 Sumba warrior 
Culture: Sumbanese
Setting: Sumba late 18th - early 19c

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Keane 1987 p41-42
"Before this century, Sumba's main resources (primarily horses, a dwindling supply of sandalwood, and slaves) attracted only sporadic, if occasionally violent, intervention from the outside.  Until the Dutch suppressed the local interisland slave trade at the turn of the twentieth century, the northern coasts were especially vulnerable to periodic raids from neighboring islands.  Seafaring Muslims from neighboring islands supplied markets in Bali, Java, and points beyond with slaves from Sumba, and present-day Anakalangese remember hearing of the climate of fear during the dry season.  The combination of slave trading and cattle raiding kept the fires of local warfare continually stoked.
    "Until the beginning of this century, the interior of Sumba was reputed to be a place of continual warfare, leading one early report to claim that 'there is no other rule on Sumba than the rule of the strongest.'  In addition to suffering slave raids by outsiders, precolonial Anakalangese themselves raided and took heads.  Raids were spontaneous forays bent on taking cattle or gold or wreaking vengeance and seem to have involved more bluster than bloodshed.  In contrast, headhunting, although also a form of revenge, operated within a ritual frame that was opened with formal oratory and concluded when the head was hung on an altar in the center of the village, a ritual incorporation similar to harvest rites.  Because of the possibility of violence, early Dutch attempting to explore west Sumba failed to make it to Anakalang and a generation later east Sumbanese guides were still afraid to enter.  Direct Dutch intervention in Sumba came only in their final push to consolidate their colonial holdings to the margins of the archipelago.  The first posts in interior west Sumba were established in 1908, although periodic flare-ups kept west Sumba under military rule until 1933.  Under the policy of indirect rule, around 1913 the Dutch began to set up a system of local rulers, known by present-day Sumbanese as 'kings' (Indo. raja).  In west Sumba, however, these rulers had almost no legitimacy and were little respected by the Dutch, at least at first."  [references omitted]

* Power and gold 1988 p

​* Draeger 1972 p

Jewelry (Mamuli, Marangga, Mendaka)

* Dallas Museum of Art > Pacific Islands
"The island of Sumba is a mere 190 miles long, yet its eastern and western halves offer dramatic geographic and cultural contrasts.  West Sumba is mountainous, with heavy forests and enough rainfall for farming.  East Sumba, a region of rolling hills and savannahs, is drier and less prosperous agriculturally.  West Sumba is ethnically diverse, with ten regional languages; its social systems are competitive and achievement-oriented.  East Sumba is ethnically unified and has only one language; its distinct social classes once encompassed noble families, free commoners, and slaves.
    "Gold ornaments are important in both areas, but only East Sumba has produced the elaborately decorated textiles for which the island is famous.  Prestigious objects, both locally made and imported, became sacred house treasures, which were stored in the upper reaches of the tall peaked roofs of Sumba's ancestral houses.
    "Traditional beliefs focus strongly on dualism, on the balance of complementary elements: male and female, light and dark, old and young, living and dead.  Human beings cannot communicate directly with divine spirits, but intermediaries serve as bridges between the human and spiritual realms.  The ancestral spirits who own the house treasures -- gold ornaments, textiles, and tortoiseshell combs like those on display -- stand between human beings and deities.  The priest mediates between the raja and the ancestral spirits, often contacting the spirits through the gold objects.
    "The quintessential Sumbanese ritual is the elaborately structured exchange of valuables that accompanies weddings, funerals, feasts, and the transfer of land or property.  Heirloom textiles and jewelry are displayed on these occasions, ancestral spirits are addressed, and sacrifices are offered to secure their blessings.  Textiles and metalwork, especially gold ornaments, were indispensable components in the exchange, metal being the male element in this complementary male-female system, and textiles being the female counterpart."

* Keane 1987 p247 n11
"Chains, from one to several feet long, are of copper (lolu amahu), silver (balaku lolungu), and gold (kanatar).  Other metal valuables are horn-shaped làba, crescent tabelu, circular wula, sproutlike ladu, flat twisted maraga and scalloped lumps called madàka, and the omega-shaped mamuli.  The best-quality mamuli, and sometimes maraga, tabelu, and wula, can be worn as a sort of brooch by male or female dancers on ceremonial occasions.  Even more rarely, various gold valuables may be worn by ratus during important rituals."

* Power and gold 1988 p


* van Zonneveld 2001 p

* Draeger 1972 p


* Draeger 1972 p

* Benitez/Barbier 2000 p

* van Zonneveld 2001 p


* A passion for Indonesian art 1996 p92-94
"With their bold, often strikingly realistic motifs, Sumbanese cloths are among the best-known Indonesian textiles. Weaving is mainly concentrated in the eastern part of Sumba where the weaving and use of patterned textiles was traditionally reserved for the nobility. The great demand for textiles (including from the Netherlands) gave rise to an intensive production of textiles. Many cloths were made for export, which affected the choice of designs and the quality of the ikat work. But alongside these, textiles were produced for local Sumbanese use and these cloths, which had to match up to traditional standards, were woven with great care. Large quantities of cloths were exchanged for agricultural produce with the population of the interior, where the adat (customary law) prohibited application of the ikat process. Textiles were also exchanged in certain ceremonies, such as marriages. The family of the 'bride-givers' exchanged textiles for other goods with the family of the 'bride-takers'. This sort of ritual exchange of 'female' for 'male' objects is widespread throughout the Indonesian culture area. The ritual textiles were the hinggi and the lau, the first worn by men, the latter by women.
    "A hinggi is a man's shoulder or hip cloth. Identical pairs of these cloths are worn, one around the hips, the other around the shoulders. These lavishly decorated textiles are not only important in life but, after the death of a person of rank, the corpse is dressed in the finest textiles and then covered with a large array of cloths. As many as 200 cloths accompany a ruler to his grave. The colouring and motifs of the hinggi indicate status. The cloths of the nobility incorporate blue, red and brown motifs. Motifs borrowed from Indian patola, the so-called patola ratu, are reserved for persons of the highest rank."

* Geary/Xatart 2007 p223-226
"The most striking Sumba textiles may be the hinggi, made for both common and elite men, who wear one around the waist and another over the shoulder.  Ordinary cloths for commoners move through one dye bath, producing white patterns on an indigo background, while cloths for wealthy men undergo a second process that adds red to the color scheme.  These prestigious hinggi -- more common in the eastern part of the island -- display representational motifs arranged in registers, among them mythic creatures such as dragons and heraldic elements such as the lion, inspired by Dutch imagery."

* Dallas Museum of Art > Pacific Islands
"Hinggi were worn on ceremonial occasions, given as gifts of prestige and exchange, and most lavishly used as burial shrouds.  A royal corpse could sometimes be wrapped in as many as one hundred or more blankets, and lay in state for many years before secondary or final burial."

* Early Indonesian textiles 1989 p