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Ceremonial cloth (ma'a)

The muted colours of the design were achieved through the ancient art of natural dyeing, using plants such as madder root and indigo leaf. Indians mastered this art and supplied the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia with vividly patterned cottons. The costume of the dancers here is a catalogue of chintz-patterned cotton.

Where was this textile created?

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Sacred Dancers

Ceremonial cloth (ma'a)
Asia: South Asia, India, Western India, Gujarat
16th century
Cotton, resist painted and block printed
500 cm x 98 cm
From the Opekar/Webster Collection
T94.0825 Textile Museum of Canada

The dancing figures in this banner, or ma’a, are rendered in the style of figures in 16th century Jain temple paintings. This banner was made in India, probably on the Coromandel Coast, which for many centuries was a centre for expert production of dyed cottons known as chintzes. The banner was made for the southeast Asian market, specifically Sulawesi, Indonesia.

This is a prized textile because it narrates with elegance: dancers clothed in beautiful patterned fabrics dance across the central field to music provided by a pair of musicians seated on the right. The landscape contains elephants, ducks and a profusion of leafy vines. The small arches below, and lintels above (tied with waving ribbons), suggest architectural elements.

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