Lampung is a vast territory that lies below Palembang at the southernmost tip of Sumatra.

 
 

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

It is inhabited by three varied, interrelated groups, the Abung in the west, the Pubian in a small central corridor, and the coastal dwelling Paminggir people. The material culture and art history of Lampung's past are only partially understood. What survives reflects a sophisticated, syncretic mosaic of historical resonances drawn from ancient concepts, Buddhism, Hinduism, and courtly Islamic culture.  Lampung was famous for its prominent role in the pepper trade, which was quite prosperous at its height. International and inter-island maritime trade is reflected in the region's surviving artistic motifs as Lampung was once situated at the crossroads of powerful socio-historical currents.

 
 
 

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

In the interior, headhunting played a seminal role in traditional status-raising ceremonies and was practiced into the 19th century. While vestiges of this warrior past still linger on in dances, the practice of headhunting eventually ceased with Dutch colonial hegemony and the area's conversion to Islam. Echoes of pre-Islamic times are represented in textile motifs that hark back to a past when the inhabitants of Lampung created unusual structures supported on a single large post (rumah pojang). These structures were used to house sacred items, fashioned ancestral statues, and other figurative ritual objects.

Surprisingly, a remarkably large number of textiles have survived from Lampung's rich past despite their relative fragility. The boldest of these heirloom cloths are the iconic long banners (palepai) that,at times, depict large ships bearing an array of human and animal figures in stacked hierarchies, flanked by sacred trees. Palepai mirror Lampung aristocrats' preoccupations with status and grandeur. Tapis, the sumptuous wedding sarongs of aristocratic women, were created in a broad array of styles, implementing various techniques.

 
 
 

© University of Groningen | The Netherlands

In their finest renderings, tampan, the squarish cloths created with the same supplementary weft technique as palepai, portray elegant, condensed cosmograms. Rare pyrographically incised, split-bamboo mats (lampit) feature powerful mandala-like designs. All of these creations were accouterments of courtly observances and ritual exchanges, serving as ‘witnesses' to events involving social prestige and in ceremonies pertaining to rites of passage.

At the heart of the Lampung cultural complex was the papadon, a series of feast celebrations where rank and status increased as new titles and privileges were bestowed on the feast-giver and his family. The papadon involved lavish exchanges of material wealth, during which a noble symbolically ascended to a new, more elevated state. Ritual seats, sesako, were carved in wood, and in some instances, stone. Extraordinary wooden conveyances, resembling large floats, were built for these occasions in the form of hornbills, mythical beasts, or boats. Only fragments of these ritual vehicles now survive.

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

 
 
 

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

Masterworks of Lampung heritage arts are found in the collections of numerous institutions including the Museum Nasional Indonesia, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Musée du Quai-Branly, The Metropolitan Museum, The Dallas Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, South Australian Museum, and National Gallery of Australia.

Valuable scholarly approaches to the material culture of Lampung are detailed in the writings of Mattiebelle Gittinger, Nico de Jonge, Robert Holmgren and Anita Spertus, and Mary-Louise Totten.

 
 

Ceremonial Banner Cloth | Palepai
© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

Woman's Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Seat | Sesako
© Art Gallery of South Australia

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Banner Cloth | Palepai
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

Ceremonial Seat | Sesako
© Museum Nasional Indonesia

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Seat | Sesako
© National Gallery of Australia

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Ceremonial Banner Cloth | Palepai
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston | Massachusetts, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Beaded Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan Maju
© Museum Nasional Indonesia

Ceremonial Cloth | Tampan
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art | New York, USA

Back Rest of Ceremonial Seat | Sesako
© Musée du Quai-Branly | France

Ceremonial Split Rattan Mat | Lampit
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Head of a Hornbill from a Ceremonial Chariot or Conveyance | Rata
© National Gallery of Australia

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis Inu
© Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen | The Netherlands

Ceremonial Banner Cloth | Palepai
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis Inu
© The Dallas Museum of Art | Texas, USA

Woman's Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis
© Yale University Art Gallery | Connecticut, USA

Woman’s Ceremonial Skirt | Tapis Inu
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art | New York, USA

Ceremonial Banner Cloth | Palepai
© Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum | New York, USA