WASHINGTON, DC.- Textiles for This World and Beyond: Treasures from Insular Southeast Asia is on view at The Textile Museum through September 18, 2005. The exhibition, which includes more than 60 objects, explores the role that textiles play in Indonesian and Malaysian daily life, and how textiles are used in ceremonies to maintain harmonious relationships with the deceased or the gods. This will be the first exhibition of a group of 19th- to early 20th-century Southeast Asian textiles acquired by The Textile Museum in the last 25 years. Many of the textiles have never been exhibited at The Textile Museum or elsewhere in the United States. The exhibition will also include 30 carved and painted wooden figurines that illustrate early 20th-century Javanese costume.
Exhibition Themes - Long before Islam and Christianity were established in the islands of Southeast Asia, the people who settled the area had developed a philosophy for existence in a highly unpredictable world. Textiles play an important part in many of these beliefs and customs which are followed to this day. Fundamental to these beliefs is the need for balance between the cosmic forces, the ancestors, and the spirits that govern sickness and death. The use of adat, a system of ethnically distinct customs or laws, provides the guidelines to maintain the necessary equilibrium, and textiles are central to the proper functioning of adat. As such, in Southeast Asian cultures, textiles can illustrate membership in a particular ethnic group, class standing, or the transition that takes place at important life ceremonies such as marriage.