Woman’s Skirt (Lawo Butu)
Ngada, Ngadha people, Bomari village, Lesser Sunda Island, Central Flores, Indonesia
19th / early 20th century
Homespun cotton, glass beads, shell, and metal
68 1/2” x 31 1/4”
Lawo butu are the the rarest, most highly prized and the sacred textile par excellence of the Ngada people. They were worn only by aristocratic women. The skirts were named, associated with noble lineages, and used during life cycle ceremonies -- and for insuring the success of a new structure, to create rain and promote fertility. The beading depicts united sun symbols, roosters, and ancestors. The deep orange colored beads (mutisala) are pre-European and said to come from India prior to the 16th century. Formerly, these beads were used as currency in dowry exchanges to purchase wives and animals for ritual slaughter. This is one of the first examples to ever come out of the field, the beading is original to the skirt (some strands have been retacked and conserved). It is one of the finest known.
Inventory # 102624