Ceremonial hanging (palepai)

Ship cloth

Indonesian (Sumatran)
Dutch colonial rule
mid-19th century

Object Place: Southern Sumatra (Lampong region), Indonesia


Overall: 73.7 x 382.3 cm (29 x 150 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Cotton plain-weave ground with cotton discontinuous supplementary patterning wefts

Not On View


Asia, Textiles and Fashion Arts



Long, rectangular cotton cloth with design elements created by discontinuous supplementary weft patterning; primary design is of a pair of red ships with arching bow and stern, hulls decorated with yellow, blue, white spots and medallions, three architectural enclosures or shrines on deck which enclose human figures, leopards and buffalo, a single row of human and animal figures below deck; background motifs include fish and umbrellas.

Palepai, or ship cloths, are ritual textiles which represent a belief in the concept of a “ship of the dead,” that would carry souls away to the afterlife. Palepai were traditionally displayed at rite of passage ceremonies.


By 1980, in the collection of the Martin and Ullman Artweave Textile Gallery, New York; purchased from Artweave Gallery by the MFA (Accession date: April 16, 1980)

Credit Line

William E. Nickerson Fund