Words of best wishes, Slamat Pakai, in Romanised Malay appear on one side of this pair of hangings. The greeting is frequently incorporated into the Malay textiles displayed at celebrations, and these cloths were probably created to enhance a wedding bed or throne.
While the end borders are characteristic of gold thread brocades produced for the Malay courts, the central design is inspired by Central Asian imagery and the realism of European art. Traditional Southeast Asian motifs – ships, birds and butterflies – appear alongside Islamic-inspired vases of flowers and floral sprays, and deer with pronounced antlers, European steamships and sailing craft. Some of the birds appear in the form of sari manok, with fish, chains or keys in their beaks. These mythical hybrid creatures, repeatedly depicted in many parts of Southeast Asia, are thought to act as heavenly conduits.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label