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Cultural Group: Minangkabau peoples
Place of Origin: Padang Magek, West Sumatra Province, Indonesia
Date: 19th century
Materials Used: Silk, gold-wrapped thread
Dimensions: L: 267.0 cm, W: 84.5 cm (L: 105.1 in, W: 33.3 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Anne and John Summerfield. X97.50.69
History, religion, occupation, social and economic standing-these are some of the many factors that have differentiated the peoples of Kutch, India’s westernmost region, into numerous small groups. Although the caste system was officially outlawed with Indian independence in 1948, the Hindu population is still divided into occupational subgroups known as jati. Those who once fell outside the caste system entirely also have occupational specializations such as herding or leatherworking. Even Muslims, who reject the caste system, maintain hereditary occupations often as artisans or traders.
All of these groups have separate traditions of dress, providing instant clues about identity to those who are able to read them. To outsiders, however, these distinctions appear bewilderingly complex, as groups have continued to differentiate, to migrate, and to be more influenced by their neighbors than their distant kin.
This cultural diversity of Kutch is perhaps most visible in its rich embroidery traditions. In the mid-1970s Vickie C. Elson traveled to Kutch three times to collect textiles for the Fowler Museum. The examples on display here offer a tantalizing sample of the great beauty and diversity of the textile arts of the region.
Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006