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Art and craft
Silk, iron, bamboo and gold

Sulawesi's pieces of art are almost all made by hand: from the huge wooden ships, which look like Noah's Arc, to the very refined earrings which can be found in the Makassar street of gold; from the classically designed ikat fabrics from Galumpang to the simple rattan ricebaskets in Toraja. Just like elsewhere in Indonesia are fabric, metal, wood and bamboo the most important materials.

Refined silk

Sulawesi is known for it's two very different fabrics: the fine silk from the south - sometimes so fine that you can get it through a golden ring - and the magnificent, heavy ikats from Rongkong and Galumpang.
Silk is made into sarongs by the woman from South-Sulawesi for centuries. Nowadays Sopeng is the center of the silk-culture, due to a project which was started by Japanese help in the 1970's. Much of the most fine silk threat is still being imported.
The bright colors of the modern Buginese fabrics are very remarkable: organisations of dark colors, blue, green, purple, yellow, in fact every imaginable color. Sometimes you will find a remarkable silk fabric, with ivory-colored squares with thin lines.

In Mandar, which produces the most refined silk in the archipelago, have characteristic designs in small squares, and colors are often more sober than the work of the Buginese: dark red, brown and indigo. As well as among the Buginese the natural dyes have been replaced by aniline, which are much more easy to produce. The Buginese as well as the Mandarese society doesn't only see sarongs as desired clothing for man and woman, but also as sign for wealth and status. In the last, special designs were reserved to nobility.
Silk is not the fabric for the daily life; silk sarongs are normally only worn at weddings, islamic days and sometimes during the Friday prayer in the mosque. It's not uncommon in South-Sulawesi to see a well-dressed couple passing by on a motorbike, dressed in astonishing silk which is in one way or another insentitive for the dust on the road.
All fabrics are made by women. The process is complicated, and the work is heavy. At the other hand, it can be done at home, and people can stop at any moment; weaving is put away in a few seconds. In parts of Mandar, almost every woman wove silk and cotton a century ago. Nowadays it's more rare: other work brings in more money. Above all it's, like elsewhere in Indonesia, possible to buy clothes, ready to wear.

Wealthy ikats

In contrary to silk, mainly used for clothing, the cotton ikat-fabrics were made for ceremonial carpets and deathcloths. Ikat, 'tieing together', means that the pattern in put in the threads before they are being painted. The knitted parts are covered with a fibre which resists pains and the design of the fabric becomes visible.
The magnificent ikats from the river valleys of Rongkong and Galumpang, also traded in in other parts of Sulawesi, were originally used as deathcloths. They were used as funeral banners in southern Tana Toraja. Ronkong as well as Galumpang were destroyed in the guerrilla-war from 1951 until 1964, but many of the fabrics were kept in other areas. Nowadays you can see those kind of fabrics in shops in Rantepao and Makassar because the local residents, encouraged by the high prices, sell their once precious family heirlooms. A number of spectacular examples of 19th century fabrics is still kept: this textile 'radiates power' by it's monumental ision, refined work and it's 'warm, orange glow, which looks like that of slacks on a ironworks fire'.


In the Indonesian rituals, fabrics and metal are often related; fabrics are asociated with women, metal with men. In the part decoration, amulets and little statues of copper were made in Central-Sulawesi. Nowadays the people don't know this art anymore. Metal processing still happens in Tana Toraja, where a number of ironsmiths still performs the job with the help of the traditional 'Malay bellows'. A pair of connected bamboo pipes is ignited from the bottom; the smith is on top and blows the pair of bellows with several valves, which have chicken feathers at the end. Iron has a special historical meaning in this area: niccle-rich iron ore from Malili probably was the base for the scale of the kingdom of Luwu'.
Elegant silver sirih-boxes from the 18th and 19th century and the fine silver caming which are worn by young girls, are still available to buy in the gold-and silver shops along Jl. Somba Opu in Makassar, aThe craftsmanship is excellent.
Gold, most valued of all metals, is used in poems as the highest product. Village women wear it whenever it's possible; in the past this was only for the nobility. Earlier, gold was often mixed with equal parts of silver. Modern copies in silver from Kendari can be bought in Jl. Somba Opu; refined earrings, hair pins and bracelets in gold or silver.

Bamboo and making baskets

Bamboo is used for storade and transport everywhere. They vary from a just chopped green piece of bamboo full with foaming tuak to a blackened tobacco pot, decorated with fine bamboo works and a hand-cut wooden top.
Baskets are made everywhere, but the best come from Tana Toraja. Women wear the traditional Toraja-basket, the bamboo-baka, with a woven belt around the head; the basket is supported by the back. Another 'classical thing' is the cone-shaped bamboo hat of the Toraja woman. Very fine woven and a wanted souvenir as well.

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