Indian Textiles for Island Taste: Cloth in Early Indian Ocean Trade

Curator talk with Dr. Ruth Barnes, Yale University Art Gallery. Please note: the time indicated refers to EST (Eastern Standard Time, GMT -4).

Shoulder Cloth (Limar). Silk and gold thread; supplementary weft ikat. Yale University Art Gallery. Photo Credit: Christopher Gardner

In this session, Dr. Ruth Barnes (Thomas Jaffe Curator of Indo-Pacific Art, Yale University Art Gallery) introduces the Indian textile trade to Southeast Asia, with a specific emphasis on Indonesia. Key textiles from the Indo-Pacific Department at the Yale University Art Gallery—the earliest of which trace back to the 14th century—will be discussed in detail. These cloths were much in demand in maritime Southeast Asia, and became an essential part of the exchange for the islands’ spices and precious sandalwood. After their acquisition, the textiles were integrated into court and village societies, often becoming part of various ceremonies and rituals. As it will be shown, they also had a formative impact on local aesthetics and designs.

This event is part of Temple Cultures & Premodern Worlds across South Asia and the Indian Ocean, an inter-disciplinary conference presenting new research on Brahmanical, Buddhist, Islamic, and Jain built spaces as well as their intersections and interstices—in South and Southeast Asia. With a focus on the premodern period, papers conceive of “temple” in the broadest possible terms, to encompass basadi, chaitya, masjid, and prasada. The range of themes include: issues of temple spaces as material and cultural palimpsests, cross-fertilizations across architectural and cosmological models, problems of access to temple spaces, the role of esoteric religious practices in activating temple environments, the imaginative resources of temple sculptors, temple rituals and ritual objects, access to food, shelter, and even alcohol in quotidian temple life, and the long-distance land and maritime networks that sustained temples. In addressing these dimensions, scholars reanalyze current categories for understanding temple cultures, reassess the state of the field, and indicate developing fields of inquiry.

Please note: the time indicated refers to EST (Eastern Standard Time, GMT -4). Further details are available on the event page.

The event is supported by the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institute and the Yale Macmillan Center South Asian Studies Council.

The conference is open to the public upon previous registration. For more information and to register, please visit the conference website or contact Lara Scaiola (Research Assistant) at


Event poster


Yale Macmillan Center South Asian Studies Council

15 September 2021, 9:00am

Online event.

Please find the registration form here


This event will be documented photographically and/or recorded on video. Please let us know if you do not agree with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz using images in which you might be recognizable for event documentation and public relation purposes (e.g. social media).


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