The cepuk is a sacred Balinese cloth filled with ritual power. The structure, motifs and predominance of red dye in cepuk cloths link them visually to Indian trade cloths, which were traded on Balinese shores from the 16th century and were also believed to have sacred ritual power. The patola-like ikat motifs on this textile depict sandalwood flowers in a swirl of white and indigo against red.
Traditionally, cepuk cloths are worn as protective covering by dancers performing the role of Rangda, the Balinese embodiment of black magic and the cosmic opposite of Barong, the sacred force for good. This dance between forces is a classic iteration of the central Balinese belief in dualism, with Rangda and Barong upholding a dynamic balance of positive and negative energy. The borders of the cepuk cloth echo this belief by turning the cepuk into a vessel that contains and balances the powerful energy held within it.
Given their protective, even exorcistic qualities, cepuk are also used in events marking rites of passage such as birth, puberty and death ceremonies, where danger is most likely to lurk in the shadows. They may be used as offerings to decorate the temple, as coverings or worn by men or women of nobility. Before cremation, the cepuk acts as a shroud to cover the body; the Balinese believe that doing so ensures the spirit of the deceased will successfully complete its journey to its next incarnation.
Weft ikat, single panel, commercial cotton, natural dyes. Tyed and woven by Ni Gede Diari, dyed by Ngurah Hendrawan, in Nusa Penida, Bali, 2019.
244 x 78 cm / 96 x 30.5 in