In Madagascar, hand woven silk and cotton textiles remain potent symbols of authority, wealth, status and identity. Textiles play a prominent role in ceremonies, particularly in rural areas, and serve as a sign of respect for local, ancestral custom. Cloths of this style and complexity are known as "great cloths." They are woven for multiple uses by the family. They may be worn by men for official oratory; worn by the bride or groom of the family for a wedding ceremony; or they may be used as a curtain to shield the coffin of older, more important family members. Cloth is kept and handed down within families. It is considered an ancestral object and worn by elders as a sign of authority.
This mulberry silk cloth was made from two panels, which were then sewn together. The orange, black, reddish and dark brown colors in the stripes were all made from natural dyes, but the green pigment is chemically derived. Imported cotton was used for the weft float design that embellishes the ends of the cloth.
Two-panel silk striped cloth composed of brown, orange, green, black, white and reddish brown stripes interspersed with narrower black, light and dark brown, and white stripes. White cotton weft float pattern located along both borders of the cloth composed of horizontal bands of cross-shaped designs that frame a broader central band of interlocking diamond patterns. The border edges are hemmed.