Rare set of four antique beaded dowry baskets. Lampung, South Sumatra
Hand beaded dowry baskets are family heirlooms, and a set of four, which fit perfectly inside each other like the famous Russian dolls, are very rare. All four baskets l feature the same design of flowers and butterflies, with the traditional shell trim on the edges and seed decorations on the corners and were obviously made by the same hand. The bskets nestsnugly uinside one another, The largest is 20 x 20 x 14 cm and the smallest 0 x 10 x 11 cm , or 8 x 8 x 5 1/2 inches and 4 x 4 x 4 1/2 inches
In South Sumatra, hand-beaded dowry baskets were a traditional gift from the groom's family to the bride and presented at the wedding as containers for jewellery, cloth, food or other gifts. They are woven out of soft rattan in the form of a shallow box with a lid, and they are carried on the head.
The lids and sides of the basket were always heavily beaded in glass seed beads in traditional figurative or abstract patterns and edged with contrasting edging in seeds, large glass beads or shells. The baskets became family heirlooms as soon as they were presented, and were re-used many times by the married couple as containers for feast foods and other items of value and passed on their descendents.
Nowadays the customs of giving dowry baskets has largely died out, along with the skills required to weave and bead them . The modern versions are mostly made as tourist items, sometimes with plastic beads, and with non-traditional patterns, motifs and finishes.