Culture

A sarong's story

Reclaiming Asia’s versatile cloth

by Zafirah Mohamed Zein

More than just a beautiful woven display of Asia’s rich traditions and cultures, the sarong has been used time after time as a tool to both control ethnic communities and challenge oppressive systems. Here’s how the sarong’s symbolism has evolved from pre-colonial times to global fashion trends today.

Each sarong pattern tells a story
A fabric that binds: sarong and colonial domination

Photo album of colonial images taken in Sumatra. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sarongs sold at a market in the Hague. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chinese-Filipino mestizo (mixed race) costume featuring the tapis over a long underskirt, 1800s. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Reclaiming the sarong as a new nation
The fraught gender politics of the sarong
What happens when women take back the sarong?
Who tells the story of the sarong today?

Movie poster for the Hollywood film Pardon My Sarong. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Disclaimer: Our stories have been researched and fact-checked to the best of our abilities. Should you spot mistakes, inaccuracies, or have queries about our sources, please drop us an e-mail at hello@kontinentalist.com
Zafirah Mohamed Zein / Writer

Zafirah Zein is a writer on the environment and human rights beat. An old soul with restless feet, she is constantly dreaming of time traveling in history or her next adventure out of the city.

Credits
Illustration and research / Munirah Mansoor
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