Minangkabau Bridal Headdress

Wedding costume of a matrilineal society

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

This bridal headdress would be worn at the wedding of a couple of the Minangkabau people. It’s made of filigree silver, sheet foil, and beads, and is crafted with cut-out love birds. The headdress is part of an elaborate costume worn in one of a series of traditional wedding ceremonies: in this ceremony, the bride and groom are 'king and queen for a day'.

The Minangkabau people are world famous as a matrilineal people. This means that they trace their descent through the female line, and their clans hold land other property in the name of the women, not the men. At marriage, a bride is given her own room within the clan Great House. Here a husband will sleep with her at night only, working away during the day. The children of the marriage are brought up by their mother and her brother.


Filigree silver - fine (typically gold or silver) wire formed into delicate shapes and patterns
Matrilineal people - through the maternal line
Monarchy - kindom or realm
Stereotypical - lacks originality or individuality

Discussion Ideas:

  • Do some research to find out if there are other matrilineal societies in the world
  • A name for societies led by women (but not necessarily with descent through the female line) is 'matriarchal'. Do you know of any groups of countries where women are the main decision makers or might appear to be the 'bosses'?
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of matriarchal (female) and patriarchal (male) led societies  
  • What do you understand by the word Monarchy?
  • The Minangkabau people are muslim and yet also matrilineal. Do you think this contradicts 'stereotypical' views of Islamic beliefs?
  • Can you see any similarities between this headdress and Royal headdresses? (look at the Related Links below)
  • A young person made the comment below about the headdress seeing it as a sign of marriage being valued because of its elaborate design. Do you agree with this? Is this necessarily true? Can you think of examples in history where this symbolism is not assumed? 

Activity Ideas:

  • Design your own wedding headdress
  • Design a crown and think about what is likely to be different between a crown and a wedding headdress?  
  • Design a different object inspired by the 'love birds' in this headdress
  • Draw a 'family tree' through the 'matriarchal line', in other words the female side of a family

Young person's response to this object:

Marriage is clearly valued in this society due to beauty and
elaborate design of the headdress. Jordan Keighley

The Minangkabau are devout Muslims, renowned in Indonesia as scholars, teachers, craftsmen and traders. They come frrom the province of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Document icon Learning article provided by: South East Asia Museum | 
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