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VOLUME 19 NO. 2 JUNE 2010

VOLUME 19 NO. 2 JUNE 2010 the journal of the asian arts society of australia TAASAReview

the journal of the asian arts society of australia



c o n t E n t s

Volume 19 No. 2 June 2010


Ed itor ial : SOUthEaSt aSiaN aNcEStraL art

Josefa Green


l if E , dE ath and Mag ic : 2000 Y E ars of s outh E ast a s ian a nc E stral a rt

Robyn Maxwell


B E adwork of i sland s outh E ast a s ia

Hwei-F’en Cheah


a nc E stors in th E a rch it E ctur E : i nd ig E nous a rt fro M t a iwan

Lucie Folan


s pl E ndour for th E a nc E stors – th E s culptur E and g old of n ias

Niki van den Heuvel


sM all and p ot E nt – f ish ing c har M s and th E M E lanau of Born E o

Charlotte Galloway


p ortra its fro M i nd ia 1850s – 1950s

Anne O’Hehir


i n th E p u B l ic d o M a in: a NEw DiSpLay at thE NatiONaL MUSEUM Of caMbODia

Oun Phalline and Martin Polkinghorne


c ultural Encount E rs : t h E rE v E rs E g az E of k utch p a int ing

Jim Masselos


Book rE v i E w: EthNic JEwELLEry aND aDOrNMENt

Janet Mansfield


Batik of Java: p o E tics and p olitics. c aloundra rE gional a rt g all E r Y t ouring Exhi B ition

Maria Wronska-Friend


c oll E ctor ’s c ho ic E : a pair Of KENyah bELawiNg pOLES frOM bOrNEO

Michael Heppell


t rav E ll E r’s t al E : a SEacS StUDy tOUr Of hiStOric KiLN SitES iN fUJiaN aND JiNgDEzhEN

Linda M c Laren


rE c E nt taasa a ct iv it i E s


taasa M EMBE rs ’ d iar Y


w hat ’s o n: JUNE - aUgUSt 2010

Compiled by Tina Burge

w hat ’s o n: JUNE - aUgUSt 2010 Compiled by Tina Burge n agé anc

n agé anc E stral hors E with two rid Ers [ J ara h E da], iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry Or EarLiEr,

wOOD, 120.0 x 320.0 x 50.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

a full i nd E x of art icl E s pu B l ish E d in TAASA Review s inc E its BE g inn ings

in 1991 is ava ila B l E on th E taasa w EB s it E , www.taasa

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THE ASIAN ARTS SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA INC. ABN 64093697537 • Vol. 19 No. 2, June 2010 ISSN 1037.6674

registered by australia post. publication No. NbQ 4134

E d itor ial • email:

General editor, Josefa Green

pu B l icat ions co MM itt EE

Josefa Green (convenor) • Tina Burge Melanie Eastburn • Sandra Forbes • Ann MacArthur Jim Masselos • Ann Proctor • Susan Scollay Sabrina Snow • Christina Sumner

d E s ign/la Y out

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pr int ing

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published by the asian arts Society of australia inc. pO box 996 potts point NSw 2011


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Has a long association with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and a particular interest in the arts of China

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r o BY n Maxw E ll

Visiting Fellow in Art History, ANU; Senior Curator of Asian Art, National Gallery of Australia


Joanna Barrk M an

Curator of Southeast Asian Art and Material Culture, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory


s uhan Y a r aff E l

Head of Asian and Pacific Art, Queensland Art Gallery


Ja ME s B E nn E tt

Curator of Asian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia


c arol c a ins

Curator Asian Art, National Gallery of Victoria International


k at E Br ittl EB ank

Lecturer in Asian History, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania

E d i t o r i a l :

S O U t h E a S t

a S i a N

a N c E S t r a L

a r t

Josefa Green, Editor

This issue celebrates the much awaited exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), opening in August. Articles in this issue are devoted to exploring facets of Life, death and magic: 2000 Years of Southeast Asian ancestral art.

Robyn Maxwell, Senior Curator of Asian Art at the NGA, presents highlights of the exhibition, which encompasses animist sculpture, textiles and gold. The NGA’s core collection will be joined by contributions from major European collections: the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, the Barbier- Mueller Museum in Geneva and the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, as well as contributions from US, Indonesian and local collections.

Common themes bind animist based ancestral art across Southeast Asia. It serves a religious function, communicating with and harnessing the power of the spiritual world to maintain order, achieve prosperity and bolster the power of elites. A shared belief in the powerful interventionist spirit of nature and the dead provides much of the impetus for and the power of this art tradition, whether expressed in the decorations found on utilitarian objects or used in ceremony and ritual.

The ceremonial function of beadwork, a less well-known aspect of Southeast Asia’s rich textile traditions, is explored by Hwei- Fe’n Cheah, Lecturer in Art History at the ANU. Beadwork was executed by men and is associated with the male sphere. Combined on cloth and clothing - “soft” textiles made by women - beadwork symbolically connected the male and female spheres and held protective powers associated with fertility and wealth.

Lucie Folan, Curator of Asian Art at the NGA, discusses ancestor imagery created by two major indigenous Taiwanese groups, the Paiwan and Yami. These are found on impressively carved house posts and panels, ceremonial staffs and canoes and serve to honour ancestors and pacify hostile spiritual forces. The exhibition will display the largest and most representative collection of indigenous Taiwanese art ever shown in Australia.

Also on display will be splendid works in gold such as a set of Chieftain’s gold jewellery from the island of Nias, loaned from the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. Niki van den Heuvel, Exhibition Assistant, discusses the significance of art and regalia of this small island, acclaimed as among the most spectacular examples of Indonesian animist art.

The exhibition provides an opportunity to explore fast disappearing traditions, such as

the use of fishing charms carved in wood or ivory by the Malanau of Borneo. Charlotte Galloway, Lecturer in Art History at the ANU, points out that amulets, fetishes and charms were widely used in Borneo for personal protection but are now quite rare as they were generally disposed of with their deceased owners.

Other articles continue the Southeast Asian art theme. Readers will be interested to know that the West Mebon Vishnu, the Khmer bronze figure covered in our September 2006 issue, has been newly installed in a spectacular setting at the National Museum of Cambodia. We hear the details from the Director of the Museum, Oun Phalline, and Martin Polkinghorne, who specialises in Khmer art.

An exhibition with a batik theme at the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery in Queensland, curated and discussed in this issue by Maria Wronska-Friend, will juxtapose a significant private collection of Javanese batik textiles with an exhibition of works from Dadang Christanto, which use batik to evoke memories of a traumatic past. Janet Mansfield offers armchair pleasure with her book review of a splendidly illustrated publication on “Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment” by Truus Dalder.

Finally, Michael Heppell entertains us with his account of transporting two 6 metre long belawing poles from Kalimantan Timur, Indonesia to a suburban Melbourne backyard.

On another theme, Anne O’Hehir, NGA Assistant Curator of Photography, discusses a new display of photographs from India at the NGA, drawn from its extensive Asia-Pacific collection. She explores the way in which Indian painting traditions and the imported modern medium of photography intersected in the 19th century. The display coincides with a major international conference “Facing Asia” on Asian studio photography to be held on 21-22 August. Details of this conference can be found on p28.

Jim Masselos’ article on Kutch painting from the later 1700s explores similar issues, this time the way these little known NW Indian paintings absorbed aspects of the Western vue perspectifs print tradition into a distinctive Indian framework: in the process, occidentalising Europe.

Finally, to satisfy ceramic enthusiasts, Linda

M c Laren gives us a lively account of a SEACS

study tour of historic kiln sites and museums

in China’s Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. This

links us back to our main theme, as so many of the ceramic wares from these areas were destined for export to Southeast Asia.

l i f E , d E a t h a n d M a g i c : 2 0 0 0 Y E a r s o f s o u t h E a s t a s i a n a n c E s t r a l a r t

Robyn Maxwell

major exhibition Life, death and magic:

2000 years of Southeast Asian ancestral art, opens at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra in August 2010. Its focus is the art of small communities throughout the region who maintained the animist beliefs of their ancestors when most large kingdoms and trading societies adopted Hinduism and Buddhism, and later, Islam and Christianity. While Australian audiences can find fine examples of Southeast Asian Buddhist and Hindu art in public collections, and have had the unique opportunity to visit Crescent Moon: Islamic art and civilization in Southeast Asia in Adelaide and Canberra in 2005–2006, there are very few superb examples of animist


sculpture, textiles and gold in Australia. While probably unlikely to attract the crowds and queues of the Masterpieces from Paris show, Life, death and magic offers Australian audiences a unique opportunity to appreciate the excitement and often strange beauty of objects created to venerate the spirits of nature and ancestral deities.

In a conscious attempt to broaden its scope and introduce visitors to this important aspect of the art of Southeast Asia, the NGA has built a small but formidable collection of ancestral sculpture in recent years to complement the institution’s exceptional holdings of Southeast Asian textiles. The Gallery’s imposing

examples of stone sculpture from Nias will be joined in the exhibition by fine examples of the somewhat better-known wooden figures of ancestors, regarded by some as the pinnacle of Indonesian sculpture. These have been generously lent by major European collections of tribal and ethnographic art:

the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam and the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva.

The NGA has also acquired a small group of fine wooden sculptures from central Luzon in the northern Philippines. Ranging from a highly stylised king post for an ancestral house to a realistic depiction of an Ifugao bulol rice guardian couple with child, the figures

Ifugao bulol rice guardian couple with child, the figures tora J a granar Y façad E

tora J a granar Y façad E , iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry, wOOD, pigMENtS, 211.0 x 198.0 x 10.0 cM, fOwLEr MUSEUM Of cULtUraL hiStOry, UcLa, LOS aNgELES

4 4

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tora J a c E r EM onial hanging and shroud [paporitonoling], iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry, cOttON;

warp iKat, 181.0 x 137.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

181.0 x 137.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra demonstrate the power of art created to

demonstrate the power of art created to ensure fertility and prosperity in vulnerable agricultural and environmental conditions, a recurring focus for animist rites. A striking seated figure holding a large container for an Ifugao shaman’s magic herbs and charms from the Fowler Museum of Cultural History (University of California, Los Angeles) is a powerful example of objects created to control the spirit world.

Also on loan from the Fowler Museum is the façade of a Toraja granary from Sulawesi, Indonesia, its surface completely filled with incised and painted patterns. It joins the NGA’s carved buffalo-head door for a rice barn. Throughout Southeast Asia, one of the most prominent emblems of agricultural and human fertility, prosperity and wealth, is the water buffalo that also appears in schematic and recognizable designs on the rice granary decorations.

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A number of the Gallery’s Southeast Asian

textiles will be on display for the first time

in this exhibition. Representing the oldest

regional forms and styles, made from beaten

bark cloth and a range of vegetable fibres, they also display motifs associated with fertility and prosperity. As in architecture, buffaloes are prominent on Toraja textiles, along with the doti’ langi stars of heaven patterns which represent plenty. Archaic Toraja banners show village scenes of rice granaries and buffaloes with plough, while stylised horns are painted

on superfine bark head cloths. So important is

the symbol in Toraja art that a repository for the aristocratic corpse at a funeral ceremony can also take the form of a mighty buffalo. A richly decorated two-metre long coffin in the form of this prestigious animal comes from the collection of Musée du Quai Branly, Paris.

The greatest rites for animist Southeast Asia are funerals, when the spirits of the deceased

s tanding dog, iNDONESia,4th–6th cENtUry

brONzE, 43.2 x 15.9 x 37.5 cM, gift Of thE chriStENSEN fUND,

2001, hONOLULU acaDEMy Of artS, hawaii

thE chriStENSEN fUND, 2001, hONOLULU acaDEMy Of artS, hawaii are ushered into the afterworld with lavish

are ushered into the afterworld with lavish ceremony and expense. Some of the finest art is created for these events, including spectacular coffins and mortuary jars. Archaeological finds from Bronze and Iron Age sites across the region reveal the antiquity of elaborate burials and extravagant grave goods. This is marvellously demonstrated by the loans of a number of Dian Culture (500 BCE –300 CE) bronzes from the Yunnan Provincial Museum, China. The

antiquity of architectural forms is demonstrated by the largest and smallest of the bronzes –

a massive house-shaped bronze sarcophagus

covered with animal motifs and geometric patterns and a three-dimensional model of

village dwellings from the lid of a container used

to store valued cowry shell currency.

The Dian architectural forms have great resonance with ancestral dwellings across Southeast Asia into the modern era. Like the ancient rulers of Dian, the remains of nobles in many remote parts of the region are still placed in house-and boat-shaped coffins, just as they have been for millennia. A 19th century Toraja wooden coffin on loan from the Art Gallery of South Australia mirrors not only the shape and ornamentation of the local architecture, but is remarkably similar to the 2000 year old Yunnan sarcophagus.

Perhaps the most fascinating Dian bronze

vessel, and one that speaks of the antiquity of many arts and techniques in Southeast Asia,

is the cowry container with a scene depicting

weaving on back-tension looms. Remarkably, all the woven textiles in the exhibition were created on similar simple apparatus, from the tiny Li skirts from Hainan to the huge


The BRonze weAveR, iNDONESia, 6th cENtUry, brONzE, 25.8 x 22.8 x 15.2 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

shroud from Luzon. The Gallery’s own Bronze weaver, a key work in the show, and indeed

in Southeast Asian art history, depicts in far

greater detail the same foot-braced loom.

Like the Bronze Weaver, a number of large bronze vessels in Life, death and magic were found across the Indonesian archipelago. The

superb casting skills of the Dong Son culture

of north Vietnam (500BCE–200CE) and the

active trade in the spectacular Dong Son bronzes is encapsulated in the huge 2000year old Makalamau kettle drum on loan from the National Museum of Indonesia. It displays images of saddle-roof houses, birds, boats manned by figures in extravagant feather headdresses, found on Sangeang, a small island off the coast of Sumbawa.

From the same Jakarta collection, a large ceremonial axe discovered on the far eastern Indonesian island of Roti is more enigmatic, and may be a masterpiece from one of the later regional bronze casting centres that seem to have developed. An impressive bronze bell possibly from Cambodia and recently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia could also have been produced in a regional workshop. The style of these objects, combined with the thermoluminescence dating of the clay cores of the Gallery’s Bronze weaver and the Honolulu Academy of Art’s Standing bronze dog to the 4th–6th centuries, suggest a blossoming of local creativity inspired by treasured Dong Son heirlooms.

While textiles wonderfully represent the female arts of Southeast Asia, the male arts of hunting, including headhunting, are encapsulated in beautifully decorated shields in the exhibition. The hot arts of

metal smelting are also the male domain, and range in the exhibition from ancient bronze daggers to luminous gold jewellery. A sign

of high status and wealth, gold ornaments

are an important part of the sacred regalia of great houses and lineages. Spectacular

gold objects from Indonesia’s eastern islands

– Sumba, Timor, Flores, Luang and Moa –

have been borrowed from around the world.

So too has a full set of gold regalia for

a Nias nobleman from Singapore’s Asian

Civilisations Museum. Among the most eye- catching of the gold objects in the exhibition are burial masks, fitting for the grave of a local ruler, with examples from the Philippines and Indonesia generously lent from the Barbier- Mueller Museum collection.

Some of the most significant figurative sculpture in Southeast Asian is associated with the veneration of ancestors, from the great mythological creators to important


from the great mythological creators to important 6 genealogical forebears. Many are pairs of male and

genealogical forebears. Many are pairs of male and female, displaying the distinct genitalia on which the fertility and fecundity of the family or community is founded. Drawn from international collections, the exhibition shows the range of ways the human figure is depicted, from strikingly minimal forms to surprising realism. The sculptures – in wood and stone – have been chosen to demonstrate the continuity and similarities in style from the Bronze Age until the 20th century, most notably in a widespread preference for the seated figure, arms resting upon knees, often with enlarged head showing strong elongated facial features.

The house altars of the small Indonesian island communities of the south Moluccas (Maluku) are perhaps the most arresting of the art associated with the honouring and appeasing of ancestors. A small number of spectacular wooden sculptures – from the little known islands of Leti, Damar and Yamdena – have been borrowed from the collection of the Dutch National Museum

of Ethnology in Leiden. The altars range from tall poles where sky gods sit on boat- like forms to ornately scrolling, vaguely anthropomorphic, sculptures incised with representations of the family’s wealth of sacred gold objects. They demonstrate the importance of ancestor veneration and the tremendous artistic energy that goes into the creation of fine Southeast Asian animist art.

The size and complexity of the exhibition, drawn from numerous international institutions, combined with the fragility of many of the loans means Life, death and magic:

2000 years of Southeast Asian art will only be exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia Canberra, from 13 August until 31 October 2010. The show is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue – and a well stocked exhibition shop.

robyn Maxwell is Senior curator of asian art at the National gallery of australia.

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B E a d w o r k o f i s l a n d s o u t h E a s t a s i a

Hwei-Fe’n Cheah

he protective powers of beads and their

symbolic association with durability, fertility and wealth are manifest in the regard with which beads and beadwork are held in so many parts of island Southeast Asia. Shell beads, employed in Southeast Asia since at least the second millennium BCE, were often applied in combination with imported glass beads. While some beads were made locally, beads from India and China were widely traded through the archipelago ports and were exchanged for local produce. From the late 19th century, European drawn glass beads became increasingly accessible (Francis 2002).


Beads could be highly valued objects in themselves but the types of beads that were prized varied. In parts of eastern Indonesia, beads were handed down as heirloom items, the mutisalah or ‘false pearls’ being a particular type of small glass beads of an opaque orange to reddish-brown. The small orange-brown coiled glass seed beads are a class of heirloom beads worn by the elite and are known as mutiraja (Francis 2002: 19-20, 186-7). For the Orang Ulu community of central Borneo, flattened polychrome rosette beads, lukut sekala, were the most highly esteemed (Munan 2005: 66, 78).

Beads were integrated into the rich textile traditions of the archipelago – stitched, netted or woven into a range of items, from ceremonial hangings, betel bags and baby carriers to sarongs, dance skirts and jackets. A number of distinctive ceremonial hangings and mats from the coastal areas of Lampung in southern Sumatra are densely worked in monochrome glass seed beads. Motifs range from elephant- like creatures to boat-shaped forms shared with the woven tampan and palepai – ritual

textiles used as hangings, mats and wedding gifts. Stitched beadwork, however, facilitated more free flowing designs and curvilinear

forms that contrast with the angular patterning

of the woven textiles. Rarer than their woven

counterparts, these beaded panels are thought

to have been used by the nobility (Taylor and

Aragon 1991: 132-4).

Textiles applied with beads and shells were worn on ceremonial occasions. The Sumbanese women’s ceremonial skirts

from eastern Indonesia, mud-dyed to a dark chocolate brown, are sometimes decorated

in beads (hada) with curious semi-abstracted

forms that suggest composite creatures with outstretched arms and legs (Maxwell 1990: 96). In other cloths, human figures are shown with arms raised from the elbows and genitalia emphasised. In contrast to these bold and colourful designs, the mountain- dwelling Atayal of Taiwan crafted hemp jackets stitched with strings of white beads made from the discs of giant clams obtained through trade with coastal peoples. Worn by successful headhunters, these jackets not only spoke of the physical prowess of the individual but also their access to ‘foreign’ beads (Sumberg 2010: 145).

A legend of the Ngada people in Flores tells

how beads, gold and cloth all blossomed

magically from the branches of a tree planted by two orphans, becoming items that were much coveted by the villagers (Hamilton 1994: 108). Like cloth and gold, imported beads must have held a mystery, inspiring

a sense of wonder for the locals. They were

incorporated into the lower half of women’s tubular garments, the lawo butu. In some

of these skirts, beadwork diamonds and hexagons with spindly protrusions form colourful disruptions to the orderly indigo and white ikat bands of the textiles. The significance of these patterns is not well understood but could relate to fertility, as the cloths are used in ceremonies to improve harvests (Maxwell 1990: 141).

Regarded as ‘hard’ objects and associated with the male sphere, beads stood in opposition to ‘soft’ textiles made by women. Combined on cloth and clothing, beadwork symbolically connected the two spheres (Maxwell 1990:

58-63). Although the Ngada lawo butu were worn by women, the beadwork was executed by men and the cloths themselves were ‘named’ posthumously after the death of the high-status clan leaders who had commissioned the pieces (Hamilton 1994:

109). Stored alongside other clan treasures, such beaded textiles embodied not only an individual history but also became integral to the sustenance of communal memory.

Beaded accoutrements worn by women during feasting added to the celebratory feel of the occasion. In Engano, a small island off the southwest coast of Sumatra, striking belts, typically embellished with red, white and blue imported beads, were worn at ritual feasts to celebrate an abundant harvest. Elio Modigliani, an Italian who visited Engano in 1891, wrote of their ceremonial dress and described their petticoats (sottanino) made of beads and vegetable fibres, moving with every motion of their legs (1894: 152). The weight of their garments, particularly of the beaded belts, could even make the women feel faint (ter Keurs 2006: 156). The number of red

Batak c E r EMonial J ack E t, iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry, cOttON, bEaDS, MEtaL
Batak c E r EMonial J ack E t, iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry, cOttON, bEaDS, MEtaL bELLS; SUppLEMENtary wEft wEaVE, appLiQUé, 37.0 x 132.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

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s a’dan tora J a c Er EM onial

o BJE ct and BE ad Ed n E ck

orna MEnt [kandauré],

iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry, bEaDS,

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beads on the apron fringe is said to ‘represent the number of heads taken for the feast’ (ter Keurs 2006: 156, 172), closely aligning the symbolism of women’s dress with the ritual and regenerative nature of such feasts, reinforcing the parallel relationship between headhunting and fertility.

Colour symbolism may help to explain the use of colour on the Batak women’s ceremonial jacket (baju omon). Strings of red, white, black and some dark blue glass seed beads are stitched in radial rows in a striking bulls-eye pattern over the front and back of the bodice of such jackets, and small bells are often attached to the lower edge. These three colours correspond to the sacred colours for the northern Sumatran Toba Batak and Karo Batak groups, who employ a red-white- black combination of threads to represent their tripartite social structure and the unity and co-operation between affinal families (Maxwell 1990: 98; Niessen 2009: 42).


However, neither the significance of the beads

nor the pattern on the bridal jacket is easily understood. Overviews of Batak art do not

generally discuss patterns of concentric circles. While the pattern has a formal similarity to the representations of the prominent eyes of the Toba Batak singa (lion), with their dilated black pupils encircled by concentric rings of

a contrasting colour, further connections are difficult to extrapolate.

The short jacket is simply tailored, with

slightly tapering long sleeves and an opening down the front. Niessen (1993, 2009: 399-400) documents the baju omon as a bridal garment that may have originated in the southern Batak area, worn by the Toba and Angkola/ Mandaliling groups. She also suggests that the ensemble pre-dated colonial involvement

in the area (Niessen 1993: 72-79). Indeed,

this form of beaded jacket was illustrated in coloured lithographs of Mandailing bridal

dress published by a Dutch linguist in 1861. Photographs taken in the early 20th century also show a southern Batak bride clad in

a beaded jacket with a bulls-eye design

(Niessen 1993: 25, 72-73, 114; Sibeth 1991:

208). Yet, where, when and why this form

of beaded jacket emerged in Batak society

remains difficult to explain.

A connection that is both intriguing and

puzzling is presented by a photograph taken before 1935 of Toba Batak masked dancers


the funeral of an important man, held


inform the deceased of the promise of

future offerings, an undertaking that served

to appease the spirit of the dead (Taylor

and Aragon 1991: 116). In this image, one

of the masked dancers is wearing a garment

whose front bodice is decorated (possibly with beads) in a bulls-eye pattern – radiating from the centre are at least six concentric circles in alternating white and dark colours.

Batak necklaces also suggest the possibility of

a second, albeit weaker association between

ritual clothing of one group and the bridal dress

of another. Mandailing brides wore long neck

ornaments with multiple strands of beads. Long neck and shoulder ornaments (sinata godeng) with multiple strands of beads attached to a leather neck band were worn by the wives

of Toba Batak clan leaders at their annual

agricultural ceremony at which the women would be possessed by spirits (Sibeth 1991:

99; Taylor and Aragon 1991: 112, 117). Both involved the procreative powers of nature.

along the widest edge, formed by the netting of beads over a bamboo frame. Typically, the narrow neck at the top is decorated with a band of small figures. These are thought to represent the gods of the Torajan upperworld or ancestors and the beads below the descendants, such that the kandaure acts as a metaphor for an interconnected web of many descendants (Morrell 2005: 120).

Kandaure were suspended from bamboo poles during funerals but also worn by relatives of the deceased to greet mourners and lead dancers at the funeral (Taylor and Aragon 1991: 186-7). However, the kandaure was not exclusively funerary for it was draped over the shoulders of dancers during the rice ritual (Taylor and Aragon 1991: 186-7). A symbol of abundance and regeneration, the multiple uses of the kandaure in both fertility and mortuary ceremonies remind us of islander beliefs in the intimate relationships between the living and the dead.

Hwei-Fe’n Cheah is Lecturer, Art History at the School of Cultural Inquiry, Australian National University.

The introduction and section on Batak beadwork are adapted from ‘Beadwork from Sumatra in the National Gallery of Australia’, Bead Study Trust Newsletter, 2009

r E f E r E nc E s

hamilton, roy (ed.), 1994. Gift of the cotton maiden: textiles of Flores and the Solor Islands, fowler Museum of cultural history, Los angeles.

francis Jr., peter, 2002. Asia’s maritime bead trade: 300 B.C. to the present, University of hawai’i press, honolulu.

Maxwell, robyn, 1990. Textiles of Southeast Asia: tradition, trade and transformation, Oxford University press, Melbourne.

Modigliani, Elio, 1894. L’isola delle donne: viaggio ad Engano, hoepli, Milan.

Morrell, Elizabeth, 2005. Securing a place: small scale artisans in modern Indonesia, cornell University press, ithaca.

Munan, heidi, 2005. Beads of Borneo, Editions Didier Millet, Singapore.

Niessen, Sandra, 1993. Batak cloth and clothing: a dynamic Indonesian tradition, Oxford University press, Kuala Lumpur.

Niessen, Sandra, 2009. Legacy in Cloth: Batak textiles of Indonesia, KitLV press, Leiden.

Sumberg, bobbie, 2010. Textiles: collection of the Museum of International Folk Art, gibbs Smith, Utah.

Sibeth, achim, 1991. The Batak: peoples of the island of Sumatra, thames and hudson, New york.

taylor, paul Michael and Lorraine V. aragon, 1991. Beyond the Java sea: art of Indonesia’s outer islands, Smithsonian institution, washington, D.c.

ter Keurs, pieter, 2006. Condensed reality: a study of material culture, cNwS publications, Leiden.

Amongst the Sa’dan Toraja of Sulawesi, beadwork was executed by men. The most distinctive of these items is the kandaure, a conical shaped hanging with long tassels

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a n c E s t o r s i n t h E a r c h i t E c t u r E : i n d i g E n o u s a r t f r o M t a i w a n

Lucie Folan


ncestor imagery dominates the art of the

animist cultures of Taiwan, where the various indigenous groups are distinct yet closely related in terms of general world view, community organisation and ritual practice. In broader terms, they have strong linguistic and cultural affinities with other Austronesian communities across Southeast Asia and the Pacific, with whom they share beliefs in powerful interventionist spirits of nature and the dead. In Taiwan’s traditional Paiwan and Yami communities, art serves a religious function. Designs representing deceased ancestors are intended to communicate with the spiritual world and maintain order.

One of the largest of Taiwan’s indigenous groups, the Paiwan, live in the southern mountains. Paiwan society is hierarchical – consisting of high nobles, secondary nobles and commoners – and status is hereditary. Formed by descent, the high nobility of each village is made up of the first-born child of the previous noble family, their spouse and any unmarried offspring (Cameron 1985: 161). Village nobles are the landowners and are responsible for community well-being and prosperity. As the Paiwan believe in an array of supernatural beings, the most important role of the nobility is to observe customary religious rituals that appease nature spirits and the ghosts of ancestors (Ferrell 1969: 45).

The house in which the high-ranking nobles live is at the centre of these communal rites. When a chief’s house is constructed, a feast is held and offerings are made to ancestor spirits (Chen Chi-Lu 1968: 290). Made from slate and wood, the building is at once a dwelling for the living and a ritual place to house historical ancestors, who were traditionally buried within the noble house (Cameron 1985: 163).

Paiwan architectural ornamentation reinforces the religious nature of the chief’s house, with carved images of ancestors adorning wooden wall and door posts (Cameron 1985: 163). Included in the National Gallery of Australia’s Life, death and magic:

2000 years of Southeast Asian ancestral art exhibition are two impressive 19th century Paiwan panels. Each carved wooden panel features a stylised human figure, one male and one female, to flank the doorway to a noble’s house. The complementary pairing of images and pronounced genitalia illustrate the underlying importance of fertility in

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Paiwan art and religion. With such

a strong emphasis on hereditary

title and community prosperity, the rituals to which these works of art relate were intended to ensure the

noble line. In typical Paiwan style, the naked figures are compressed

to fill most of the panel and stand

with knees bent, feet turned out,

and arms held so that the hands are

at shoulder height. The simple faces

have strong eyebrows, large noses

and small mouths, with circular eyes

of inlaid porcelain.

Within Paiwan culture, ancestor imagery is created to represent recently deceased nobles as well as

distant or mythical ancestors. When

a member of the nobility dies, a

wooden panel is carved and paired with an image of a legendary ancestor. The two types of image can usually be differentiated, as distant ancestors are represented with snake motifs (Chen Chi-Lu 1988: 188, 338). Here the male figure has a snake headdress, while the female figure wears a circular head ornament. While these two panels stylistically

appear to be a couple, it is not known whether they were originally paired

in the same structure.

The Paiwan nobles claim descent from a mythical snake identified with the local hundred pacer snake (Chiang 2001: 222). In one account of the Paiwan creation myth, the sun laid two eggs on top of a mountain. The eggs were hatched

after a giant snake sunk its fangs into them, passing on some of its power. From the eggs a man and a woman emerged – the original ancestors of the Paiwan and founders of the noble line (Cameron 1985: 163). Snake imagery is therefore reserved for use

by nobles and for representations of

mythical ancestor spirits.


In contrast to the Paiwan, the Yami

people live in villages on the shores of the small mountainous island

of Botel Tobago, south-east of the

main island of Taiwan. Daily life in traditional communities centres on

Ya M i c E r EM onial staff, bOtEL tObagO, taiwaN, 19th cENtUry,

wOOD, pigMENtS, 201.0 x 45.0 x 13.0 cM, fOwLEr MUSEUM

Of cULtUraL hiStOry, UcLa, LOS aNgELES

taiwaN, 19th cENtUry, wOOD, pigMENtS, 201.0 x 45.0 x 13.0 cM, fOwLEr MUSEUM Of cULtUraL hiStOry,


Ya M i hous E -post [to M ok] , bOtEL tObagO, taiwaN, 19th

cENtUry, wOOD, pigMENtS, 216.6 x 108.8 x 8.0 cM, NatiONaL

gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

A of of to

fishing and farming and adherence to various rituals. Living in relative isolation, the Yami have developed a rather distinctive culture, with close affinities to the nearby islands of the northern Philippines (Ferrell 1969: 58).

The Yami ritual calendar revolves around the annual migration of flying fish, considered a sacred source of food. Ceremonies are performed to summon, store and prepare the fish, and various taboos are observed during the fishing season (Del Re 1951: 33). According to Yami belief, humans have a number of different souls that are liberated after death to become either benevolent ancestor spirits or malevolent anito. (Cameron and Sumnik-Dekovich 1985: 171). Most Yami ceremonies are intended to honour ancestors and dispel anito, considered responsible for

poor harvests, disease, death and natural disasters. One of the most important figures in Yami belief is Magamoag, a legendary creator ancestor who taught the skill of fishing to the Yami people (Kano and Segawa 1956: 290).

superb openwork staff on loan from

the Fowler Museum of Cultural History (University of California, Los Angeles) to the

Life, death and magic exhibition, features three simple stylised Magamoag figures with red bodies, black heads and white spiral arms and headdresses, colours that characterise Yami ritual art. Ceremonial staffs were displayed during significant events such as boat launches, feasts and the construction

houses, when the presence of anito is

particularly inauspicious (Cameron and Sumnik-Dekovich 1985: 171). The circular motif, which typically appears on Yami

canoe prows, is called mata no tatara (eye

the canoe) and, like Magamoag, serves a

protective purpose.

The most culturally valuable art forms of the Yami are decorated canoes and house

posts (tomok). Traditional family dwellings consist of a main house built below ground

withstand frequent typhoons, a separate

work-house, and a platform for eating and socialising. A tomok supports the roof apex of the main house, symbolising the connection between sea and mountain (Adachi 2003). The tomok is the first element to be erected after a house site is excavated. Highly valued, tomok are passed down from one generation to the next and moved if a family relocates or reconstructs a house (Cameron and Sumnik-Dekovich 1985:

172). Like the Paiwan people, imagery associated with ancestor spirits is incorporated into traditional houses. The strikingly bold red, black and white designs of Magamoag and the eye of the canoe on the National Gallery of Australia’s house-post, are typical of images intended to protect a

household from malevolent spirits of the dead. The goat’s horn motif, carved in relief above

the spiral forms of the Magamoag design, is a

symbol of longevity (Chen Chi-Lu 1968: 291).

The depictions of ancestors within the Paiwan and Yami cultures of Taiwan, though different stylistically, have the same intent – to honour ancestors and pacify hostile spiritual forces for the benefit of the family and wider community. While the art from Taiwan in Life, death and magic: 2000 years of Southeast Asian ancestral art is only a small part of the exhibition, it will be the largest and most representative collection of indigenous Taiwanese art ever shown in Australia.


paiwan anc E stor panE l, taiwaN, 19th cENtUry,

wOOD, MirrOr, pOrcELaiN, bOttLE capS, 185.0 x 41.0 x 9.0 cM,

fOwLEr MUSEUM Of cULtUraL hiStOry, UcLa, LOS aNgELES

9.0 cM, fOwLEr MUSEUM Of cULtUraL hiStOry, UcLa, LOS aNgELES Lucie folan is curator of asian

Lucie folan is curator of asian art at the National gallery of australia.

r E f E r E nc E s

adachi, takashi, 2003. ‘isolating and connecting: a study on the composition of space in the yami’s four-entranced main house’ in Journal of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Engineering. Japan

cameron, Elisabeth L, 1985. ‘ancestor motifs of the paiwan’ in feldman, Jerome (ed) 1988: The eloquent dead: ancestral sculpture of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. University of california, Los angeles

cameron, Elisabeth L and Sumnik-Dekovich, 1985. ’Magamoag:

benevolent ancestor of the yami’ in feldman, Jerome (ed) 1985:

The eloquent dead: ancestral sculpture of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. University of california, Los angeles

chen chi-Lu, 1968. Material culture of the Formosan aborigines. taiwan Museum, taipei

chen chi-Lu, 1988. ‘Notes on a wooden house-post of the budai paiwan’ in barbier, Jean paul and Newton, Douglas (eds) 1988: Islands and ancestors: indigenous styles of Southeast Asia. prestel, Munich

chiang, bien, 2001. ‘paiwan sculpture’ in Sculptures: Africa, Asia, Oceania, Americas, Musée du quai branly, paris

Del re, arundel, 1951. Creation myths of the Formosan natives. hokuseido press, tokyo

ferrel, raleigh, 1969. ‘taiwan aboriginal groups: problems in cultural and linguistic classification’ in Monographs of the Institute of Ethnology, academia Sinica, taipei

Kano, tadao and Segawa, Kokichi 1956. An illustrated ethnography of Formosan aborigines. Maruzen, tokyo

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s p l E n d o u r f o r t h E a n c E s t o r s – t h E s c u l p t u r E a n d g o l d o f n i a s

Niki van den Heuvel

pE ctoral nE cklacE , NiaS, iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry. gOLD, 24.5 x 22.3 cM, aSiaN ciViLiSatiONS MUSEUM, SiNgapOrE


reated for the veneration and

appeasement of ancestors and the attainment of high status and power, the art of Nias – a small island situated off

Sumatra’s west coast – is widely acclaimed

as among the most dramatic and spectacular

examples of Indonesian animist art. In earlier times monumental sculptures carved from stone and wood in the form of ancestral and aristocratic effigies, obelisks, pillars, steles and seats of honour were prolific throughout the entire island. Although rare, complete and remnant examples of these impressive monuments are still found among

traditional Niha villages, or öri, which consist

of immense wooden houses, paved terraces

and stone plazas. The desire to emphasise

rank and piety also resulted in the production

of precious gold jewellery, smaller ancestral

figures and architectural elements.

Named after their founding ancestors, the öri

of Nias have distinct customs based on the

laws dictated by their forebears. Ancestral law emphasises a distinct hierarchical division consisting of an hereditary aristocracy who trace their lineage from founding ancestors, as well as common citizens. While all citizens are ultimately connected to the deities and ancestors of the upper and lower words, in

the past slaves governed by the upper classes

were considered inhuman and denied all

rights of citizenship, including living among


rest of society (Feldman 1985: 45).


Nias, rites associated with the cycle of life,

the prosperity of communities, significant events in an individual’s life, and political events were often accompanied by major feasts (owasa). Gatherings held to mark a village’s

foundation, a funeral, a meeting of clans with common ancestry, or to celebrate a noble’s elevation, occasioned the commissioning of numerous effigies, precious adornments in gold and the distribution of wealth. Each owasa was sponsored by the aristocracy as well as commoners to demonstrate dedication

to the ancestors and to mark a rise in rank

(Ziegler 1990: 79).

A striking anthropomorphic stone monument

(gowe nio niha) is among a collection of important Indonesian ancestral and animist sculpture held by the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). Almost two and a half metres tall, the impressive figure of a nobleman was commissioned for a feast of merit intended to

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intended to ta a S a r E V i E w V O L U

ratify or elevate the patron’s social and political standing. Carved in the style of the austere shafts and stele found throughout Nias, the bold figure is depicted with both arms raised in a gesture of authority and benevolence. Its facial features and markers of high status are carved in low stylised relief. While the patron’s warlike qualities of bravery and strength are evidenced by the emphasis on the pectorals and genitalia, his great affluence is marked by the depiction in stone of the typical accoutrements of a Niha nobleman including a gold bifurcated headdress, pectoral necklace, bangles and ear studs.

On Nias the role of gold is rich and multifaceted and its power cannot be understated. Used for ceremonial exchange, bride price and as a marker of wealth and status, gold – which is associated with the upper world – symbolises the divinity and power of the upper classes (Rodgers 1985: 80). The precious metal is ubiquitous, appearing on all manner of items including jewellery, weapons, textiles and furniture. Imbued with magical powers derived from the supernatural realms, objects in gold serve to mediate between the real and supernatural worlds and serve as amulets to ward off malevolent forces (de Moor 1990: 107).

Gold also expresses the complementary

opposites – upper and lower world, noble and common, male and female – which, according

to Niha law, are fundamental to the existence

of the cosmos. For example, pure yellow gold, along with yellow cloth, is associated

with the noble classes while red or false gold (gold alloy) and red cloth are associated with commoners (Rodgers 1985: 80). Even character is described in terms of gold with

a good and bad nature being referred to as

yellow and red gold respectively (de Moor 1990: 111-12).

In prosperous times a rich variety of jewellery

was produced for members of the noble and common classes by local goldsmiths from imported gold dust and leaf from Sumatra, and later from Dutch coins (de Moor 1990: 108). In the endless struggle to attain the highest possible status, the array of ceremonial accoutrements commissioned for spectacular owasa feasts included crowns, necklaces, ear ornaments and bracelets all featuring different shapes and motifs. In the case of the most noble, striking facial adornments of gold moustaches and beards were also produced. Exquisite examples of such regalia have been borrowed from


cE ntral p E ak of a crown, NiaS, iNDONESia,

19th cENtUry. gOLD, 52.0 x 28.0 cM.,

aSiaN ciViLiSatiONS MUSEUM, SiNgapOrE

gOLD, 52.0 x 28.0 cM., aSiaN ciViLiSatiONS MUSEUM, SiNgapOrE international collections to complement the Gallery’s

international collections to complement the Gallery’s collection of Nias stone sculpture for the exhibition Life, death and magic: 2000 years of Southeast Asian ancestral art.

An elegant set of chieftain’s gold in the form of the nifato-fato pectoral necklace and the central peak of a crown (tuwu, nandzulo or saembu ana’a) has been selected from the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. Hammered from gold sheet with undulating ridges and repoussé motifs, nifato-fato were worn by male noblemen throughout Nias and less commonly by women in the island’s south. The striking crown pinnacle, more than half a metre in height, would have been adorned with gold elements in the form of ornate foliage. Worn together, these elements represented the universal tree of life from which all existence originates (de Moor 1990: 117).

On show for the first time in Life, death and magic

is another powerful example of monumental

Nias sculpture that further demonstrates

the variety of Niha gold ornamentation. The spectacular gowe salawa, which would also have been commissioned for an owaha feast,

is carved in the more realistic style found

especially in the northern villages of the island.

A particularly rare work, the figure mirrors a

slightly more eroded example, undoubtedly by the same sculptor, on display in the Musée du Louvre’s Pavilion de Sessions in Paris.

Shown in the squatting position – an ancient pose appearing repeatedly in the ancestral art of Southeast Asia – the gowe salawa’s characteristic moustache and pointed beard may depict gold ornamental versions of these masculine


n ias anthropo Morphic ston E M onu ME nt [gow E nio

niha], iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry Or EarLiEr, StONE, 240.0 x

99.0 x 16.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

x 99.0 x 16.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra traits. Along with an elaborately defined

traits. Along with an elaborately defined crown and studded headband, the figure wears a single ear pendant and bangle. The nobleman is also shown wearing a torque (nifa tali), a symbol of the solidarity of villagers (de Moor 1990: 107), made from twisted strands of gold wire and a sword and scabbard at the hip. These accoutrements overtly emphasise the aristocrat’s accomplishment as a great warrior.

The prowess of the Nias warrior is also manifest in Life death and magic with the selection of trappings of power including an elaborate sword and scabbard (balatö) and necklace of polished coconut shell discs (kalabubu), both on loan from Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum. With a hilt in the form of the mythical dragon- like lasara, the balatö also features a bundle of protective amulets in the form of small ancestor figures. Resembling the form of gold nifa tali necklaces, the kalabubu was worn by common and noble warriors who had taken a head. In the case of the aristocracy, however, the kalabubu would have been covered with gold leaf (de Moor 1990: 117).

Displays of the finest jewellery were reserved for major feasts with smaller and less ostentatious examples worn as part of everyday life. Depictions of the sumptuous gold commissioned for feasts of merit therefore serve as a valuable commemoration of a patron’s largesse and devotion to ancestors and deities. Stone effigies of chiefs, immense stone seats in the form of the mythical osa-osa and wooden house panels carved with depictions of jewellery continued to emphasise a patron’s bounty long after the end of an owasa (de Moor 1990: 117).

n ias anthropo M orphic stonE M onu MEnt [gow E

salawa], iNDONESia, 19th cENtUry Or EarLiEr, StONE, 160.0 x

30.0 x 41.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

x 30.0 x 41.0 cM, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra The portrayal of finery is also

The portrayal of finery is also present on the figures carved as receptacles for ancestor spirits, to which offerings were made by the living. The exhibition includes a fine selection of Niha wooden ancestor statues from renowned international collections including the Barbier- Mueller Museum in Geneva and the National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta. An exquisite adu zatua from the Barbier-Mueller Museum, for example, is a striking depiction of a noble ancestor wearing a nifato-fato, töla jaga armband and an elegant single ear pendant.

Shown on a scale never before seen in Australia, the art and regalia of Nias in Life, death and magic demonstrate the impressive variations of Niha art. From precious gold to monumental displays of grandeur, these works reveal the devotion of a community to ancient forebears and, ultimately, the obsession with the achievement of greatest merit.

Niki van den heuvel is the Exhibition assistant for Life, death and magic: 2000 years of Southeast Asian art.

r E f E r E nc E s

feldman, Jerome, 1985. The eloquent dead: ancestral sculpture of Indonesia and Southeast Asia, UcLa Museum of cultural history, Los angeles.

de Moor, Maggie, 1990. ‘the importance of gold jewellery in Nias culture’ in feldman, Jerome et al., Nias tribal treasures, Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, Delft.

rodgers, Susan, 1985. Power and gold: jewellery from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines from the collection of the Barbier- Mueller Museum, Geneva, barbier-Mueller Museum, geneva.

ziegler, arlette, 1990. ‘festive areas: territories and feats in the south of Nias’ in feldman, Jerome et al., Nias tribal treasures, Volkenkundig Museum Nusantara, Delft.

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s M a l l a n d p o t E n t – f i s h i n g c h a r M s a n d t h E M E l a n a u o f B o r n E o

Charlotte Galloway

he traditional art of the Melanau, like

the other ethnic groups of Borneo, was driven by spiritual practices that included shamanism, ritual sacrifice and superstition. The name Melanau (also spelled Malanau and Milanau) was given to people living in the region of north and northeast Borneo around 1862 when the Rajah of Sarawak annexed the region from the Sultan of Brunei. The area became part of the Third Division of Sarawak and ‘his officials used the name Melanau to describe the people who lived in the Rejang delta and coastal area as far as Bintulu’ (Morris 1991: 4). As well as being fishermen, the Melanau were distinguished from other tribes by their farming of sago (Morris 1991: 16-17). As food demands grew rapidly in Southeast Asia, sago developed into a profitable trade item for the businessmen of Kuching and the Melanau became economically important to the local government. The Melanau fall into two loose groups: those living near the coast and those living inland along the river, and there are six sub-groups named after their geographical locations.


The art of Borneo is most immediately

associated with large spirit figures and carved wooden doors, house beams and posts, grave markers and the like. But alongside these very obvious and communal artworks there existed a more personal group of artefacts which is much less known. This group is comprised of small, carved objects variously called amulets, fetishes or charms and were believed to offer strong personal protection against misadventure and illness. Indeed, the practice of tying protective charms to food baskets, baby carriers and other personal items was widespread amongst the indigenous peoples of Borneo. Each charm was made for an individual and often for

a specific purpose. They were not usually

re-used but were most likely disposed of with the deceased and as such are quite rare.

Amongst the Melanau, small charms were also used for the important communal

purpose of protecting all activities related to fishing. The traditional Melanau religion

is called Liko, which means ‘people of the

river’ (Tettoni & Ong 1996: 24). The chief god

is Ula Gemilang, the sea divinity, indicating

the importance of the sea and rivers. Fishing was integral to Melanau life and the Melanau calendar months have names relating to fishing (Appleton 2006: 79). Life

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revolved around the monsoons and the most important community festival was the Kaul, the annual ritual cleansing of the village and blessing of the fishing season. One of the few traditional ceremonies still observed today, the festival takes place during the March full moon, which usually heralds the end of the northeast monsoons, when fishing and planting can resume.

There were many complex customs associated with fishing. ‘Melanau fishermen, especially when they worked in the deeper waters and used the larger nets, observed taboos, recited spells, and used images of spirits carved of wood or bone (bilum [or] dakan) tied to the nets. No woman was allowed on a barong on its way to the fishing grounds’ (Morris 1991: 211). Some other rituals observed were:

‘conversation about animals was forbidden to prevent careless talk that might be seen as disrespect that could bring about a state of baliyu, accompanied by storm and lightning. Before lowering the net the shipmaster silently recited spells, and each specialist, the steersman and the swimmers, knew appropriate spells which they used silently. The images of spirits tied to the nets were seen as a guarantee that the fishing was done with their approval’ (Morris 1991: 212).

These spirit images were an important part of the Melanau artistic expression. In 1912 Hose and McDougall wrote: ‘the Malanaus [sic], excel all other tribes, in that they attain a high level of achievement in a great variety of [decorative] arts’, with the Malanaus particularly skilled in fine wood carving (224). A number of Melanau fishing charms are illustrated in Lucas Chin’s Cultural Heritage of Sarawak (1980: 86). A collection of well-documented charms can be found at the British Museum and were published in a special issue of The Sarawak Museum Journal prior to being donated to the Museum (1997:

153-320). The two figures illustrated here were carved in bone and are very similar in form to Melanau wooden effigies.

Today, many indigenous customs and traditions have disappeared or are more ceremonial in nature. By 1996 Beatrice Clayre noted that only ‘two old men’ were still carving belum (also spelled bilum) in Medong, on the Sarawak coast (Clayre in Morris 1997: 176). Younger generations are no longer isolated from the modern world,

M E lanau fishing char M s, SarawaK, MaLaySia,

19th cENtUry, bOar tUSK, 10.9 x 1.6 x 1.8 cM (r);

11.0 x 1.4 x 2.2 cM (L), gift Of rEx aND carOLiNE StEVENSON

2010, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra

StEVENSON 2010, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia, caNbErra and lifestyles have changed dramatically. As early as the

and lifestyles have changed dramatically. As early as the 1960s, over 60% of Melanau were Muslim and many others followed a Christian faith (Morris 1991: 6). It is often only through the works of early anthropologists and ethnographers that we are able to place these artefacts in any context as many of the rituals in which these objects were crucial participants are now lost.

Dr charlotte galloway is Lecturer, art history at

the School of cultural inquiry, australian National


r E f E r E nc E s

appleton, ann, 2006. Acts of integration, Expressions of Faith. Madness, Death and Ritual in Melanau Ontology, borneo research council, phillips.

chin, Lucas, 1980. Cultural Heritage of Sarawak, Sarawak Museum, Kuching.

hose, charles and william MacDougall, 1912. The Pagan tribes of Borneo, reprint Oxford University press, Singapore, 2 vols, 1993, vol.1.

Morris, Stephen, 1991. The Oya Melanau, Malaysian historical Society, Kuching (Sarawak branch).

Morris, Stephen, 1997. ‘the Oya Melanau: traditional ritual and belief’, in beatrice clayre (ed) [special issue], The Sarawak Museum Journal L11 (73, new series), Sarawak Museum Department, Sarawak.

tettoni, Luca and Edric Ong, 1996. Living in Sarawak, thames and hudson, London.



p o r t r a i t s f r o M i n d i a 1 8 5 0 s – 1 9 5 0 s

Anne O’Hehir



bOLtON aND barNitt, 1863, aLbUMEN SiLVEr phOtOgraphS, LEttErprESS, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON

selection of recently acquired portrait

photographs from India form the focus of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA)

display from its Asia-Pacific collection. These works are full of tension: between science and art, the past and the present, photography as

a tool of documentation and as a site for the

imagination. Western modes of expression jostle with an approach that seems more intrinsically Indian, one in which adornment and ornamentation is fundamental and where reality is not always what it seems. Hand- coloured images are often particularly striking in the way regional Indian painting traditions and an imported medium meet and create a new language, one that speaks to the stress but also the dynamism that is generated when one culture seeks to accommodate the visual conventions and political demands of another.


There is something strange about the plates in William J. Johnson’s The oriental races and tribes, residents and visitors of Bombay, published in two volumes in London in 1863 and 1866 – the first photographically illustrated ethnographic publication on India. Their odd look is attributed to the fact that Johnson and his colleague William Henderson photographed the people in their studio in Bombay – but that Johnson subsequently bleached out the backgrounds and overprinted them with topographical views from separate negatives. He also drew in other features, such as foliage.

This is arguably one of the most engaging uses of montage in the pioneering era of photography, unexpected in images serving

as documentary evidence. That these works

– the earliest dated images in the display

– show a high degree of manipulation is

prescient for what follows, most evident in the flamboyant and distinctly Indian style of hand-coloured images. This is a genre that anarchically undermines the notion of photography as a transparent window onto the world, as a glimpse of reality.

Photography arrived in India soon after its invention in the late 1830s. The medium was slow to take hold in the new climate – few early daguerreotype studios lasted long and examples are scarce. Soon, however, India provided young British men with employment and adventure but also with a

novel vocation. William J. Johnson worked as

a civil servant but found himself drawn to the


as a civil servant but found himself drawn to the 1 4 new medium, becoming a

new medium, becoming a founding member


the Bombay Photographic Society in 1854.


then other amateurs such as Linneus Tripe

(serving in the Madras Army) and Dr John Murray (of the Indian Medical Service) were producing images that ‘stand comparison, both aesthetically and technically, with images produced anywhere in the world in the same period’ (Falconer 2001: 9).


rage for all things Indian gradually grew


England after the quelling of the Sepoy

Mutiny in 1857. This ended the Mughal era and signalled the subsumption of the subcontinent into the British Empire, leading up to the announcement in 1877 at the Imperial Assemblage in Delhi of Queen Victoria as the ‘Empress of India’ (Gordon 2008: 45). The 1860s through to the 1890s were years that belonged to the foreign professional photographer, supplying images to an ever- burgeoning trade in tourist views for which the Victorian age had an almost insatiable appetite. Perhaps the most significant are the landscape views by Samuel Bourne, who used picturesque conventions to tame the rugged terrain of the north of India.

The notable exception is the work by Lala Deen Dayal, photographing from the mid 1870s.

A draughtsman by training, his technical

proficiency, together with a fine artist’s eye, appealed to a wide audience. In 1887, having already achieved vice-regal patronage, he

became the only Indian photographer to be awarded the use of the title ‘by Royal appointment’ by Queen Victoria. Images from an album commemorating the huge military exercise or ‘camp of exercise’ which took place over a fortnight in January 1886 around Delhi is included in the display.

Far from stressing the grand nature of the manoeuvres, Deen Dayal often positioned his camera at peculiarly low vantage points, resulting in images that stress a dynamism bordering on shambolic disorganisation. Often, as Judith Mara Gutmann has noted:

‘the men looked as if they were about to step out of the picture’ – a tendency which she sees as being part of an Indian way of picturing the world (Gutmann 1982: 7). Around the time of these photographs Deen Dayal was able to retire from government having attracted the patronage of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, a man of great influence and wealth.

Photography was the vehicle par excellence for feeding the Victorian-era mania, growing out of colonial imperatives, for cataloguing (and therefore controlling) the world they sought to own: its buildings, particularly in romantically ruined state, its flora and fauna but also importantly its people. Studio portraits of princely rulers reflect this preoccupation, as well as ethnographic studies of native tribes. A suite of images

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lAkShMi 2001 by pUShpaMaLa N aND cLarE arNi frOM thE SEriES THE NATIvE


LIFE OF THE wOMEN OF SOuTH INDIA, 2001–2004, typE c cOLOUr phOtOgraphS,

NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON

cOLOUr phOtOgraphS, NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON included in the NGA display was probably photographed by

included in the NGA display was probably photographed by the firm of Johnston & Hoffmann for a presentation album compiled to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

Her Majesty’s enthusiasm for and patronage

of photography is well known. The images of the maharajas from the 19th century through

to the eve of Independence show a fascinating


of dress styles: traditional costume worn


patent leather shoes provides one obvious

example as do ensembles made more complex by the imperative of displaying the orders and robes of honour bestowed by the British. This ‘sartorial juggling’ (Tarlo 1996: 24) is in many ways a potent visual reflection of the subtle and ever-shifting adjustments that the Indian ruling class was able to effect in response to changing political and cultural imperatives.

The maharajas were themselves quick to see the potential uses that photography could serve, adapting the medium to their own cultural requirements. Rulers of Jaipur, Travancore and Tripura were particularly active as patrons and practitioners. It is evident that ‘for many of the ruling families, photography became something of a fashionable pursuit’. (Falconer 2001: 31)

That photography rendered a highly coloured world in monochrome had from its beginning been universally seen as problematic. The importance of colour has become a simplified cliché of India’s exotic otherness, and yet despite this, colour has considerable culturally specific meaning within Indian society as well as being valued for itself – indicating social and marital status, for example, and signifying the seasons and major festivals (Kumar 2008: 38). This is also a country where theatricality and performance permeate every aspect of society. It is not surprising then that as photography took on an Indian aesthetic the surface became a site

for embellishment and invention, resulting in a vibrant style of hand-coloured imagery made for a local clientele, including most of the ruling families. Hand-colouring also developed in Japan utilising traditional skills – yet in contrast to India much of it was made for the tourist trade and ended up abroad.

The hand-coloured photograph in India is a site in which tensions between the contemporary realities and traditions of the past reside. Hand painting developed out of the courtly painting tradition, borrowing techniques that had been used for centuries to make miniature paintings. It is a potent symbol of the ways in which sitters achieved an alliance with the modern world, choosing a medium that so often implied this association while also expressing an allegiance to timeless and indigenous customs as represented by painting. Interestingly, the hand colourists often added more traditional aspects such as turbans and jewellery to clients garbed in western-style attire (Kumar 2008: 46)

One of the true highlights of the NGA display is the sensitively and exquisitely hand- painted (with water colour) double portrait by Gopinath Devare, reputedly the first Indian to be awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Photography. It depicts Prince Yeshwant Rao Holkar, the original purchaser of the Brancusi Birds now owned by the National Gallery, and his sister Manorama Raje and was possibly made just before the Prince left for boarding school in England around 1920.

As the court system broke down at the end of the 19th century, portraiture, in the past available only to the elite, became much more widely available (Allana 2008: 25).

to the elite, became much more widely available (Allana 2008: 25). ta a S a r

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15 15

MAnoRATh PoRTRAiT. FeMAle devoTeeS BeFoRe ShRinAThji, wiTh RAASlilA in The BAckgRound 1900, bhUraLaL MOtiLaL,

gELatiN SiLVEr phOtOgraph, watErcOLOUr, gOLD. NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON

watErcOLOUr, gOLD. NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON MAnoRATh PoRTRAiT. A FAMily woRShiPPing on nAndoTSAv 1900,
watErcOLOUr, gOLD. NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON MAnoRATh PoRTRAiT. A FAMily woRShiPPing on nAndoTSAv 1900,

MAnoRATh PoRTRAiT. A FAMily woRShiPPing on nAndoTSAv 1900, KhUbiraM aND gOpiLaL brOthErS, gELatiN SiLVEr

phOtOgraph, watErcOLOUr. NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON

Practitioners were found more widely in bazaars and small studios. The democratising intent of the medium, evident in the range of the sitters in the display, back up Bengali writer, Ardhishwar Ghatak’s 1904 reflection that: ‘a good oil painting cannot be had for less than a thousand or even two thousand rupees. Photography gives us a far more accurate likeness for a hundred’ (Pinney 2009: 100).

One of the remarkable aspects of these Indian photographs is the importance of surface. An absence of the sense of the materiality of the surface is a notable characteristic of photography as it developed in the West. It is particularly


true in the history of colour photography, which

is usually printed in a laboratory, leaving the

photographer little if any licence to play. By contrast in Indian hand-coloured photographs, the paint can be so opaque that the viewer

struggles to find evidence of the photograph at all.

A distinctly Indian manifestation, the Rajasthani

manorath or photographic donor portrait, carries the ‘I was there-ness’ of photography into a sacred experience of darshan (daily showings and blessings) of Shrinathji, a manifestation of Krishna. In these images the sacred world of the Shrinathji figure is significantly rendered in paint and photography is reserved for the temporal world. Sometimes the image is nearly

PRince yeShwAnT RAo holkAR And hiS SiSTeR MAnoRAMA

RAje c.1920, DEVarE & cO, gOpiNath DEVarE (phOtOgraphEr),

gELatiN SiLVEr phOtOgraph, watEr cOLOUr, OrigiNaL giLDED

fraME. NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON

giLDED fraME. NatiONaL gaLLEry Of aUStraLia cOLLEctiON all paint with just the faces of the donors

all paint with just the faces of the donors stuck on: there is ‘no appeal to photographic authority in reproducing the divine’ (Pinney 2009: 102).

The undeniable appeal of hand-colouring is reflected in the fact that the tradition runs in an unbroken line through to the present day. The recognition that, as it developed, it was stylistically unique to India has earned it the attention of contemporary artists – such as the Bangalore-based Pushpamala N., who has engaged traditional practitioners to colour two of her series. She has also worked with the Thakker studio in Bombay that supplied studio glamour shots to Bollywood mid-century. This display at the National Gallery certainly makes it apparent that as the medium found and continues to find its place in India, artists have found ways to make it their own – often anarchically and in ways that also reflect the complexity of the modern history of the subcontinent.

anne O’hehir is assistant curator of photography at the National gallery of australia.

r E f E r E nc E s

allana, r. 2008. ‘a bold fusion: realism and the artist in photography’, The Alkazi Collection of Photography: Painted photographs – Coloured portraiture in India. Mapin, ahmedabad.

falconer, J. 2001. India: pioneering photographers 1850-1900. the british Library, London.

gordon, S. 2008. ‘the colonial project and the shifting gaze’, Marg: A magazine of the arts 59(4): 40 – 53.

gutman, J.M. 1982. Through Indian eyes: 19th and 20th century photography from India, Oxford University press: New york in

association with the international center for photography.

Kumar, p. 2008. ‘the evolving modern, 1850–1950: indian costumes as seen through painted photographs’, The Alkazi Collection of Photography: Painted photographs – Coloured

portraiture in India, Mapin, ahmedabad.

pinney, c. 2009. ‘centre and periphery: photography’s spatial field’, Marg: A magazine of the arts 61(1): 98 – 103.

tarlo, E. 1996. Clothing matters: dress and identity in India, hurst and company, London.

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i n t h E p u B l i c d o M a i n :

Oun Phalline and Martin Polkinghorne


N E w

D i S p L ay


t h E

N at i O N a L


O f

c a M b O D i a

t h E wE st M EB on v ishnu SUrrOUNDED by a prOJEct aNiMatED LOtUS pOND. DiDacticS Of rEcENt archaEOLOgicaL


he National Museum of Cambodia

(NMC) holds one of the most significant collections of art in the world. The Museum’s substantial collection of bronze and stone Angkorian sculpture showcases the greatest achievements of Khmer creativity. Among the most significant masterpieces is the magnificent image of Vishnu Anantashayin from the West Mebon temple, which readers of the TAASA Review will remember as the cover image from

the September 2006 issue (Feneley 2006: 18 - 19). This celebrated image of Vishnu is a major part

of a bronze figure that would have measured

nearly six metres, one of the largest Southeast Asian bronzes ever made.

Using funds donated by the Australian Embassy in Cambodia and UNESCO, the display of this image has undergone an exciting renovation. The Vishnu now appears as if it were reinstalled in its sacred temple setting surrounded by an animated lotus pond. The renovation also incorporates supplementary objects including gold jewellery and sandstone sculptures which link the famed sculpture to its original context and recent archaeological discoveries.

Vishnu was one of the principal Brahmanic deities worshipped throughout the ancient Khmer lands. The representation of Vishnu Anantashayin is frequently seen in Khmer art, especially on temple bas-reliefs and

decorative lintels. In 1936 a farmer living

in the Angkor region is said to have had a

dream in which the Buddha appeared to him asking to be ‘released’ from the soil.

He led the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) conservator, Maurice Glaize to the West Mebon where at the end of the causeway, they unearthed not a Buddha, but

a magnificent statue of Vishnu. Following

its excavation it was brought to the NMC (then the Museé Albert Sarraut) and has remained on permanent display ever since. The sculpture, among the NMC’s most famous, has toured the world appearing in exhibitions of Khmer art in the United States, Japan and Australia.

When the Vishnu was cast sometime in the

mid 11th century it was installed at the end

of the narrow causeway of the West Mebon

temple in the middle of a lotus pond. The symbolic importance of both the lotus and

water are ubiquitous throughout the history

of the Khmer people and the incorporation

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DiScOVEriES fEatUrE thE ScULptUrE’S pOSitiON iN thE ‘hyDraULic city’. phOtO: chhay ViSOth

pOSitiON iN thE ‘hyDraULic city’. phOtO: chhay ViSOth of these themes was critical to presenting an

of these themes was critical to presenting an appropriate and authentic display of the Vishnu in context. The lotus represents the purity of the body, speech and mind. The life-cycle of its flower, paddy and rhizome embodies the birth, florescence, death and regeneration of all things. Deities are placed on lotus seats, carry flowers in their hands, and shrines have lotus foundations. Fundamental to lotus symbolism is its connection to water. Water ensures fertility, regeneration and the prosperity of the community through the coming of the rains. Khmer rulers almost always based their authority on the management of water. With the assistance of the Visualising Angkor Project (Tom Chandler/ Monash University) a ‘rippling’ pond filled with budding and blooming lotus is projected onto a screen from behind the sculpture providing visitors with the impression that they are viewing the Vishnu in its original setting.

Proving the most popular aspect of the new display are 3D animations of medieval Angkor, also produced by the Visualising Angkor Project. Drawing upon archaeological and historical data, the animations depict what we know of temples, landscapes and daily life at Angkor in the 13th century. Recent archaeological discoveries also relate to the West Mebon Vishnu and the water system of Angkor. Since the 1990s, French, Australian, and Cambodian teams have conducted extensive archaeological mapping and the display incorporates the resulting map of Greater Angkor revealing a vast

settlement integrated by an elaborate water management network (see Evans et al 2007).

A key feature of the hydraulic infrastructure

was the enormous reservoir, the Western Baray, and at the centre the West Mebon temple and the great West Mebon Vishnu.

The new display promises to attract both Khmer and international visitors and promote awareness, understanding and appreciation of Cambodia’s heritage. Through the success of

this renovation, and other ongoing initiatives like the first complete inventory of holdings

in more than half a century (the Leon Levy

Foundation and Shelby White Inventory

Project), expert conservation laboratories and

a dynamic temporary exhibitions program,

the NMC hopes to develop its facilities and build the capacity of its staff.

Oun phalline was appointed Director of the

National Museum of cambodia in 2010. between

1996 – 2009 Mme Oun was Deputy Director of the

Museum. Martin polkinghorne holds a phD in art

history from the University of Sydney specialising

in Khmer art. in 2009 he undertook an Endeavour

post-doctoral fellowship under host institution

heritage watch, including a placement at the

National Museum of cambodia

r E f E r E nc E s

Evans, D., pottier, c., fletcher, r., hensley, S., tapley, i., Milne, a. and barbetti, M. 2007. “a comprehensive archaeological map of the world’s largest pre-industrial settlement complex at angkor, cambodia”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the united States of America. Vol. 104 no. 36, pp. 14277-14282.

feneley, M. 2006. “the west Mebon Vishnu”, in TAASA Review, The Journal of the Asian ArtsSociety of Australia vol 15 (3).

17 17

c u l t u r a l E n c o u n t E r s : t h E r E v E r s E g a z E o f k u t c h p a i n t i n g

Jim Masselos

ehind the British East India Company’s

physical takeover of India during the 1700s, another encounter of equal significance was occurring, an encounter between civilizations, between distinctive ways of thinking, seeing and behaving. The juxtaposition was profound and nowhere more so than in the area of culture and the arts - particularly painting. The impact varied according to the situation throughout the subcontinent. Some parts were initially less affected, others more so depending on whether the British took over government completely or ruled indirectly through subordinate princes.


In less affected territories, painting went on much as before. Artists continued producing pictures for maharajas depicting religion and courtly life in their accustomed opaque gouache medium. Later in the second half of the 19th century they were severely affected as photographs seduced patrons and undercut the artists’ support base. As for painters who catered to pilgrims at significant temples, their clientele was largely unaffected by the change of masters; they flourished until late in the 19th century, when the cheaper mass products of printing presses took away their customers.

Where the British ruled directly, the impact was greater. Artists lost their former patrons and perforce found new ones in Company officials. Inevitably the new patrons had different tastes and needs. Many wanted visual records of their life in India to send home to friends and family. Artists painted Europeans with their horses and friends, in bungalows or looking over the countryside. Patrons also wanted pictures of the strange

exotic structures they were encountering, so painters took on the stuff of European orientalist fantasy, buildings like the Taj Mahal, the palaces of the Red Forts, emperors’ tombs and other Mughal monuments. Such subjects, recorded in fine detailed precision, became commonplace in Company painting, a genre of its own.

While the new patrons wanted portrayals of the built environment around them they were less keen about the natural environment. There are relatively few landscape and topographical scenes from Company painters. That market seems to have been largely the preserve of touring British artists like the Daniell brothers whose drawings became spectacular coloured aquatints highly desired in early 1800s London.

What absorbed much of the attention of Company artists came from their recruitment into what was essentially the documentation project of the Raj. Artists were deployed to depict people, castes, religions, customs, occupations and festivals under British rule. Many thousands of such paintings were produced in which people going about their daily activities became stereotypes – there were token Brahmans, warriors, widows, traders and so on. Given the requirement to characterise people into types, painters used attributes considered distinctive to specific groups. Just as deities in traditional iconography were identified by unique attributes, Shiva by his trident for instance, or Vishnu by his discus, so too were different types of Indians identified by distinguishing markers. Brahmans had tonsured heads, shoemakers specific tools,

Brahmans had tonsured heads, shoemakers specific tools, tidal Estuar Y, KUtch c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 48

tidal Estuar Y, KUtch c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 48 x 24.5 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON


hors E and rid E r , KUtch c1840, cOLOUr ON papEr,

14.5 x 18.5 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON

c1840, cOLOUr ON papEr, 14.5 x 18.5 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON soldiers uniforms, snake charmers their characteristic

soldiers uniforms, snake charmers their characteristic flutes and so on. Costumes, weapons, headgear, a worker’s tools, such items enabled human subjects to be coded into categories, and denied individuality.

Local artists recorded for the new rulers knowledge about who and what they ruled:

art became the handmaiden for imperial documentation - and domination. In the process the look of the image itself changed as artists adopted transparent watercolours rather than the opaque paints favoured by court artists. The composition of pictures also changed:

because figures and social groups were most important to patrons, they became central in the composition, rendering context less important. Backgrounds were downplayed and even largely disappeared from Company paintings.

The interaction between the foreign ruler and

the local artist thus led artists to reproduce the world around them through the foreigner’s gaze, using their patrons’ preferred media and viewpoints. Yet subversively, as we look at the painting of people at work and

in action, we see the intended stereotyped

images differently. The focus on ordinary people means that, paradoxically, we get a sense of time, place and the individuality of those depicted in the paintings, probably not what their patrons had intended.

A small watercolour from Kutch in western

India of a cavalry soldier makes the point. There is no background. The token shadows

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E xplosion on B oat, KUtch c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 36.5 x 27 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON

c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 36.5 x 27 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON of the horse and rider on

of the horse and rider on the ground anchor the composition, but do not identify or contextualise the central figure. The costume of the rider, the red scabbard of his sword, and the long rifle differentiate him as a warrior of worth. What lifts the painting above its not especially expert rendering of the horse is the warrior’s craggy face. Here is an individual, distinctive in his own right and full of grizzled character, not at all the stereotyped warrior.

Other paintings created in Kutch from the second half of the 1700s directly confronted the pervasive Company gaze. Their artists approached the cultural encounters happening on the subcontinent from another angle, and present an alternate gaze, a reverse view that ensures their pictures are quite unlike any produced elsewhere in India. They remain characteristically Indian, whatever the subject matter or influence. This group of Kutch paintings has been little studied: there is a single monograph, A Place Apart. Painting in Kutch, 1720-1820, from B.N. Goswamy and A.L. Dallapiccola (1983) and three or so articles by them. Other art historians have neglected the Kutch paintings, as have

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museum collections, though not private collectors from one of whom the paintings discussed here come.

The Kutch paintings follow similar formats and treatments, and often use distinctive European subject matter though they could never have been created in Europe. They are all relatively large, horizontal images painted predominantly in the opaque colours of the traditional miniature on reinforced paper, each framed with strong black painted borders. They remain within the praxis of court paintings in their medium though they differ in subject matter and treatment.

Goswamy and Dallapiccola trace the origins of the style to woodcut prints from England or Europe that were brought to Kutch sometime in the second half of the 18th century, evidenced by surviving examples in Kutch collections. The prints, known as perspective views or vue perspectifs, were a popular novelty on the continent at the time. They are characterised by their rigid use of Renaissance perspective, the perspective of the vanishing point that was applied to buildings, streetscapes and even landscapes.

Small figures break the formality of the compositions, add human interest to the scene and provide a sense of scale, as in views of various cityscapes and country mansions.

Through such prints, Kutch artists were introduced to novel subject matter and compositional approaches. At first they copied the foreign prints literally and then set out to imitate their overall look. In some cases they even painted in the cross lines of the original print, as in the painting of ships around an estuary. The subject matter itself is rare in Indian painting – there are hardly any seascapes apart from some Mughal representations, like that of Noah on his ship escaping the floods. The Kutch seascape has no dramatic central subject though there is a sophisticated use of perspective. Here the tide is out, leaving small country craft stranded, a sailor swims in a pool left by the retreating waters, others fish as do various kinds of birds, cranes and other waders. In the distance out at sea is a row of ocean going vessels, presumably waiting for the tide so they can unload or perhaps load cargo – a reminder of Kutch’s maritime role and how it has for centuries been part of the main


attack on fort, KUtch c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 41 x 30 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON

c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 41 x 30 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON st. paul’ s cath E dral
c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 41 x 30 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON st. paul’ s cath E dral

st. paul’ s cath E dral , KUtch c1800, gOUachE ON papEr, 37 x 25 cM. pOrtVaLE cOLLEctiON

many seem to be Chinese sporting pigtails. Needing to locate the images somewhere distant, the artist has probably again used available pictorial notions of the exotic.

Ambiguity is also there in the image of what is probably St Pauls in London. Presumably derived from a foreign print, the painting retains the use of hatching lines, but these are used to artistic effect to define those parts of the building in shadow. The use of figures about the building reinforces a sense of its size and proportions but if the figures are intended to provide local colour they miss their target. The notable seated under an oriental looking umbrella in front of the Cathedral looks as if he is holding court in some distant place while some of the figures around him seem to be in Chinese costume – they are not particularly European in dress or pose.

The same difficulty in depicting the alien and

different is evident in the way the artist has rendered the statues on top of the cathedral. He would seem to have had no idea of what

a statue was like, much less a group of them

spread along a rooftop. Nor was he any more successful depicting the finials of the spires. With its large looming cloud above the building, a throwback not to European but to Indian precedents, the painting as a whole manages to unite its disparate elements and convey a freshness that goes beyond any suggestion of quaintness and naivety.

As a group, such Kutch paintings show how the style of perspective views prints was copied using manual painting techniques, absorbing alien mechanical reproduction approaches

into existing artistic traditions. That the subject matter explored in these paintings was not of the kind normally featured in courtly painting underscores the curiosity of the artists for what was outside their Kutchi world, and their willingness to depict it in their paintings. There



painting of an explosion is equally


a sense of adventure in their enterprise. While

trading routes in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Other paintings record distant events. There is one of an army besieging a formidable island fort. Just where this is remains uncertain: it may be one of the many coastal

perplexing. Beside a stream flowing into a lake is a Mughal or Rajasthani style gateway and fort walls with a township, in complex perspective, behind them and beside the

lake. There are two glorious trees and idyllic gardens that serve as a colourful balance to

Europe was increasingly viewing Asia as an orientalist construct during the 18th century, and was developing stereotypes of its people and places, these artists in Kutch it would seem were doing something similar but in reverse, imagining and reproducing Europe within their

forts south of Bombay constructed by local


catastrophe that is the picture’s subject.

Indian framework of attitudes, using whatever

rulers. The redcoats worn by some soldiers

Flames and smoke rise from an explosion

models were at hand. In their turn they were

suggest the attackers may be British. Given


a boat full of bales of cargo. Figures

occidentalising Europe, providing an Indian

that other figures appear to have pigtails

are shown hurled into the air, along with

view of the foreign and different.

and to be therefore Chinese, the artist may

a large pot, the sort boats of the day used

rather be presenting an imagined version of


store water. While the painting draws

Jim Masselos is honorary reader, School of

foreigners attacking a fort, peopled by his


customary elements of Indian painting,

philosophical and historical inquiry, University of

stereotyped view of what constitutes foreign appearance. The artist’s depiction of the guns and cannon reinforces the imaginative nature of this picture.

particularly in the delineation of the trees, the fort and town, the artist again seems to have illustrated something unfamiliar to him. Figures in the painting are strange -

Sydney. his most recent books are The City in Action. Bombay Struggles for Power, 2007 and (with Naresh fernandes), Bombay Then: Mumbai Now, 2009.


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B o o k r E v i E w :

Janet Mansfield

E t h N i c

J E w E L L E r y

a N D

a D O r N M E N t

E t h N i c J E w E L L E r y a

E thnic JEw Ell E r Y and adorn ME nt a ustralia • o ceania • a sia • africa by truus Daalder Ethnic art press and Macmillan, 2009 photographs by Jeremy Daalder rrp a$155.00 including postage

With the stated aim of promoting public appreciation of ethnic jewellery, Truus Daalder provides much more to the reader through her knowledge of the spiritual values of tribal people, all learnt through the study of objects. Her book, ‘Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment’, covering the regions of Australia, Oceania, Asia and Africa, gives us an understanding of cultures, beliefs and rituals through the objects worn and treasured by ethnic groups from these countries.

We learn what is important to life and living for people we cannot possibly meet, we learn about the rituals of warfare, about birth and marriage taboos and the death rites of tribal people whose communities respect and demand strict rules of conduct. We are witness to beautiful objects, superbly presented, objects made by people in a traditional way to protect themselves against misfortune and natural disasters, to ensure the continuity of the family and to triumph over their enemies.

Truus Daalder’s father, a noted Dutch collector, started Truus on the road to looking at the role of art and culture in objects around her. It was in Australia where she first started to collect ethnic jewellery. She gives us a definition of ‘ethnic’ as referring to work made in a specific regional area that is relevant and traditional to that area. She qualifies ‘jewellery’ as being associated with precious metals and valuable stones, whereas ‘adornment’ relates more to items made of materials such as feathers, fibre, shells, and so on. In this book we are treated

to both categories and of the highest and most stimulating quality.

As a potter of many years and with a small collection of ethnic jewellery and clothing, I have always been interested, like most potters, in mark-making, design and pattern, and what we can learn through the forms and decoration that adorn pots from ancient times or ethnic traditions. I am fascinated by the similarities that exist in work from diverse regions and, in particular, the differences that can be traced from one region to another perhaps as people migrate, or as objects are carried from one place to another. Or is it that human needs and ceremonies are more universal and the differences relate to locally available materials or other individual experiences?

Truus Daalder explores these and many other possibilities in her book. The craftsmanship shown by the makers of the objects depicted in the Daalder collection, and 80 percent of this book is made up of the family collection, is exemplary. Flawless attention to detail and meticulous fashioning can be seen in every piece and all are objects of creative art. An Aboriginal work, a man’s ceremonial head ornament made of sulphur-coloured cockatoo feathers, wood and bees wax is an inspiringly

beautiful piece, as is the silver, coral and turquoise headdress for a woman in India. Or my favourite, the heavy neckpiece of 13 silver rods from Southwest China. Every page of text is filled with the research undertaken by Truus Daalder and told as an enthusiastic, dedicated and personal discovery she has made. All photographs depict objects of awe-inspiring beauty, some that must have taken months or years to assemble by nimble fingers and a sure eye for colour and design.

This book is a family affair. Truus wrote the text, son Jeremy took the photographs and husband Joost is the editor and promoter. He will tell you that the book was compiled for love of the subject. That love comes through in every aspect of the book’s production. It is a collector’s item in itself. An extensive bibliography, much of it part of the research undertaken for ‘Ethnic Jewellery and Adornment’, shows the attention given to the subject among academics and collectors. I can recommend this book to everyone interested in fine art, crafts and beautiful objects.

Janet Mansfield is a ceramic artist, author and president of the international academy of ceramics, geneva, Switzerland. She lives in gulgong NSw.

of ceramics, geneva, Switzerland. She lives in gulgong NSw. Man’s cE r EM onial hE ad

Man’s cE r EM onial hE ad orna ME nt, KatJi pEOpLE, NOrthErN tErritOry, aUStraLia, EarLy 20th cENtUry. 27 x 25 cM.

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cOcKatOO pLUMES, bEESwax, wOODEN hairpiN. SOUth aUStraLiaN MUSEUM, aDELaiDE. phOtO: JErEMy DaaLDEr



a t i k o f J a v a : p o E t i c s a n d p o l i t i c s


a l o u n d r a r E g i o n a l a r t g a l l E r Y t o u r i n g E x h i B i t i o n

s kirt cloth kain pan J ang, cirEbON, 1940 – 1950S,

Maria Wronska-Friend


he batik fabrics of Java represent the

peak of achievement in the art of wax- resist dyeing and belong to the greatest textile traditions of Asia. The significance of these textiles was recognised by UNESCO in October 2009 when Javanese batik was the first group of Asian textiles to be inscribed on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. To celebrate this event, the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery on the Sunshine Coast decided to organise an exhibition Batik of Java: Poetics and Politics which presents two Queensland collections of Indonesian textiles and paintings: batik textiles from the north coast of Java and a series of recent paintings by the Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto entitled Batik has been Burnt.

The first collection, available to the general

public due to the generosity of its owners, two Sunshine Coast collectors and art connoisseurs

- Greg Roberts and Ian Reed, presents more

than 20 outstanding batiks illustrating the diversity of cultural and artistic traditions of the north coast of Java, an area known as Pasisir. In Dadang Christanto’s paintings,

batik textiles have been presented indirectly, as fragments of a distorted past – memories

of tragic events which affected his home area

during the 1965-1966 political upheavals, when tens of thousands of people lost their lives. By presenting these two, so different yet indirectly connected groups of artworks, the

haND-DrawN DESigN (batiK tULiS), cOttON, SyNthEtic DyES.

grEg rObErtS & iaN rEED cOLLEctiON
grEg rObErtS & iaN rEED cOLLEctiON

s kirt cloth kain pan J ang, LaSEM, EarLy 20th cENtUry,

haND-DrawN DESigN (batiK tULiS), cOttON, NatUraL DyES.

grEg rObErtS & iaN rEED cOLLEctiON

cOttON, NatUraL DyES. grEg rObErtS & iaN rEED cOLLEctiON exhibition is able to generate diverse realms

exhibition is able to generate diverse realms of experience and emotion. The first one results from an encounter with the aesthetic and the symbolic as well as the technical achievements represented in the best examples of Pasisir batiks. In the second one, violence and an overwhelming feeling of loss are experienced

including the extensive collection of batiks. His mother survived with five young children to look after. The artist decided to dedicate to his mother the series of paintings Batik has Been Burnt, admiring her strength in overcoming these obstacles. The paintings have been included in this exhibition courtesy

which bring to perfection the art of drawing with wax, but which are equally vital in the successful accomplishment of all other types of tasks.

These qualities are clearly demonstrated in the Pasisir batiks from the collection of Greg


universal human suffering.

of the Jan Menton Gallery in Brisbane.

Roberts and Ian Reed. The textiles represent the highest achievement of Javanese batik


comes as a surprise to find that for Dadang

Dadang Christanto, one of the most recognised

from the end of the 19th century, stressing

Christanto, learning the meaning of batik

Indonesian artists, has since 1999 been a

the diversity of regional styles as well as

designs was his first art experience. Dadang was born in 1957 in a village near Tegal in central Java. His parents used to operate

resident of Australia and is currently Adjunct Professor at Griffiths University. He is best known for his installations, many of which

ethnic preferences for particular textiles. The collection also contains the best examples from workshops still operating in this part of


small shop selling batik fabrics and as a

are monumental works, however his two-

the island.

child, he frequently witnessed his mother discussing various batik designs with her customers. “Given this experience, batik has also shaped my artistic journey”, states the artist. Then, in 1965 when he was eight years old, during the political turmoil when his father was taken away and never seen again, the family’s house was burned down,

dimensional works and art performance are of equal substance. In the past, he occasionally included batik fabrics as a component of his installations, but this is the first time that his work directly refers to these textiles. From Javanese batik he learned of the need for patience, concentration and focus in order to complete the work – personal qualities

The highlights are a group of batiks from the town of Lasem, made in the end of the 19th and early 20th century, featuring the deep red colour obtained from the natural dye mengkudu – a colour of such intensity that it cannot, in spite of numerous efforts, be replicated with synthetic dyes. The secret of


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Batik has B EE n Burnt #7, DaDaNg chriStaNtO 2008, acryLic ON bELgiUM LiNEN, 137.0 x 167.0 cM, priVatE cOLLEctiON

ON bELgiUM LiNEN, 137.0 x 167.0 cM, priVatE cOLLEctiON this unique hue of red colour might

this unique hue of red colour might perhaps be attributed to the high salinity and the iron content of the local water.

The collection also contains excellent examples of floral sarongs made at Pekalongan, which used to be worn in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century by Eurasian women of European and Javanese descent, as well as by Chinese residents of Java. Batik Hokokai, made in one of the Chinese workshops at Pekalongan is of exceptional quality, representing an artistic style that dominated Pasisir batik during the Japanese occupation (1942-1945). As cotton cloth was in short supply during the war, the patterns of this type of batiks are extremely dense and complex, usually positioned in two diagonal fields so that the skirt could be worn in two ways, each time featuring different designs.

The pinnacle of Javanese skills in the use of natural dyes is represented by batik from the group tiga negeri (‘three countries’). Its name indicates that the fabric was dyed in three different towns, each of them being famous for production of a particular type of colour with natural dyes. For example, following the first dyeing in Lasem in red colour, the fabric could have been sent to Kudus to be dyed in blue and then to Surakarta to be dyed in brown. The multi-layered designs of these fabrics illustrate the complex process of their production.

The collection represents as well the continuity of the batik traditions in the Pasisir area and the range of high quality contemporary fabrics

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produced there. The Oey Soe Tjoen workshop

at Kedungwuni near Pekalongan, established

at the end of the 19th century, is probably the last place in Pasisir to continue the finest tradition of Chinese batik on Java. The floral sarongs of soft, pastel colours are famous for their precise, controlled design, where not even one drop of wax is left to chance.

The port of Cirebon, which for centuries has been engaged in maritime trade with China, India and the Middle East, developed a distinctive type of batik, whose style mirrors the diversity of cultural traditions that shaped this area. Old Cirebon designs have been successfully revived by two batik workshops: Batik Madil and Batik Masina. In the former, in 2008, the collectors commissioned batik cloth featuring 12 colours. It took exactly one year to produce this flawlessly executed sarong, decorated with bright summer flowers and butterflies which symbolise the high season of life.

The leitmotif of Cirebon art is the dramatic megamendung (‘drifting cloud’) design which on some batiks have been elevated to paramount position. According to local tradition, the design was introduced by a group of Chinese craftsmen who accompanied

a daughter of the Ming emperor when she

arrived at Cirebon to marry the local ruler. The same design appears several times in the paintings of Dadang Christanto, to mark the Chinese ancestry of his family.

The exhibition aims to establish a dialogue between the textiles and paintings, as

well as between the present and memory, achievement and loss. It encourages viewers to explore emotions and experiences resulting from this encounter with two groups of artworks, each with their own symbolic and social meanings. While the collection of Pasisir batiks provides an insight into one of the greatest textile traditions of the world, Dadang Christanto’s series of paintings refer to his deep, personal experience of loss and grief – emotions that can also be readily understood at a universal level.

Maria wronska-friend is an anthropologist and museum curator specialising in textiles and costumes of Southeast asia. She is an adjunct Senior Lecturer at James cook University in cairns and has curated several exhibitions promoting asian art. Batik of Java: Poetics and Politics is her latest project.

The exhibition ‘Batik of Java: Poetics and Politics’, organised by the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery, will be presented at Caloundra between 10 July and 14 August 2010. In the following months it will travel to Artspace Mackay, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery at Townsville, Dogwood Crossing at Miles and Noosa Regional Gallery. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.

at Townsville, Dogwood Crossing at Miles and Noosa Regional Gallery. The exhibition is accompanied by a


c o l l E c t o r ’ s

Michael Heppell

c h o i c E :


he word came through. I was on the

road. A Uma’ Jalan Kenyah leader above Muara Ancalong, four days chugging upriver from Samarinda in Kalimantan Timur had been trying to sell a couple of 6 metre long belawing poles without success. He approached someone I knew, who asked me if I was interested. I remembered an early photograph of a similar pole being erected in the Apo Kayan. It signalled that if you were to erect one in Australia, avoid a union workforce and occupational health and safety inspectors. I telephoned my younger son, explained what was on offer and asked if we would have difficulty getting it round the back. ‘No worries!’ he said.


Traditionally every Kenyah longhouse had

a belawing pole. The pole was the terrestrial

domain of the supreme god Bali Akang. It was always crowned by a carved figure of a warrior. The pole played a central part in mamat ceremonies to celebrate heads taken and to rank boys and men as warriors. Various sacrifices made at the pole propitiated Bali Akang to strengthen male souls in the community.

We decided that the best port from which to ship the pieces would be Kuching, in Sarawak, Malaysia. Shipment would be direct to Melbourne and fumigation there was recognized by AQIS. We agreed a price for the poles and asked for them to be dug out so it was clear they were not stolen and written testimony provided that we were bone fide buyers.

Digging them out was simple. Getting them on

one of the river ferries that plied a trade between Samarinda and Muara Ancalong required the ferry owner to bring his boat further upriver from Muara Ancalong. Fortunately, there was

a bank to which the boat could get close. The belawing had been transported to the bank,

rolled on a succession of logs, with a couple

of men running the ejected log up to the front

to maintain a continuous ‘belt’. The belawing were carved from what the timber trade calls

‘sinkers’, a wood which is so dense that it sinks

in water. Care was necessary. Two teams, one

armed with rattan ropes and restraining, and the other pushing, rolled the poles onto the roof of the ferry.

We arrived in Samarinda around four o’clock one afternoon having left Muara Ancalong at dawn. In no time we had a large labour force


pa i r

O f

K E N ya h

b E L a w i N g

p O L E S

f r O M

b O r N E O

Er E cting a BE lawing pol E in thE a po- kaYan, 1928 frOM tiLLEMa, h.f., apO-KaJaN – EEN fiLMrEiS

Naar EN DOOr cENtraaL – bOrNEO, VaN MUNStEr'S UitgEVErS-MaatSchappiJ, aMStErDaM, p.207

VaN MUNStEr'S UitgEVErS-MaatSchappiJ, aMStErDaM, p.207 to roll the poles off the ferry and onto the dock.

to roll the poles off the ferry and onto the dock. We started looking for a truck owner to transport them to Kuching. Such a journey was beyond the imagination of all but a Bugis owner of the most decrepit truck in the line waiting for work. He had never been further than 50 kilometres from Samarinda. We asked

for a fixed price to Kuching. To assist him, we explained where Kuching was – 2,500 or more kilometres away. He quoted a figure that we calculated would get us three quarters of the way there. We haggled and settled for

a lower figure. The truck went down to the

dock where fork lifts placed the poles on the tray. The carved figures stretched beyond the tailgate and had a wonderful view of the passing scenery.

We set off. The journey was constantly interrupted by police requiring evidence that the poles had not been stolen. A thousand

kilometres into the journey and after repeated punctures, we agreed to stand the owner a set

of new tyres. About half way, the truck owner

had worked out that this trip was not going to be profitable and, as we had expected, wanted to renegotiate contract terms. We made it worthwhile for him to continue. Two hundred kilometres from the Sarawak border, the truck engine gave up the ghost. Ten hours later we were on the move again, somewhat poorer for the experience, but with a much better diesel engine in the truck. Three weeks later the poles were on the high seas.

In Australia, our customs’ agents agreed to put the boxed poles on a truck with lifting equipment. We organised a team of strong athletes, ropes and piano dollies to get the poles from the truck into our suburban driveway. No truck arrived. The truck sent to the docks was too short for the poles. They would be delivered the following day. We told the agents that we would have the team on the following day, but not after that. The truck on the following day was longer but still not long enough and we waited in vain. I told the agents that delivery would have to include getting the poles off the truck and into our driveway.

The following day, our door bell rang. A truckie said he had two poles to deliver and did I know how heavy they were - he had weighed them at 650 kilos each. I asked him if he had lifting gear. He said, ‘no’. I asked him how many helpers he had. He replied, ‘none’. My wife and I were alone at home …

The truckie, a giant of a man, said he had a number of other deliveries to do; so he wanted to get on his way as quickly as possible. I explained I would give my son a call. He reminded me of the weight of each crate. I told him these guys were all ex-AFL footballers and were used to bench-pressing 120 kilos. The truckie looked sheepish but relieved, admitting that he could only manage 110.

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iNStaLLiNg thE BELAwING pOLES frOM a KENyah LONghOUSE. phOtO: MichaEL hEppELL

pOLES frOM a KENyah LONghOUSE. phOtO: MichaEL hEppELL I phoned my son. He said he would

I phoned my son. He said he would have a

‘team’ round within the hour. I called Tony,

a Canadian, at Kennards. He had participated

in moving a number of lighter poles. I asked if he could get some dollies, straps and a roustabout up to our house and he replied he was on the way.

An hour later we were underway and followed the formula for getting the poles onto the roof of the ferry. With the first pole safely parked on the street, we realised we could not get the second off the same way as it would probably go through our picket fence. We unpacked the second one from its crate, piled the two crates on each other and let the second one down onto the crates, which cushioned its fall. The truckie, a great bloke, bade us farewell.

It then seemed a simple matter for the roustabout to lift each pole high enough to get a dollie under it, manoeuvring them out into the street (potentially to the annoyance of drivers who used the street as a rat run) and then pushing them into our driveway. It had taken 2½ hours and the team was worried it might be missed from its workplace. The poles were left on the pavement outside our house.

The team returned that evening and it took just under an hour to get the two poles into the driveway where they languished. The problem with the block of land they had to

negotiate was that it is ‘L’ shaped. There is

a 0.8 metre wide pathway down the house

winding past various obstructions. That runs into a 3.8 metre paved area where the 6 metre long poles would have to be manoeuvred

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to pass under a pergola and up some steps

before turning into the ‘L’. The poles did not move for a long time. Neighbours wondered about our good sense.

We got a crane hire company to advise. Yes, they could do it but it would require a 200 tonne crane truck with a 50 metre arm. It would cost $10,000. We would have to get the electricity company to cut the electricity off for the whole street and take the power line down so the arm would be able to reach across our neighbour’s garden. Telstra would also have to be contacted. No neighbour regarded this as a solution to our problem.

We got a conveyor belt company to advise.

Yes, they thought they could do it. A number

of belts would snake its way through our block

and get the poles to where we wanted them at a prohibitive cost. The company thought that there was a high risk that the weight of the poles would wreck the belt and told us we would have to pay for any damage.

We approached our state gallery to see if they would take the poles. They had a look but that was the sum of their interest. Ironwood does not burn all that well. So it seemed that the poles would be prostrate for good.

Meanwhile the team constantly discussed the poles because, for them, they were unfinished business. Eighteen months later, they reckoned they had an answer. On a

very wet day, they put the plan into action.

A turfer was added to the roustabout, dollies

and straps as were plywood sheets to stop the dollies sinking into the grass.

thE bELawiNg pOLES rELOcatED tO SUbUrbia.

phOtO: MichaEL hEppELL

bELawiNg pOLES rELOcatED tO SUbUrbia. phOtO: MichaEL hEppELL The first pole was pushed down the side

The first pole was pushed down the side of the house on the dollies and manoeuvred through the 3.8 metre paved area when a problem emerged. The slope of the steps was such that at their greatest angle, the head of the figure on the top of the pole would scrape along the ground and probably be knocked off. The problem was resolved by laying the plywood sheets down the stepped pathway. Some car jacks were found and jacked up the lowest sheet. The pole was positioned on the sheets and winched to a point at which there was no danger to the figure. It was then lifted back onto the dollies.

The pole was then pushed to the 1.2 metre hole that had been dug for it. The roustabout raised the pole as far as it could go - about 4 metres - sufficient for it to drop into the hole. However, it sank into the hole at an angle and would not budge. One person took winch and rope into one neighbour’s garden. Two took a rope into another neighbour’s garden. Another held a rope in our yard. Two more worked on wedging railway sleepers against the lean. The seventh managed the task of getting the pole vertical. Eventually the pole was cajoled into an upright position. It had taken 7 hours. The second joined the first the following day.

I met up with my contact in Borneo a couple

of months later. I told him the poles were in.

I laughingly suggested we might look for an

18 metre one in the Apo Kayan like the one in the old photograph. He went absolutely ashen. ‘Never again’, he whispered.

Dr Michael heppell is an anthropologist specialising on borneo cultures. his 2005 publication, Iban Art: sexual preference and severed heads, was co-published by Kit, amsterdam and c. zwartenkot art books, Leiden.


trav E ll E r ’ s tal E : a SEacS StUDy tOUr Of hiStOric KiLN SitES iN fUJiaN aND JiNgDEzhEN

Linda M c Laren

iln sites and ceramics museums in the southern Chinese provinces of Fujian and

Jiangxi were the focus of the April 2010 study tour undertaken by members of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Society (SEACS). Imperial and folk kilns and their products were viewed

in ceramics manufacturing districts including

legendary Dehua and Jingdezhen. Among the many highlights of the trip was the chance to observe an operational wood-fired kiln being loaded with ready to fire teapots made on-site. The manufacturing, glazing and kiln stacking techniques used in mass production were observed there first hand.


Singapore based SEACS celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009 and has an admirable

record of promoting the study of ceramics by means of lectures and seminars, exhibitions, publications and study tours such as ours. Inaugurated in 1999, the annual William Willetts Lecture, named in honour of the founding president, has been delivered by

a succession of eminent scholars. This tour

complemented the Society’s main objective of furthering the study of Southeast Asian manufactured ceramics, by observing the Chinese technology and ceramic models that appear to have been adopted and later

developed by SEA countries. Additionally the evolution of wares that were popular exports

to Southeast Asia such as greenware, qingbai

and underglaze blue and white was evident.

Our study tour, led by Chen Jiazi, curator of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum, commenced in coastal Xiamen, formerly Amoy on ancient trade maps. The view from our hotel over the bustling narrow

strait to Gulangyu Island with its 16m tall statue of local hero, Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), a pirate, trader and Ming loyalist was a salient reminder of the rich maritime history of China’s southeast coast. This was reinforced by a visit

to the Xiamen Overseas Chinese Museum. Built

in the style of a palace, the displays in its three exhibition halls convey detailed stories of pioneering Chinese migrants. The inextricable histories of migration, trade, commerce and Imperial influence are brought to life.

A two hour bus trip took us to the Jinjiang

Museum in Qingyang with its stylised maritime-themed façade. Comprehensive displays of export wares covering the Tang to Qing dynasties (618 -1912) gave us a broad perspective on the evolution of


t hE Yu EJ i kiln co M plE x, fUJiaN prOViNcE, chiNa, 2010. phOtO: aNN prOctOr

M plE x, fUJiaN prOViNcE, chiNa, 2010. phOtO: aNN prOctOr types and styles. Following this we

types and styles. Following this we viewed the Jingjiaoyishan kiln site, which features four kilns from late Southern Song to early Yuan dynasties (c. 1200-1368). The excavated kilns are well covered by a protective roof. Despite fences, the abundant shards in-situ were tantalisingly close for impromptu archaeological analyses (‘so near and yet so far’), but instead we adjourned to the museum gallery to view intact pots of the cizao wares for which the kilns are famous.

Next day we visited the comprehensive Quanzhou Maritime Museum, which displays Chinese export ceramics, maps of trade routes to SEA and beyond, and models of the ships used on the ‘Maritime Silk Route’, as it has become known. The museum displays again highlighted the importance of shipping and the integral role of Chinese ceramics in trade. The vibrant, cosmopolitan and generally tolerant nature of Quanzhou as a major trading port is demonstrated by the Qingjing mosque dating from the Yuan dynasty (1279- 1368). Islam was one of the many religions practiced by its foreign residents.

Our last and very important stop in this province was the renowned ceramics district of Dehua, often called the porcelain capital of Fujian. From the Song Dynasty (960- 1279) onward, Dehua ceramics, particularly whitewares and qingbai type wares were exported to many regions, including SEA. Its highest quality whitewares later became known as ‘blanc de Chine’ in the West. We visited the significant Qudougong kiln on the slope of Mount Pozhai, which was excavated in 1976 to reveal utilitarian items, including stem cups, covered boxes, vases and bowls

all typical of the ceramics exported during the commercially proactive Yuan Dynasty which customised ceramics for target markets. This long or dragon kiln is 57 metres long and is comprised of 17 firing chambers, each of which was individually controlled.

At the still active Yueji kiln, we were able to observe the process of ceramic production from start to finish. We watched while ‘saggers’ (previously fired, reusable ceramic containers) were stacked into the kiln chambers, each holding three teapots. Standing at the highpoint of the kiln and looking over the sites, the scale of the mass production was obvious. Stacks of timber were close by, felled from the surrounding region. Dedicated areas for moulding, luting, trimming, drying and glazing were all evident and we eagerly observed each stage of production.

The members of our group, which included TAASA committee members, Sabrina Snow and Ann Proctor, would all assume the closest vantage points while trying not to get in the way! We were met with unfailing good humour and we always hoped that our hushed comments and flurries of camera clicks were not a distraction. The skills we observed often drew our spontaneous applause: the response was generally a modest, bemused smile.

The nearby Yueji Contemporary Ceramics Centre provided a fascinating display of modern products by ceramists from various countries using the local kaolin stone. By contrast, the Dehua Ceramics Museum displays a comprehensive range of excavated ceramics from Tang to Qing. Several large charts on the walls state the chemical composition of

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t hrowing pots at thE yUEJi KiLN cOMpLEx,

fUJiaN prOViNcE, chiNa. phOtO: aNN prOctOr

KiLN cOMpLEx, fUJiaN prOViNcE, chiNa. phOtO: aNN prOctOr the various clays and glazes and indicate the

the various clays and glazes and indicate the modern approach to determining provenance of ware types. The chemical analysis is undertaken at Shanghai University.

On the way to the museums we had stopped at Sanban County, Dehua to marvel at an operational wooden waterwheel, rhythmically and unceasingly crushing porcelain stone virtually unattended, as has been the method for centuries. River water turns the wheel that drives a pivoting lever. The end of the lever has a mallet attached, which pounds the stone. The vibration of repeated impact causes more stone to fall from a heap into the hole where the crushing takes place - simple and very effective.

On day 5 of our study tour we flew from Jinjiang to Nanchang. Next day our first stop was the Jiangxi Provincial Museum displaying locally excavated wares. The earliest are greenwares dating from the beginning of the 10th century. Whitewares, qingbai and underglaze blue and white were also produced. There are many unique pieces that were excavated from local tombs. Next, in the Imperial Ceramics Museum in Jingdezhen, we admired the magnificent collection of Ming and Qing wares (1368-1912) produced by Imperial kilns for the courts of those dynasties.

Still blessed with an abundance of raw materials, Jingdezhen truly lives up to its name as a porcelain centre – even the city’s lamp posts are made of ceramic! Day 8 arrived too quickly and our last fascinating visit was to the Hutian kiln museum and excavations. Song and Yuan ceramics typical of export wares, such as the ubiquitous Song Dynasty qingbai ewer, were on display, as well as blue and white ware from the Yuan Dynasty.

Time after time our group huddled around a glass show-case as Jiazi generously shared her extensive knowledge with us. “Look at this piece of blue and white. See how the imported

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loading t E apots iNtO SaggErS at thEyUEJi KiLN cOMpLEx,

fUJiaN prOViNcE, chiNa. phOtO: aNN prOctOr

KiLN cOMpLEx, fUJiaN prOViNcE, chiNa. phOtO: aNN prOctOr cobalt ‘bites’ into the clay! “. Expert instruction

cobalt ‘bites’ into the clay! “. Expert instruction such as this triggered rapid-fire questions, the answers enabling each participant to add pieces to their own jigsaw of knowledge of Chinese glazed ceramics.

Neither the inclement weather nor the unseasonably cold temperatures deterred the

eager shoppers in our group as they searched for just the right mementos amongst the plentiful supply of beautiful reproductions

in factory and museum shops and markets.

Lessons learned from Jiazi were put to the test

to enable selection of the most authentic pieces.

A ‘show and tell’ of purchases after dinner

on our last evening provided the final opportunity to discuss the types, decoration and main attributes that distinguish the various ceramic wares of each dynasty. We agreed that the rigorous planning by Marjorie Chu, a stalwart on the SEACS board and participant on the trip and the expert ceramic commentary and analysis of Chen Jiazi had resulted in a very fruitful study tour.

The SEACS and the NUS have a history of collaboration. The current SEACS exhibition being staged at NUS Museum until 25 July 2010, ‘Southeast Asian Ceramics: New Light On Old Pottery’, is accompanied by a commemorative book that also contains a

very comprehensive catalogue. Edited by and co-contributed to by noted Southeast Asian scholar, Prof. John Miksic, the beginnings

of the SEACS, the contribution of Roxanna

Brown to SEA ceramics studies, maritime

archaeology, kiln sites in SEA and ceramics

as trade commodities are all covered in its scholarly and fascinating chapters.

Linda M c Laren is an independent researcher interested in the archaeological study of glazed chinese ceramics found on shipwrecks and at terrestrial sites in Southeast asia prior to the 18th century.

of glazed chinese ceramics found on shipwrecks and at terrestrial sites in Southeast asia prior to


r E c E n t t a a s a a c t i v i t i E s

taasa act Ev Ent 13 -14 March, 2010

TAASA membership offers the opportunity to

join specialist excursions to view collections with expert guidance. About 20 TAASA members - from Sydney, Melbourne and regional centres as well as Canberra itself

– visited the National Library (NLA), the National Gallery (NGA) and ANU, during

a weekend of lovely early autumn weather.

We socialised as well, with friends from the Asia Bookroom, and dined together on the Saturday evening.

At the NLA, curators Sylvia Carr and Linda Groom took us through some gems from the Picture Collection including drawings of Chinese architecture by Hardy Wilson and some beautiful old Japanese prints. I didn’t see enough of the fine collection of photographs from pre-revolutionary China, partly because I was so very absorbed by the thousands of black and white photos of sculptures and bas reliefs at Angkor and Jogyakarta taken by French diplomat Yves Coffin in the1960s.

In the afternoon we gathered in the Collection Study Room of the NGA for a

private presentation by Gael Newton, Senior Curator of Photography, of a wonderful set of photographs and albums recently acquired from a Dutch collector, Leo Haks, documenting the Dutch colonial experience

in Indonesia.

Iranian/Australian artist Nasser Palangi met us on the ANU campus on Sunday morning. Nasser is himself a calligrapher and artist of note, and he and his wife, also an artist, now run a gallery in Canberra. He gave an illustrated talk on the aesthetics and meaning of Islamic calligraphy and the present popularity of Iranian artists in the West. The final stop of the weekend was at Humble House, owned by Roger and Weilian Carter. Using examples from their shop floor, Roger and Weilian gave us a fascinating insight into the history of Chinese furniture and manufacturing techniques. Many thanks to Hweifen Cheah and Gill Green for organising this weekend.

roz cheney is a member of the taaSa textile Study group.

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taasa nsw

Textile Study Group Meeting – 21 April About 30 members of TAASA’s Textile Study Group came together to hear a lively report from several members on their visit to Iran in October- November last year. Peter Court presented a slide show of his wonderful photographs, largely of ancient Achaemenid and Sassanian sites and their relief sculptures, clearly demonstrating clothing worn at the time by kings, priests and soldiers, their horse trappings and headwear. Peter also showed us some outstanding textiles including a particularly fine double-sided silk carpet and a beautiful 200-year-old qualamkar cloth from Isfahan.

Roz Cheney gave a short talk on the history of qualamkar printed and painted fabrics. She,

the history of qualamkar printed and painted fabrics. She, at thE shrinE of thE BrothEr of

at thE shrinE of thE BrothEr of thE Eighth iMaM iN Shiraz

2009. JEN parSONNagE (LEft) with taaSa MEMbErS rOz chENEy,

SaNDy watSON, tErry biSLEy aND briONy fOrrESt

Sandy Watson, Terry Bisley and Sandra Forbes brought along examples of textiles from Isfahan and Yazd, as well as some brocade cloth and household items which are specialities of Yazd.

taasa Q u EE nsland

Private Exhibition viewing –17 April

A TAASA group, including invited friends,

enjoyed a private visit to an exhibition of

member Marjorie Morris’s extensive collection held at Gallery 159 in Brisbane’s The Gap suburb. The exhibition included items ranging from hand woven cotton and silk pieces from Indonesia, Thailand and Laos, with some from African countries and Mexico. There were embroideries from different minority groups in China and Central Asia with some from India and Pakistan and other items of interest. Marjorie spoke informally to the group about the collection and her adventures

in acquiring many of the items.

Gamelan music concert – 8 May At the Brisbane Conservatorium, TAASA members enjoyed a concert of gamelan music entitled Javanese Gamelan and China given by the Queensland Conservatorium Gamelan Ensemble, conducted by artist-in- residence, Pak Joko Susilo. Gregg Howard, Senior Lecturer in Music Studies at the Conservatorium, gave an introductory talk specifically for the TAASA group.

t a a s a M E M B E r s ’ d i a r Y J U N E – a U g U S t 2 0 1 0

taasa nsw E v E nts

NSW Textile Study Group The Study group meets on the second Wednesday of the month from 6.00 till 8.00 pm at the Briefing Room, Powerhouse Museum. 9 June: Carole Douglas on embroidery from Kutch. 28 July: Terry Bisley and Sue-ann Smiles on Lotus stem weaving in Myanmar. No meeting in August. Further information: Gill Green at or (02) 9331 1810.

taasa Q u EE nsland E v E nts

Exhibition floor talk on Batik of Java:

Poetics and Politics Thursday 8 July, 2010

Members are invited to visit the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery at 22 Omrah Avenue, where Maria Friend (curator) and Greg

Roberts (collector) will present a floor talk

on this exhibition of 23 outstanding batiks

from the north coast of Java and a series of paintings “Batik Has Been Burnt” by famous Indonesian born artist Dadang Christanto. (see pp 22-3 of this issue)

Talk on Hmong costume art Saturday 14th August Maria Friend will give a talk on Hmong Costume Art in the QAG lecture theatre. Members of the local Hmong community, originally from Laos, will attend to present some of their costumes.


w h a t ’ s o n

i n a u s t r a l i a a n d o v E r s E a s : J U N E - a U g U S t 2 0 1 0


S E L E c t i V E

r O U N D U p

Compiled by Tina Burge

O f

E x h i b i t i O N S

a N D

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ife, death and magic - 2000 years of


E w south wal E s

Queensland d ragon: c hinese in the n orth cairns regional art gallery, cairns


outheast asian ancestral art

National gallery of australia, canberra 13 august – 31 October, 2010


adang c hristanto - t hey give evidence


May – 4 July 2010

the art gallery of New South wales, Sydney


Features dramatic sculpture, jewellery and textiles revealing the power of art made for rituals of life and death from prehistoric

to recent times, drawn from the Gallery’s

renowned collection and key loans from institutions in Asia, Europe and America.

A forum with international and Australian

scholars and curators discussing the works will

be held on 14 August from 1.30pm – 5.00pm.

For further information go to:

Robyn Maxwell, Senior Curator, Asian Art, and

curator of the exhibition, presents an overview

of the exhibition on 17 August at 12.45pm.

Niki van den Heuvel, Exhibition Assistant will introduce recent Gallery acquisitions of Southeast Asian animist sculpture and ancient bronzes on 26 August at 12.45 pm.

f acing a sia – histories and legacies

of asian studio photography National gallery of australia, canberra 21-22 august 2010

Facing Asia is a conference organised by the ANU’s Research School of Humanities and the Arts that will explore the significance of the camera in the historical depiction of Asian people. See p28 for details.

For bookings and further information go to:

a sia a rt talks

National gallery of australia, canberra

Charmane Head, yoga teacher, on the power

of mudras (hand gestures) - 12 June at 2.00pm.

Beatrice Thompson, Assistant Curator, Asian Art, on an 18th–early 19th century silk embroidered coverlet from Qing-dynasty China - 5 August at 12.45pm.

Clement Onn, Assistant Curator of South Asian art, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, on designs and meaning of Indian textiles traded to Indonesia - 10 August at 12.45pm.

For further information go to:


27 May – 25 July 2010

Sixteen larger-than-life male and female sculptured figures speak eloquently for the victims of oppression and social justice. Politically charged, they represent displaced victims, mutely carrying the bodies of innocent men, women and children who have been killed in Indonesia. Based in Australia since 1999, Christanto is one of the most prominent Indonesian contemporary artists.

2010 a rts of a sia l ecture s eries – term ii - powerful patrons art gallery of New South wales, Sydney tuesdays 1-2pm from 20 July - 19 October 2010

The second half of the 2010 Arts of Asia lecture series continues to explore the pre- eminent individuals in Asia who have shaped the arts, culture and sense of identity of their peoples. The first lecture of the second term is by David Templeman on Tibet’s 5th Dalai Lama, who oversaw the efflorescence of Tibetan artistic style and set into motion the creation of the Potala Palace.

For full program and online booking

t he z hongjian: Midway

a travelling exhibition from the

wollongong city gallery, wollongong

21 May - 20 July 2010

This exhibition being held at the Albury Art Gallery includes work by several of China’s and Australia’s most notable contemporary artists.

For further information go to: and follow the links to the Albury Art Gallery.


uEE nsland


nnerved: t he n ew z ealand p roject

Queensland art gallery, gallery of Modern art, brisbane 1 May – 4 July 2010

Includes almost 100 historical photographs and documents that testify to the importance

of the Chinese community in the early

stages of the development of Far North


For further information go to: www.


tea and z en

National gallery of Victoria, international, Melbourne

15 april – 29 august 2010

Presents the history of tea in China and Japan and includes ceramic, lacquer and bamboo tea utensils alongside Zen paintings and calligraphy, creating a contemplative setting evoking the spirit of the ‘Way of Tea’. The exhibition also draws attention to tea’s continuing practice in present day Japanese culture – the tea ceremony and its influence on contemporary Japanese artists.

Various events complement the exhibition, including a performance of the Urasenke Tea Ceremony on 30 June at 12.00pm.

For further information go to:

f luid Borders – ways of s eeing o riental r ugs the Johnston collection gallery, Melbourne 5 July – 22 October 2010

By exhibiting rugs from a wide range of traditions and styles, Fluid Borders will explore the impact of oriental rugs on western décor, art and thinking, and how history has placed oriental rugs in the scholarship of oriental textiles. Susan Scollay has curated the exhibition with selected works from the Johnston Collection and private collections in Melbourne.

A wide range of events associated with the

exhibition include:

Explores a particularly rich dark vein that recurs in New Zealand contemporary art and cinema. Psychological or physical unease pervades many works in the exhibition, with humour, parody and poetic subtlety among the strategies used by artists across generations and genres.

For further information go to:

Fluid Borders Study Day – 10 July 2010 from 10.00am - 4.00pm. Speakers will include Leigh Mackay, President of the Oriental Rug Society of NSW on the Pazyryk Carpet; Roger Leong,

Curator, International Fashion and Textiles

at the National Gallery of Victoria, on the

Trinitarias Carpet; Susan Scollay, Curator of

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Fluid Borders on Oriental carpets in Europe; Elizabeth Cross, Art Historian on ‘Learning to See’ about western artists’ responses to oriental carpets.

Susan Scollay will also be giving a series of four lectures on Wednesdays from 7 - 28 July at 10.15-11.45am on the traditional role of carpets throughout history. In addition, lectures on Islamic architecture, gardens and tile work will be held in July and August.

For full details of lectures and booking information go to:

south australia

reflections of the l otus: art from

t hailand, Burma, c ambodia and laos

art gallery of South australia, adelaide

21 May - 4 July 2010

Presents rare masterpieces including life-size Buddha images, textiles, ceramics, bronze and lacquer ware from the Art Gallery's own extensive collection as well as from Australian private collections. A highlight will be the Gallery's own collection of Thai ceramics, part of which will tour interstate at the end of the exhibition.

For further information go to:

intE rnational

ir E land

unit E d kingdo M



he p rinted i mage in c hina –

chester beatty Library, Dublin 25 June - 3 October 2010

from the 8th to the 21st centuries the british Museum, London 6 May – 5 September 2010

A history of 1,300 years of Chinese printing

using the Museum’s collection, with around 120

images from the 8th century CE to the present.

For further information go to:

franc E

pakistan – w here civilisations meet – 1st – 6th centuries – g andharan a rt guimet Museum, paris 21 april -16 august

Jointly organised by the Guimet Museum

and the National Art and Exhibition Centre

of Germany in Bonn, it includes Buddhist

statues, low reliefs from temples and stupas alongside terracotta and stucco items from monasteries or palaces.

For further information go to:

Focuses on a group of six outstanding illustrated albums (muraqqa‘s) compiled in India between about 1600 and 1658 for the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan.

For further information go to:

J apan

t he Birth of c hinese c ivilization

tokyo National Museum, tokyo 6 July – 5 September 2010

Features artifacts excavated from China’s Henan province, the home of China’s dynastic capitals from the Shang to Northern Song dynasties.

For further information go to:

24 October –
09 November 2010
Japan is a two-sided coin: one
post-modernist side embraces
cutting-edge technology; the
other reveres and preserves
fine artistic and cultural
traditions. Ann MacArthur,
Senior Coordinator of Asian
Programs at the Art Gallery
of NSW, is our experienced
Japanophile leader. Kyushu and
Shikoku predominate including
the Setouchi International Art
Festival based on the islands
of the Inland Sea. A lengthy
stay in Kyoto, home to 20% of
Japan's national treasures, is
our spectacular autumn finale.
Land Only cost per person
twinshare ex Fukuoka $9500
29 October –
17 November 2010
Designed and hosted by TAASA
contributor Dr Bob Hudson, our
longstanding annual Burma
program features extended stays
in medieval Mrauk U, capital
of the lost ancient kingdom of
Arakan (now Rakhine State)
and Bagan, rivalling Angkor
Wat as Southeast Asia’s
richest archaeological precinct.
Exciting experiences in Yangon,
Inle Lake, Mandalay and a
private cruise down the mighty
Ayeyarwady are also included.
Land Only cost per person
twinshare ex Yangon $3795
07 November –
24 November 2010
Angkor’s timeless grandeur is
unmissable, an unforgettable
travel memory. Yet Cambodia
offers a host of other important
cultural and travel experiences:
outstanding ancient, vernacular
and French colonial architecture;
spectacular riverine environments;
a revitalising urban capital in
Phnom Penh; interesting cuisine
and beautiful countryside. Join
expatriate museologist, author,
Siem Reap resident and TAASA
contributor Darryl Collins on this
latest, updated version of our
highly evaluated 2008 and 2009
programs. Prasat Preah Vihear
visit scheduled subject to access
16 November –
02 December 2010
One trip to Burma is never
enough. Backroads of Burma is
ideal for the second-time visitor
or indeed first-time travellers
desiring remote and rustic
locations. Starting and finishing
in Yangon, our schedule wends
south into Mon State, visiting
Kyaiktiyo and Moulmein
before heading north to Sri
Ksetra, the ancient Pyu capital.
Mystical Mount Popa, Bagan,
Monywa and the spectacular
cave temples of Po Win Taung,
Sagaing and Mandalay follow.
Dr Bob Hudson is program
Land Only cost per person
twinshare ex Yangon $4150
Land Only cost per person
twinshare ex Phnom Penh
27 January –
10 February 2011
Enigmatic and relatively
undeveloped, landlocked
Laos offers travellers an
intimate glimpse of traditional
Southeast Asian life. Gradually
emerging from tumultuous
recent history, Laos is a gem of
Indochina with interesting art,
architecture, French and Lao
cuisine, intricate river systems,
and rugged highlands. Darryl
Collins, long term Southeast
Asian resident, has designed
and will guide a comprehensive
tour of Laos which includes the
wonderful historic royal city of
Luang Prabang and Wat Phu
Land Only cost per person
twinshare ex Vientiane $4400
PO Box U237, University of Wollongong NSW 2500 Australia
p +61 2 4228 3887 e
ABN 21 071 079 859 LIC NO TAG 1747
For a brochure or further information phone Ray Boniface at Heritage Destinations
on +61 2 4228 3887 or email or visit our website
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