Powerful and Florid Art Styles
At its best, traditional Dayak art equals the finest of Melanesia
and Africa, generally considered the source of the world's best
traditional art. Powerful, expressive Dayak wood - carvings
and other art from-cloth, bead-work-have universal appeal. Styles
and motifs varied from group, and not all Dayaks had a strong
artistic tradition. Unfortunately, fine-quality Dayak art is,
for all practical purposes, a thing of the past. Dealers have
to travel to the most remote areas to find old carvings, some
worth a small fortune in Europe or the United States, and production
of really artist, has been replaced by Christianity or Islam.
Although copies of original works are available-some made in
Java and Bali-they lack the feeling of their prototypes. The
sad fact is that the best place to see authentic Bornean art
is in the museums of Europe. One can still come across some
examples of Dayak art in the inland villages, and seeing these
pieces in their proper setting is an experience no
museum environment can hope to duplicate. Elaborate funerary
structures dot villages along the middle and upper parts of
some rivers in Kalteng and the Melawi basin to the north. In
the Apokayan, Kenyah long houses, rice barns, and the more recently
constructed meeting halls are decorated with the group's distinctive
baroque style of carving. Most of the places where traditional
art can still be found are off the beaten path, and require
time and effort to reach.
Motifs and Styles
Motifs and Styles Experts, analyzing Borneo art, trance the
source of Dayak motifs to the Asian main land, particularly
China and Vietnam. Art styles from the Dongson civilization-at
its height, 300 B.C.- spread through much of the archipelago.
The Dongson-inspired motifs in Borneo include the spiral and
the repetition of various curved lines. Instead of humans or
animals standing alone, these figures appeared in a tangle of
varied and repeating geometric form. In other parts of Indonesia,
hour-glass-shaped, cast bronze drums from Dongson have been
found, but not traces of these have yet been discovered in Borneo.
The late Chou period in China-400 BC to 200 BC-left more noticeable
marks on Dayak art, though few traces of Chou influence
exist elsewhere in the archipelago. Chou art styles are said
to be visible in the Dayaks' fantastical animals, and in wild
compositions that blend a variety of asymmetrical designs into
a harmonious whole. Late Chou influences can most clearly be
seen on Borneo's masks and shields which, according to one art
historian, display decorative work that is of a from unique
in Indonesia. Pua, a fine woven cloth produced by the Iban,
is also Chou-influenced, and its motifs are unique among the
many types of cloth produced in the archipelago. Hindu influences
came later to Borneo-about 2,000 years ago-and reached the island
after passing through Java. Dragon and tiger motifs (there are
no tiger on Borneo) remain as the most important contribution
of Hindu art.
The Dragon remains an essential art form, even in the Islamized
Malay cultures of Borneo. Because of the many internal migrations
of Dayaks in Borneo and the groups' cultural flexibility, it
is difficult to attach a particular set of motifs and styles
to a particular Dayak group with any degree of confidence. This
is particularly the case with the Kenyah and Kayan groups, which
show considerable cultural similarities, including art form.
Because the spirits and supernatural world of many of the Dayak
groups spring from the same basic pantheon, the art of one group
was easily adopted by, and combined with that of another. Bahau,
Kenyah and Kayan art often features the asoq-a stylized motif
that is a kind of dragon-dog. This composite animal, considered
protective beast, has links to a distant mythological ancestor
with animal traits that are greatly admired. The incorporation
of fantastic zoomorphic is common to many Dayak groups. In Dayak
art, frightening animals generally function to scare away both
evils spirits and human enemies. Kenyah, Kayan and Bahau warshields
were often decorated with large; hypnotic eyes and mouths studded
with fangs. These same designs appear on masks and graves, created
by the craftsmen of these three tribes as well as of others.
(Many motifs, especially the human figure, were reserved for
© 2000-2001 by Bagus Discovery. All Rights reserved.
Best viewed with Internet Explorer.