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  Powerful and Florid Art Styles | Motifs and Styles |
Art and Dayak Religion
| Funerary Art | Other and Forms |
Dayak Art Today
| The Tourist Market

 
DAYAK - INDONESIA

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to find old carvings, some worth a small fortune in Europe or the United States, and production of really artist, has been replaced by Christianity or Islam.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 a

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 aristocrats).




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