The Role of the Community in Artistic Endeavour Essay

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The Role of the Community in Artistic Endeavour

Imagine a gravestone nearly a metre in height on a large base with incised geometric vine patterns. An elaborately carved collar with lotus motifs on a background pattern of a spider's web is found above this base. In the center of the stone, finely carved inscriptions of Sufi or Islamic mystic poems concerning death executed in Naskh calligraphic style are framed in decorative panels reminiscent of Persian illuminated manuscripts. The poem reads:

"Listen. Verily the world is perishable, the world is not everlasting.
Verily the world is like a Web woven by a spider"
Flanking the inscriptions are elaborate floral motifs that protrude outwards and curl upwards, resembling wings. This
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Confronted with this enigma, early European historians of Southeast Asia from the late 19th century chose to regard the influence of Hindu/Buddhist culture upon the religion, art and architecture of the region as evidence of a movement of Indian expansion westwards - in short, nothing less than massive Indian colonization and conquest of the region. All explanations for phenomena relating to the region's culture therefore assumed that Indians were responsible for their introduction and that Southeast Asians themselves were merely passive recipients (Hall, 16).

The presence on Batu Aceh of various motifs alluding to Hindu/Buddhist beliefs initially appears to affirm the view of these historians. The lotus plant symbolises divine birth and mortality in the Brahmanist tradition of Hinduism. Conceptually, the motif equates death and rebirth with cosmic destruction and regeneration (Bougas, 100). On all the gravestones, some part of the lotus plant is depicted. The petals appear singly or grouped at the base (Fig.2), body, heads and tops of the stones; complete two-tiered blossoms, or 'crowns' feature on the heads of Othman Types I, J and L and in stylized form on N (see Fig 1 and Appendix); while lotus trefoil patterns, popularly known as bird's foot trefoil, are featured on the base or lower body of Type A and variations of the other types (Fig.2c, 2d). The predominance of this Hindu motif was taken as an indication of Indian initiative

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