TAASA Review issues

The Malar. The largest sailing boat in Bengal prepares to set sail for a sunset cruise at the confluence of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Photo: Rolex awards/ Heine Pedersen.
December 2008
Vol: 17 Issue: 4
Editor/s: Ann Proctor - Guest Editor
Cover Image

The Malar. The largest sailing boat in Bengal prepares to set sail for a sunset cruise at the confluence of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Photo: Rolex awards/ Heine Pedersen.

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 'The wise find pleasure in water: the virtuous find pleasure in hills.' Or so said Confucius. Without claiming to be wise, it has indeed been a pleasure to source various articles on the subject of water, from both scholars familiar toTAASA Review readers and from writers new to the journal. Their contributions, I hope, will arouse your interest and knowledge of the fundamental role that water has played in the development of culture, sacred space and ritual across Asia and through the ages.

We are fortunate that Professor F.M. Asher from the University of Minnesota, the author of many books on Indian art and architecture, has written an article for this issue. Readers may remember that his photograph appeared in the March 2008 issue of TAASA Review beside Chaya Chandrasekhar and Khanh Trinh (both of AGNSW) at the CIHA, the international conference of art historians, held in January 2008. In his article, Professor Asher has provided a comprehensive discussion on the significance of water for pleasure, power and ritual in the Indian context; it provides the perfect background for understanding the way in which water is regarded in Hindu and Islamic societies.

Julian Cribb, a familiar contributor, has written about the traditional boats of Bangladesh - a country that immediately conjures up associations with water. He introduces us to the work of Runa Khan Marre and her Rolex award winning endeavour to preserve the disappearing skills of the traditional boat builders of Bangladesh. One of the stunning images he has provided is on the cover of this issue.

Amongst the new contributors is Lydia Kieven, whose PhD research involves the narrative relief sculpture of Java. She offers new insights into the way water symbolism has been transformed and syncretised through the absorption of Hindu and Buddhist religions into local beliefs. Other first time contributors include the director of the National Puppet Theatre of Vietnam, Vuong Duy Bien and Graham Humphries, a Canberra based architect. Vuong Duy Bien raises the intriguing, and as yet unanswered question, as to why water puppetry, a particularly clever and enchanting form of entertainment, developed in Vietnam and not in other wet rice producing societies. Australian architect, Graham Humphries, recently won a contract to construct a building complex in Changchun, China. He relates the way in which the serendipitous use of the Chinese character for water in the design concept helped clinch the deal for his company.

The Brisbane based, Indonesian born, Dadang Christanto's moving work 'Heads from the North', in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Australia, is the 'In the Public Domain' piece for this issue. Melanie Eastburn and Dadang discuss the different metaphorical uses for water that the artist incorporates in his performances and installations that address issues of political and social oppression.

In their articles, Gill Green and Adrian Snodgrass have focused on the incorporation of Buddhist water related imagery into the cultures of Cambodia and Japan, their respective areas of expertise. Gill Green describes the water festival in Cambodia that occurs at the end of the rainy season, while Dr Snodgrass' article, 'Notes on Dragon- Rulers of the Waters', provides an East Asian perspective. He discusses, amongst other things, the way in which the body of the dragon is assimilated into a conceptualisation of the country of Japan. Albeit in another cultural context, there is an interesting parallel in the stories Joanna Barrkman relates of the sacred crocodile ancestor in Timor-Leste and the way in which the shape of that island is imagined as crocodile based. Her article, 'Boats, Crocodile Ancestors and Mermaid Myths in the Art and Craft of Timor-Leste', gives an enticing introduction to the exhibition currently on show at the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory until July 2009.

Another exhibition that will attract the interest of TAASA members - opening March 2009 at the Art Gallery of South Australia - is reviewed by the Curator of Asian Art, James Bennett. Whilst not directly related to water issues, the 'Golden Journey' exhibition will be full of treasures from Australian collections.

For those interested in pursuing the water theme further, the 3rd SSEASR Conference being held in Bali, Indonesia on 3-6 June, 2009 will be on the topic "Waters in South & Southeast Asia: Interaction of Culture and Religion". For further information, go to www.sseasr.org. And, finally, the elemental theme will continue next year with a TAASA Review issue focusing on Fire. Watch out for it!

Table of contents

3 Editorial - Ann Proctor

4 Temples, wells and gardens – The central role of water in India - Frederick Asher

7 Vanished barks sail again - Julian Cribb

9 The symbolism of water in ancient east Javanese art - Lydia Kievan

12 Boats, crocodile ancestors and mermaid myths in the art and craft of Timor-Leste  - Joanna Barrkman

16 The water festival in Cambodia - Gill Green

18 Water puppetry: Vietnam soul - Vuong Duy Bien

19 Notes on dragon-rulers of the waters - Adrian Snodgrass

22 Exhibition preview: The golden journey: Japanese art from Australian collections - James Bennett

24 In the public domain: Dadang Christanto. Washing the wound - Melanie Eastburn, with Dadang Christanto

25 Using the water character in architectural design - Graham Humphries

26 Roxanna Brown (1946 v- 2008) - Pamela Gutman

27 End of year message - Judith Rutherford

28 Recent TAASA activities

29 TAASA member’s diary

30 What’s on: December 2008 – February 2009 



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