Indonesia, Aceh, Sumatra
Ceremonial hanging early 20th century
cotton, wool, silk, gold thread, sequins, glass beads, lace, mica, appliqué, couching, embroidery
Collection of the National Gallery of Australia
This panel was designed to be hung around or above a dais, nuptial throne or bed at circumcision and wedding ceremonies. Such important life cycle events often combine Islamic rites with older Hindu ritual and ancient customs. The hanging displays flowering trees and a pair of bouraq, the fabulous animal on which the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ridden on His miraculous night journey to Heaven. Popular in the art of Indonesian Islamic communities where it is associated with blessing and joy, the bouraq is a hybrid creature with the face and voice of a human, the ears of an ass, the body of a horse, and the wings and tail of a peacock. Wishes of good fortune and happiness are embroidered on each bouraq in Arabic script. Among the foliate imagery surrounding the bouraq are a number of swastikas. The swastika is an important symbol of luck in a range of cultures and religions. The symbol is also often found in Persian art. In Buddhism it represents the seal of the Buddha’s heart and in Hinduism it relates to the god Vishnu.