Riau–Lingga, Sumatra, Indoneasia
Ritual fan 19th century
gold, silver, precious stones
National Museum of Indonesia, Jakarta
On this ceremonial fan, the Malay inscription in Arabic script (known as jawi) evokes the blessings of Allah while declaring the illustrious rulers of the Islamic kingdom of Johor to be direct descendants of Alexander the Great (Sultan Iskandar Zulkarnaen). The leaf-like shape of this fan may allude to a legend which suggests Alexander was named after a leaf which miraculously healed his mother.
The form also echoes that of the central mountain or tree motif in the Southeast Asian region’s shadow puppet performances – variously known as gunungan, kekayon or waringan – as well as everyday fans woven from palm leaf.