Origins & Continuities
Spectacular art has been created throughout Southeast Asia for thousands of years. Ancient burial sites reveal the beauty and complexity of objects from early civilisations across the region. The elaborately decorated pots, impressive bronze drums and bells, rich gold ornaments, and the striking array of weaponry were made to celebrate life and death. Splendid metal objects were also special items in elaborate systems of exchange along the great rivers of mainland Southeast Asia and the sea routes into the islands.
Similar objects, shapes and designs are prominent in the art of many Southeast Asian communities 2000 years later, where the finest valuables are often still buried with the dead. These continuities and similarities are most evident amongst societies who trace their beliefs and practices back to the ways of their ancestors. Numerous traditional communities across Southeast Asia maintain strong beliefs in benevolent and malevolent supernatural forces, from spirits of nature, the gods of grain and demons of pestilence, to the ever-present mythological creator deities and the souls of the recently deceased. Through festivals and rituals, and associated art, communities seek to appease disruptive forces, to gain protection and ensure survival, wellbeing and prosperity.