Life, death and magic:
2000 years of Southeast
Asian ancestral art

In this section of the website each theme represents how the works are grouped within the exhibition.

For thousands of years across mainland and island Southeast Asia the deification of significant ancestors and the veneration of spirits of nature has formed the basis of traditional beliefs. It has also been the impetus for the creation of splendid and extraordinary works of art in fibre, stone, metal, wood and clay—made to protect and give pleasure to the living, to honour the ancestors and to secure safe passage for the human soul between this world and the afterlife.

Life death and magic: 2000 years of Southeast Asian ancestral art provides an evocative overview of the region’s ancestral arts and culture, from prehistoric times to the twenty-first century, and from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, East Timor, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia and southern China. Key loans from renowned institutions in Asia, Europe, America and Australia are displayed alongside the National Gallery of Australia’s exceptional collection of Southeast Asian art. Life, death and magic is only on show at the National Gallery of Australia and is the first major exhibition of its kind to be held in Australia.

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