Fertility & Prosperity

Fertility—of people, land and livestock—is the constant focus of art and ritual in rural Southeast Asia. Large families, bountiful harvests and increasing herds are synonymous. All are signs of spiritual harmony and a confirmation of the balance of human activities and nature. The uncertainty and unpredictability of the physical and natural worlds provides the impetus for many rituals. Their enactments require and inspire great works of art.

Concern for the sustenance of fertility and plenty have long been central themes in Southeast Asian art. Motifs of abundance are emblazoned on all aspects of art and architecture. Grains of rice, herds of water buffalo, and many healthy children are the manifestations of prosperity. Their abundance is evidence of the blessing of the ancestors, and the tangible and symbolic outcome of the pairing of male and female elements that are fundamental features of the art of ancestral Southeast Asia. Imagery abounds alluding to the fecundity of ancestors in human form and of the domestic animals that Southeast Asian communities depend on for food as well as blood sacrifices to ancestral deities and nature spirits.

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