The Jakarta Post
A still from the 'Let's Talk about Folklore from 4 Continents' virtual exhibition. (Komunitas 22 Ibu on YouTube/File)
In Indonesia, Nyi Roro Kidul is widely known as the mythical queen of the Southern Sea. Her enigmatic origin and appearance have drawn numerous artists, authors and filmmakers to portray and tell her story in their works, including artists Ariesa Pandanwangi and Nuning Damayanti.
In Roro Kidul Bermain dengan Ikan (Roro Kidul plays with fish), Ariesa depicts the mythical queen amid the ocean waves with a vibrant Javanese batik pattern in the background to honor her ancestral land, Yogyakarta. The artwork also addresses the current crisis by portraying Nyi Roro Kidul wearing a mask and adding images of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Nuning Damayanti’s Ratu Roro Kidul Isin (Queen Roro Kidul is Shy), on the other hand, displays the legendary queen standing above a giant scallop shell surrounded by layered green draperies. At a glance, it may remind you of Sandro Botticelli’s famous artwork, The Birth of Venus.
In a statement to The Jakarta Post, Nuning wrote that the queen wore kemben (torso wrap) adorned with kawung (four-lobbed pattern inspired by palm trees) motifs that represent Sundanese culture. She said she was inspired by her grandmother’s bedtime stories about Sundanese and Greek goddesses.
Both paintings, along with nine other artworks, are on display in the virtual exhibition Let’s Talk about Folklore from 4 Continents on YouTube until Dec. 22. The event is initiated by Ariesa.
Representing its name, the exhibition features artists from four continents, namely Asia, North America, Europe and Oceania. They are Ana Sora from Spain; Anita Heiberg from Norway; Greta Coll and Kobie Swart from Australia; Ariesa, Nuning, Arleti Apin and Belinda Sukapura from Indonesia; Divya Baid from India; and Bayley Onaga and Chase Tokutaru from Hawaii, United States.
The artists showcase their interpretations of folklore from their countries or childhood memories to reminisce and convey and an understanding of values that may have been forgotten.
“These imaginative and mysterious folk tales will always be eternal. They won’t disappear, they will always be a relevant inspiration,” wrote Nuning.
In Icarus, Swart depicts a tale from Greek mythology by capturing the moment when Icarus, son of craftsman Daedalus, escapes from Crete by flying with wings made of feathers and wax. But as he flies too close to the sun, the wax melts and he falls into the ocean. The artwork conveys a message about balancing one’s ego, goals and desires.
“Artworks that are exhibited here can inspire cultural dialogues among the four continents,” wrote Nuning. “Their paintings are reflections of their cultural backgrounds that influence their art making.” (wir/wng)
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