Acehnese aesthetics

Among the people of Aceh, Sumatra, four concepts of space—cardinal directional, upstream-downstream, central-point-in-circle, and geometric—guide dance formations, the making of rapa’i Pasè frame drums, and the colors and associations of  performing costumes and stage decorations.

The upstream-downstream concept, which stems from the tendency to travel upstream for raw materials and downstream for trade, associates upstream spaces with an inward-looking, mystical attitude and downstream spaces with an outward-looking attitude and commercial success. The cardinal directional concept, which is related to the upstream-downstream concept since most rivers in Aceh run between north and south, relates specific colors and metals to the four directions.

The central-point-in-a-circle concept enacts Perso-Arabic models, such as the building of towns around a central mosque, connecting Aceh with its historical links to the larger Muslim world. The dominant geometric concept, which probably dates to before 300 B.C.E., is expressed in straight lines, parallelograms, diamonds, and curved forms including figure-eights, ovals, and leaf and flower shapes.

This according to “Some implications of local concepts of space in the dance, music, and visual arts of Aceh” by Margaret J. Kartomi (Yearbook for traditional music XXXVI [2004] pp. 1–49). Below, an Acehnese dance celebrates the winnowing and planting of rice.

Related article: Balinese aesthetics

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One response to “Acehnese aesthetics

  1. Pingback: Balinese aesthetics | Bibliolore

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