Cambodian CrownA Cambodian dancer wears this crown as she dances the role of Sita or another heroine in the Hindu epic, the Reamker or Ramayana. She might also be portraying an apsara, a celestial dancer, in a dance like the Blessing Dance. The walls of the massive temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia display 1,796 magnificent relief carvings of these sacred women.
Maranao Sarimanok BirdThe Maranao, or “People of the Lake,” live in the region of Lake Lanao on Mindanao, the predominantly Muslim island at the southern end of the Philippine archipelago. In Maranao belief, this bird, the “sarimanok”, is a medium to the spirit world through an unseen twin spirit bird. “Manok” means “chicken” in many Filipino languages, but this is no ordinary chicken!
Vietnamese Mouse MusiciansThese mouse musicians celebrate a festival as they move across the surface of the water in front of a stage anchored in the shallows of a Vietnamese village pond. They are water puppets, manipulated by puppeteers standing up to their waist in water behind a screen that hides them from the viewers. Water puppets are unique to Vietnam, a tradition that goes back over 1,000 years in the Red River delta of northern Vietnam and is rooted in the tradition of rice culture in flooded paddies.
You can read more about water puppets at websites such as www.thingsasian.com and www.vietscape.com, and you will find an outstanding collection at the Mariposa Museum. They are part of our permanent collection and will be on special display.
Filippino Ifugao FiguresThe northern mountains of Luzon in the Philippines are home to six ethnolinguistic tribes and over 300 varieties of rice grown in the largest irrigated rice terraces in the world. One of these tribes is the Ifugao. Here two Ifugao stand together, he wearing a rain cape and a feather headdress.
Traditionally, the culture of the Ifugaos has been intimately connected with the cultivation of rice. Twelve rice rituals, performed by the native priests, define the Ifugao agrarian calendar. These rituals, conducted throughout the rice growing cycle, help maintain the balance the Ifugaos have with their environment and help ensure a bountiful harvest. For more on the rice culture of the Cordillera, visit the website of Eighth Wonder: www.heirloomrice.com
Rice is central to the cultures of Southeast Asia and will be highlighted in Mariposa’s exhibit on this region.
Palawan BasketThis four legged rattan basket with a square wooden base and shoulder straps comes from Palawan, the island in the far southwest of the Philippine archipelago that nearly touches the north end of Borneo. It is finely woven and might carry rice.
Palawan sits on the north-east edge of the Sunda tectonic plate that also underlies Borneo. Its rich forests and animal life are more closely related to those of Borneo than to the flora and fauna of the rest of the Philippines. The first human remains on Palawan date back 22,000 years. “Tabon Man” lived in caves and very possibly came from Borneo.
Today Palawan is home to 737,000 people (2000 census) from 87 different cultural groups who speak 52 languages and dialects. Among the most recent arrivals are Vietnamese boat people who crossed the South China Sea and made landfall along the 2,000 kilometer long coastline. Most of the refugees who survived the crossing were resettled in third countries, some were repatriated and others were absorbed into the island population.
Pov PobThe Hmong live in the highlands of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. Their New Year usually falls in November or December, after harvest. New Year brings together clans from distant villages to meet, celebrate — and court. Young men and women line up opposite each other and toss fabric balls to each other in a game called pov pob. If a player drops or misses the ball, he or she must forfeit an ornament to the player opposite. You can win back the forfeited item by singing love songs to the facing player!
There is a large Hmong community in the US as many Hmong fled Laos to refugee camps in Thailand after the end of the war in Southeast Asia in 1975. Many were then granted refugee status in the US and came to live in California, Minnesota and Massachusetts. The United Hmong of Massachusetts celebrated the New Year in Fitchburg on September 4-5, a wonderful and colorful occasion. They will perform dance and music at Mariposa on Saturday, October 9.
Vietnamese Pink Bunny ToyThis toy was acquired in Hanoi in 1992. The pink bunny bangs on the drum when you push him along. Surely this toy was inspired by the Energizer Bunny. Even though it was made in the early 1990s, before the US restored diplomatic and trade relations with Vietnam, American advertising images had “penetrated the market!” You can see Vietnamese toys, clothing and crafts with many other artifacts from Southeast Asia at Mariposa until January 14. Now on display is clothing from the Hmong minority of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. The United Hmong of Massachusetts will perform dance and music at Mariposa at 7PM on Saturday, October 9.
Embroidered Story TapestryThe Hmong are a minority people who live in the mountains of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. A small section of an embroidered story tapestry shows the Hmong New Year celebration in full swing: men playing a game with heavy wooden tops, couples tossing pov pob balls back and forth, men dancing as they play the bamboo khen.
The Hmong who fled Laos after the fall of the US-backed government in 1975 brought their needlework skills first to refugee camps in Thailand, then to their countries of resettlement. There are an estimated 200 Hmong families in Massachusetts, including 80 to 90 in the Fitchburg-Leominster area. Hmong women have visited Joseph’s Coat in Peterborough to share their quilting and embroidery techniques with local sewers.
Cambodian Rice SickleThis elegant sickle from Cambodia was used to harvest rice. A naga or cobra head decorates the handle. Merrily and Jeff Hansen of Dublin loaned two sickles to us which you can see in the window to the left of Mariposa’s front door. This window, Stop 1 on our tour of Southeast Asia, displays objects related to rice culture throughout the region. These include a mortar and pestle for pounding rice, winnowing baskets, a model of a granary, hats worn by farmers, fish traps and 15 varieties of rice in a stunning variety of colors.
Cambodian HanumanThe monkey general Hanuman helps Rama to find and rescue his wife Sita in the great Indian epic, the Ramayana. The classical dances of Cambodia tell this story.
In one episode, Hanuman’s army piles stones in the ocean to build a causeway to Lanka, where Sita is held captive. No sooner does a monkey soldier place a stone in the water than it disappears. Hanuman dives into the ocean and finds mermaids removing the stones as fast as the monkeys place them. He dives deeper to the queen of the mermaids, whom he woos successfully, convincing her then to call off her army and allow the bridge to be completed.
Filipino Bayanihan“Bayanihan”, the Filipino word for cooperation, is exemplified by the tradition of moving a house from one location to another. If a family needs to move, they may take their home with them. In this case, it takes a community to move a house! Neighbors get together and lift the “bahay kubo” (traditional bamboo house) on stout bamboo poles. They walk it to its new home. The women of the household cook food for all the workers and the house moving becomes a community celebration. So it was with communal harvesting and barn raisings in the old days in our region.
Bayanihan is also the name of the national dance company of the Philippines. Former dancers from Bayanihan founded Dance Philippines in the Boston area. They performed at Mariposa at 7PM on Saturday, November 13 as part of “Southeast Asia”, our current exhibition on view until January 14.
Filipino clothingFilipino clothing reflects both the rich tribal cultures of the 7,100 islands of the archipelago and also 333 years of Spanish colonization. The mannequins in the clothing corner at Mariposa now display a Maranao “landap malong” from Mindanao and a “Filipiniana saya” formal dress worn by Jeff Hansen’s mother. On the wall behind hang two women’s blouses from the Tiboli people of South Cotabato (Mindanao) and a man’s “barong tagalong”.
TiniklingWhen Dance Philippines performed at Mariposa, we learned that the famous dance called “tinikling” comes from a bird named “tikling” that hops from branch to branch. The bamboo poles clacking together represent the twigs and branches, the agile dancers are the bird. This dance can be seen on Mariposa’s website, www.mariposamuseum.org, under “YouTube”, as can the elegant Muslim dance called “singkil”. Singkil tells the story of a princess who moves through a forest in a storm, avoiding the trees falling down around her. In singkil two pairs of poles cross at right angles; the rhythms are complex and irregular, and the dancers do not look down as they step in and out of the spaces between the poles.
Cambodian Monkey MasksHanuman, the monkey general in the Indian epic the Ramayana, is a beloved character in Cambodian classical dance. Women dance many male roles in this tradition, but Hanuman is always danced by a man, as are the monkeys in his army. Hanuman wears a white mask and costume while his soldiers are dressed in gray or brown.
These monkeys danced on stage at the Peterborough Town House on Saturday, October 30. The Angkor Dance Troupe from Lowell performed as part of Mariposa’s exhibition on Southeast Asia, open until January 14.
The Philippine “parol”The Philippine “parol”, a Christmas lantern in the shape of a star, can be made of paper, cellophane, plastic or the mother-of-pearl capiz shell, as in the parol shown here. It is lit from within by a candle, an oil lamp or electric bulbs that blink on and off in intricate sequences. Sometimes the outside of the lantern is painted with a Christmas scene. The star symbolizes the Star that the Magi followed to the manger in Bethlehem. Whether a simple parol made of 10 slender pieces of bamboo tied together with twine and covered with rice paper, or an elaborate multicolored one, the parol is to the Filipino Christmas what the Christmas tree is to our holiday in New England.
The Three ImmortalsVietnam was part of the Chinese Empire for 1,000 years, so it is no surprise that Chinese culture is deeply embedded in Vietnam. These figures come from Hanoi. They are the three Household Gods of China, also known as “The Three Immortals,” named (in Cantonese) Fuk, Luk and Sau.
Though they are seldom worshipped, their very presence is thought to bring very good luck, and as a result they are found in practically every Chinese and in many Vietnamese homes. Fuk represents family happiness, good relationships and love. He is often depicted holding a child. Luk represents power, wealth and affluence. He is depicted holding a “ru yi” (gold ingot), meaning that 10,000 blessings will come to you with ease. Sau represents health and longevity. He is depicted holding a walking stick which represents longevity and a peach symbolizing immortality.
Vietnamese ToysVietnamese children often make their own toys or invent games that need no toys. The Blair family lived on a dead end street in Hanoi from 1991-93 and we had many opportunities to watch our neighbors play street games, much as children in American cities did 50 years ago (and perhaps still do!).
Boys compete to knock over a soda can set down some distance away with their flip flops. Girls string together rubber bands to make a “Chinese jump rope” — the object of the game is not just to jump over the “rope” but to hook it with your foot as it gets higher and higher. Children play with wooden tops spun out with a tightly coiled rope. They make hacky sacks from plastic twine, a piece of rubber, a metal disc and a rubber band. Hacky sack is played as a competitive game across a net, like badminton, though the net may be nothing more than a piece of string stretched across the sidewalk.
Cambodian Dancer Costume JewelryCambodian dancers wear sparkling costume jewelry as they perform the classical dance. It may take several hours for a dancer to be sewed into her costume if she is performing one of the main roles in the Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Indian epic, the Ramayana. Jewelry and crowns complete the costume.
What do you think the 8 curved objects at the top of the photo are? If you guessed back scratchers, that’s close. These are fingernails worn by dancers in the Thai classical dance tradition.