Arts Illustrated Talk: “The ‘Tree of Life’ Exhibition: An Overview of the International Collection"


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by guest curator Edric Ong

When: Jun 11 2017 - 2:00pm until Jun 11 2017 - 3:00pm
Where: East-West Center Gallery

In conjunction with the Arts exhibit, Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life is an archetype, theme, motif, image, spiritual concept, and mythological story that is found through - out the world. The Tree of Life is often understood to connect all forms of creation and is a cosmic conception that connects the heavens, earth, and underworld. It has influenced art creation and visual representation for millennia. These diverse representations have taken influences from indigenous cultures and major religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and other ancient religions.

The Tree of Life has diverse meaning across cultures in Asia. In Hindu mythology, it is the Cosmic Tree, for the Babylonians it was the tree with the divine fruit, for the Zoroastrians it is the Haoma Tree, while in Chinese mythology the one who eats its fruits becomes immortal.

This exhibition is beyond borders and the viewer will see diverse objects from 20 Asian countries. Although the emphasis is on textiles there are also examples of the tree of life image in a multitude of media including paintings, ceramics, basketry, metal work, jewelry, lacquer, stone, wood, and leather.

Handcrafted from natural and sustainable materials, the artwork focuses on traditional and contemporary interpretations of the Tree of Life. The aim of the exhibition is to create awareness about the importance of ecology to stimulate creativity as well as to highlight cultural sustainability. Manjari Nirula, co-curator from India states, “The aim of the exhibition is to create greater awareness about the importance of ecology to stimulate creativity and innovation while highlighting natural as well as cultural sustainability. Craft has the least carbon footprint and that comes through very strongly in this exhibition.”

There are many indigenous cultures in Sarawak, Malaysia that address the concepts of the sacred forest. According to co-curator Edric Ong from Sarawak, Malaysia, “The Tree of Life, known as pohon budi in Malaysian language, is talking about a tree of culture, a tree of civilization, a tree from which mankind evolved. The exhibition builds bridges and healing with its message of peace and love.”

Click here to download the exhibit handout.

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