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Maduran Mad Dog



The island of Madura lies just off the north east shore of Java and its people are renowned as skilled craftsmen, fishermen, and tradesmen rather than as farmers. Most of Madura is unirrigated and dry, thus unsuitable for rice farming. In the past, Madura was an independent state with its own court culture, with refined arts and crafts. During the 15th century Madura converted to Islam and to this day Islam one of the defining characteristics of the Madura culture. Most Madura wood carving is stylized and geometrical and pieces like this statue of a dog are extremely rare.

This dog is obviously made using a variety of tools by someone who knew how to work wood with those tools. However, dogs being unclean in Islam, the artist who made this figure did not have a dog to observe while he was making it. Being a Maduran craftsman he would be a devout Muslim and would rarely even have seen a dog. The anatomical mistakes and the tendency to decorate -as on the dog's forehead or the use of red beads and black paint for the eyes- are consistent with the Islamic context of this work.

The interesting thing about this statue is that it appears to have been made out of the artist's fancy and, unlike traditional art, it can be seen as an individual's expression rather than an expression of tradition. This indicates that at the time of the making of this figure, modernism and individual expression in art was developing in Madura. This also suggests that this piece was made during this years of independence (between 1900-1950's), when a lot of effort was put into education and art. Ki Hadjar Dewantara, the father of Indonesian education, was influenced by Montessuori and Rabindrananth Tagore and put a lot of emphasis on the arts and crafts in developing personality. After the 1960's less and less government funding went to education and people were scared to practice the arts because of it's association with the Indonesian Communist Party that had just been annihilated, so it is very unlikely that this dog was made after 1965.

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