It spreads above Musi River, Palembang (South Sumatera)
The South Sumatera Province encloses the inlands in the west and south parts which consist of hilly upland plains, while the north and east parts are swampy lowland plains and coast areas. Opposite the shore are the islands Bangka and Belitung.
The natives of South Sumatera consists of several tribes having there own dialects as the Komering, the Ogas, the Pasemah, the Musi, the palembang, the Lamatang, the bangka, the Belitung, the Sekak and other dialects.
Means of existence of the people aremainly trade and fishing. Nowadays there are also labourersartisans and government officials among them.
The geography of South Sumatera contributes to the shaping of a cultural type, which reveals not only local patterns, but also foreign elements as the result of acculturation.
The early development of culture in South Sumatera started from prehistory. Megalitic cultural heritage in several districts of South Sumatra shows high level culture, leaving monuments and stone objects, beside stone sculptures of different style compared toother magilitic stone figures at Java and Sulawesi.
As the case in other regions, the presence of stone figures is always associated to folklores. So is the “Si Pahit Lidah” (The Bitter Tongued”) legend known among the people of South Sumatera, telling the story of stone figures as the curse of “Si Pahit Lidah”. The magalitic stone figures of South Sumatera explain that the people living in the last stone period and early bronze age, mastered already the skill of stone chiseling. The clothes figured on the sculptures also reveal the life and behaviour of the people in the past according to their needs.
The skill of erecting stone buildings and chiseling stones developed further after the arrival of a new – Hinduist and Buddhist backed-up-culture. South Sumatera became one of the new religions central in Indonesia under the reign of the Syailendra and Sriwijaya dynasties. Above mentioned culture did not leave many stone temples and statues unlike the case at java; this remains the problem being discussed among experts.
The fact that cultural heritage of that age is still rare or undisclosed does not mean that we have no sources of knowledge concerning its art development. The aesthetic standard of art products of the Sriwijaya golden age is still known through traditions of various art-crafts inherited to the next periods.
The most strategic location of Sriwijaya in the traffic of trade opened the opportunity for the emergence and growth of traditional crafts within the royal circle and among the common people as well. In its development this art-craft tradition has been enriched by foreign elements of art-craft, from countries outside Indonesia as well as from within Nusantara itself.
Various types and patterns of ornaments appearing on tradition buildings decorations and furniture show the integration of those elements of artcraft.
Decorating motives originated from pre-Hindu, Hindu and from other foreign cultures, as from China and Siam are blended in various traditional decorations art designs in South Sumatra. These decorations appear on products of weaving art, ceramics, wood-carving, plaints, etc., showing decorative motives being typical of South Sumatera, as sunflower, melati, bamboo shoot, crinum asiaticum, fern and other motives. Chinese influence prevailed further along the development of trade. This influence evolved various skills in craftsmanship as of furniture craft and building construction. The role of Chinese art appears in the shape on buildings as the minaret of the Palembang Grand Mosque with its pagoda-typed dome.
Dragon, squirrel and funix bird are some examples of the so-many Chinese decorative motives appearing on furniture in South Sumatera.
With the development of Islam, the art of South Sumatera has been further enriched with elements of Islamic art. Beside plastic art, qasidah and rebana became new assets in the development of art in this region.
Arabic calligraphy assumes an important role through various techniques in mosque and home decorations. The old art still plays its role in art activities within the Islamic society. Al of these has become tradition which reflects the nation’s character for being open to various art influences from outside, without neglecting own identity. The arrival of Europeans – though it did not effect directly the building and development of art in South Sumatera – it brought changes in the expressions of artists. Art craft and decorative art, beside high standard dance and music, were not maintained, and suspended as frozen traditional art, many of the were even destroyed.
The new culture brought European style into city buildings as houses, offices and churches which were erected by architects who entirely did not know about the tradition of construction art in this area.
Conservation of art were poorly maintained, as traditional values win less appreciation in the development of new culture. Education in colonial time removed art further from society life. The effect was that social appreciation toward own art was no longer developed.
Traditional art will regain its meaning and value in the society, when the nation concerned starts being aware of the glory of the inherited tradition. The bearers of tradition should remind themselves of the art and cultural values ever owned by their nation.
Natural art tradition needs to be re-expressed through various efforts principally by revitalization. In this case, education needs to play its role beside direct steps in the remaining central of traditional art activities.
Through art education, traditional art will not only regain its place in the society, but will also be able to generate creativities to produce new forms of art expressions, without neglecting its own regional art identity.