The Malay Archipelago has been the most easterly frontier of Islam for the past 500 years. For centuries, Southeast Asia was part of the greatest trading route the world had ever seen. It was a meeting place for different Asian empires, as well as the new trading powers that emerged from the West.
Natural forms abound in the Islamic art of Southeast Asia. Subjects such as stylised plants, fruits and clouds are found in a wide variety of media. On textiles, these are often taken to a degree of abstraction that puts them in the realm of pure geometry. Craftsmanship in wood and metal, especially the creation of kris daggers, is another tradition for which the Malay world was once renowned. An art of Southeast Asia which receives less attention is Qur’anic manuscripts. The collection at IAMM is exceptionally strong on Qur’ans from the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula, an area formerly distinguished for its Islamic scholarship and calligraphic expertise.
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