Looking at Art - February

<p><strong>Robert Koroh</strong><br/>Born Kingdom of Amarasi, West Timor, Indonesia<br/><br/><i> Kai Ne’e Natam Kor Kase (Diamond and Bird) </i>2008 Workshop Proof, edition 10<br/> Engraving on copper plate, on hand-made Rice straw & Grass paper on Banyan paper with chine collé on Hahnemuhle paper<br/> 22.5 x 22cm [image]; 39.8 x 36cm [paper]<br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection – CDU1694<br/>Gifted by the artist & the School of Creative Arts & Humanities, 2009</br>Image © the artist & courtesy Nomad Art, Parap </p>

Robert Koroh

Robert M. Koroh is the 20th Raja of the Amarasi Dynasty, an independent royal family from the Amarasi region of East Nusa Tenggara Province in West Timor, Indonesia. Koroh’s father was a significant politician and played an instrumental role in the process of regaining independence from the Dutch during the Indonesian National Revolution in 1949.

An influential figure in local politics, Koroh is today primarily committed to representing the people of Baun (Amarasi’s capital) through the invigoration of traditional textile practice (ikat). The term ikat derives from the Malay/Indonesian verb mengikat meaning “to tie or bind” and refers to the process as well as particular styles of textile weaving. Textiles such as tais mutin, tais and po’uk are an integral feature of Timorese culture as they are central to ceremonies and spiritual rituals, and are bequeathed as family heirlooms.

Ikat involves a particular “resist” dyeing technique where either the warp or weft threads are bundled into groups corresponding to the desired pattern and plunged into dye-baths before their transferral to a loom for weaving. This method differentiates ikat from other dyeing techniques such as tie-dye or batik where the cloth is patterned and dyed after it has been woven.

Koroh’s desire to assist the local textile industry has a family connection: his mother was an internationally renowned ikat artist whose expertise and knowledge of traditional techniques and patterns were legendary. Koroh has contributed significantly to the long-term protection of Amarasi motifs through the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

In 2005, with the support of an Asialink grant, a pilot program of artistic partnerships between communities in Indonesia and the Northern Territory was initiated. The aim of the program was to bring together artists working in and with remote communities, with a view to encouraging “the transmission of local cultural traditions to future generations”, at the same time fostering “greater engagement in global practice”. With funding support from the Ford Foundation in 2006, Joanna Barrkman (then Curator, Southeast Asian Art & Material Culture, Museum & Art Gallery of the NT) was appointed project adviser for a pilot program in Baun (West Timor), working with Sanggar Uim Nima, a cooperative of textile artisans including Robert Koroh. Experienced paper-maker Winsome Jobling and printmaker Leon Stainer (then CDU VET Lecturer in Remote Area Printing) were invited as members of the project team to deliver paper-making and printmaking workshops.

Workshops were held twice in 2007 and once more in 2008. Jobling collaborated with artists in experimenting with locally sourced plants to create new paper supports; Stainer introduced the technique of copper plate etching. Traditional Amarasi motifs were translated through previously unexplored media into a contemporary visualisation of ikat weaving.

Created during the collaborative workshops, Kai Ne’e Natam Kor Kase (Diamond and Bird) 2008 relates to Koroh’s family history. The artist’s surname derives from the word “Kor” which is also the name of a rare bird known as isu in Amarasi. In Timorese culture, birds are highly revered as auspicious talismans that once guided the founders of Amarasi to its first settlement. Birds are also believed to have the ability to guide souls of the deceased to the Upper World to join their ancestors. Traditionally, this aristocratic motif was worn by the Raja.

In Koroh’s print, isu is rendered in schematic simplicity, its wings outstretched in confidence and pride. The emblematic colours, clean geometry and symmetry of Kai Ne’e Natam Kor Kase (Diamond and Bird) 2008 reflect the artist’s inherited knowledge of Amarasi motifs, ikat patterning and their significance to his family and culture. Collaborating with Stainer, Koroh engraved the copper plate into grids and carefully carved each square so the resulting print emulated the textural warp and weft of woven ikat designs. Under the tutelage of Jobling, a layering of hand-made paper of local origin also alluded to ikat as inspiration.

Twelve of Koroh’s prints were displayed in the exhibition Ta Teut Amarasi – Awakening held at the Wesleyan Church, George Brown Botanic Gardens, Darwin, during the Darwin Festival in August 2008. Ta Teut Amarasi also toured to the UPDT Museum Daerah NTT in Kupang, West Timor in October 2008.
 
Anita Angel, Curator
Eileen Lim, Assistant Curator

Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery
24 January 2014

SOURCES:

Print certificate – Ta Teut Amarasi Project, Nomad Art, Parap, NT

S. Robins, H. Arbuckle & J. Barrkman, "Ta Teut Amarasi – Awakening: Contemporary textiles and prints based on the cultural traditions of Amarasi", exhibition catalogue, Fineline Printing, Victoria, 2008

C. Cains (Curator), "Ikat: Asian resist dyed textiles", exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Victoria, 5 October 2006-12 March 2007 (exhibition dates)

W: http://www.nomadart.com.au/?p=2871
Nomad Art, “Robert Koroh”, artist’s biography

W: http://www.archive.is/POeMf 
Royal Timor - Raja Robert M. Koroh of Amarasi

W: http://www.nomadart.com.au/?p=5604
Angus Cameron, Ta Teut Amarasi – Awakening, exhibition report, 2008

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