This newsletter highlights some of my favorite people, places and things in Asia. Traveling and collecting in these lands has been a supreme privilege. I’m grateful to these people for their kindness, generosity and friendship; to these cultures, which have shown me other ways of thinking; and to the land for its sustenance and beauty. This is the inspiration for doing a show about these cultures whose foundation has been the world of rice. I hope you will find the “Rice Cultures Show” as fascinating and rich as we do.
My quest broadens and deepens as the years go by and I find myself increasingly interested in the continuation and preservation of the arts, skills, and culture that have made possible the beautiful and soulful objects I have sent back to David Alan Collection. With this in mind, a group of dedicated Balinese and I have opened a school in the village of Mas, Bali. Young people will be taught the highest levels of skills and aesthetics possible in order to continue this astounding tradition of woodcarving. In time, other arts and crafts will be added to the curriculum and a museum will be built to house the finest examples of those crafts from all over the East. These exhibits will be available for study by the students as examples of skills to acquire and pieces to “model.” Some pieces have already been donated from top collectors in Bali. It will take time, but the Balinese believe this is a critical endeavor. I will keep you updated on progress from time to time.
Be kind, be playful, and be happy.
Rice is Life – A Show about Rice Cultures
Rice is the foundation of every nation and culture I visit while collecting for David Alan Collection. We have designed this Rice Culture Show to honor those people and cultures. Almost all the pieces in the show are at least 75 years old though many are several hundred years old. That’s recent history for rice cultures, some whom have been growing rice at least 10,000 years. For over half the Earth’s population, rice is the central building block of their cultures. Rice is the connection between man and God. In every rice culture, rice is directly associated with the Divine, usually in the form of a Goddess. Many of the beliefs, festivals, rituals, and traditions are related to rice – its cultivation, harvest, and consumption. Life without rice is unimaginable. In Bangladesh, China, and Thailand, a common greeting is, “Have you eaten your rice today?” instead of “How are you?”
In Japan, people didn’t think in terms of breakfast, lunch and dinner, rather, morning rice, afternoon rice, and evening rice. The list of sayings goes on….
We hope the pieces we’ve selected for the “Rice Culture Show” will give you the flavor of these wonderful cultures.
The show “Rice is Life” begins August 14th, 2007 with a David Alan Collection opening from 6-9pm. Food, rice wine, friendly folks, and live music happily provided.
Lamak is a beautifull designed, contemporary restaurant in Ubud, Bali’s cultural center. On the second floor, its u-shaped main dining room is at the top of a wide, curved staircase. The comfortably spaced tables overlook the gardens below. Covered, but without walls, Lamak takes advantage of Bali’s warm days and balmy evenings. The vibrant, rich colors and strong graphics are at once stimulating and comfortable. A stroll to see the bathrooms is required, even if not necessary. The culinary theme is Asian contemporary, though a wide range of other choices is available. The only thing better than the gorgeous presentation of the food is its taste. Lamak is fun, romantic, and a great place to share dishes with friends. Lamak never disappoints.
Food Preparation – Implements in the Home
Food Preparation Implements in the Home have perhaps the best energy, flavor, and patina of anything in the Collection. Food preparation is the heart and soul of home and village life. It is done with care, love, and thoughtful attention. One can taste the love in the food and feel the care from the tools used to cook and serve it. Small scooped out cutting boards with animal head handles that have been in use for 75 years or more, are included in the group of implements from Java and other Indonesian islands.
The wooden sticky rice trays from Thailand have been used for generations, and the serving bowls and trays from the tribes of the outer islands of Indonesia come to us after 100-150 years of family use. All of these pieces were used for everyday meals as well as celebrations. They represent family and community sharing the most joyous time of day – mealtime. Their beauty and symbolic nature are lovely reminders for us to honor what’s truly important in life.
Perhaps most interesting of this group are the wood and stone herb and medicinal mortars. Our collection of stone mortars from northern Thailand, China, and the islands of Indonesia are usually 200-400 years old and are sculpturally beautiful. The wonderfully eroded, small wood mortars are all shapes, sizes, and ages and have a similiar feel.
Food Preparation – Tools in the Courtyard
Some of the most beautiful village implements are those used in the courtyard of a family compound for grinding corn, soybeans, or the pounding of rice. The spiral teak gears of Thailand and the ironwood notched gears of Indonesia are poetry in action and sculpture at rest. They gain beauty from use and wear, and eventually from disuse, as the elements of nature start to wear away their features.
The corn grinders are made of a thick, sculpted, teak tray that catches the ground corn, and a pair of small hard stone discs that grind the kernals into meal. These trays, when discarded, weather as only teak can, and become sculpture a contemporary artist would be proud of having carved. The stone discs have a balance and beauty all their own.
Rice mortars, appearing in thousands of shapes and sizes, are my favorites. All the mortars saw a life of daily use, and have been left to the erosion of sun, wind, and rain, which enhanced their hand-carved beauty. The small mortars make exquisite planters, indoors or out, or they can be used as the legs of coffee tables, as visitors to the Collection will see. Medium-sized mortars work as sculpture stands or end tables, if one adds a glass disc on top. They also serve as stools with cushions. Large mortars make stunning indoor or outdoor dining table pedestals, end tables, or free-standing sculpture. All the mortars have a special quality and good energy that comes only from tools used in the preparation of food. They bring warmth, beauty, texture, sculptural beauty, and the richness of village life to any environment.
Luang Prabang, Laos
The World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, in the country of Laos, is one of my favorite towns on Earth. Its authenticity is subtle, yet deep. It seems the foundation of the culture in this area is so strong, it is unshaken by the visitors passing through. The visitors are changed, not the town or its people. Luang Prabang’s location above the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers gives it an almost magical feel. Defined by the two rivers, much of the older part of town is only 3 blocks wide, so it’s easy to know your way around Luang Prabang in an afternoon’s walk. Because of its French colonial history, most of the four-to-six-room hotels are former French residences. This adds a certain intimacy to the whole friendly Luang Prabang experience. There are approximately 30 Buddhist temple/monasteries in town, lending their sweet, peaceful flavor to the mix. At certain times of day, the monks far outnumber other people on the streets. In some indefinable way, I feel more at home here than anywhere I’ve ever visited. The people are gentle and generous. The pace is slow and the land is subtly beautiful. I found it remarkably easy here to talk with people anywhere, anytime; at the next table at a restaurant, on the street, or in a hotel lobby. When I’m in Luang Prabang, the world seems to be populated with friends, even before we’ve met.