Windows to the World

Rozana Lee

2 March - 27 April 2024

 Windows to the World

In Windows to the World, Rozana Lee extends her research on global histories of encounter and exchange, establishing connections between her Indonesian cultural heritage, Pasifika culture, and Central Asia. The exhibition spotlights the migration of cultural motifs, with a particular focus on the kawung (or suwung). Through her research into this motif, Rozana seeks to emphasise that culture arises not solely from the traditions of a single community but also from cross-cultural interactions and exchanges.

The four-petal flower, known as kawung or suwung, has been a prominent motif in Indonesian batik since the 16th century, often depicted by four overlapping circles. Symbolising the concepts of void or emptiness, purity, and selflessness, this motif traces Indonesia’s history back to a time when the majority of its population adhered to Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. In Polynesian culture, the four-pointed petals and its variant – shaped like four triangles arranged in an X or a cross – represent one of the oldest motifs, known as frangipani, manulua, or potuuamanuka. Commonly appearing in bark or tapa cloth, it holds significance in expressing Pasifika identity, often interpreted as a frangipani flower or birds in flight.

Wendy E. Cowling's The Lapita motif that 'got away' (2009) notes the extensive migration history of this motif. It was first discovered as an incised decoration in Lapita pottery in the Bismarck Archipelagos, eventually making its way to Aotearoa through the Pacific. During her recent travels along the Silk Road with The Zhelezka Project mobile residency, Rozana discovered a similar four-petal motif in Central Asia. This motif includes a popular variation known as Quatrefoil, often found in Gothic and Christian architecture. Historical accounts suggest the Quatrefoil made its way to Europe through the Silk Road in the form of silk or carpet design, similar to the arabesque shapes that appear in Islamic structures.

This four-petal motif, which has been reinterpreted, adapted, and recontextualised by various cultures, serves as a reminder of our migrating and voyaging ancestors, highlighting their extensive journeys across time and space, connecting lands and oceans.


Homestead Galleries
Corban Estate Arts Centre
2 Mt Lebanon Lane