In this activity, you will examine and illustrate the aspects of human endeavour depicted in bas-relief carvings at Angkor Wat by creating a poster.
About Angkor Wat
The Angkor Wat temple complex was built to signify and replicate the five peaks of Mt Meru, the home of the gods in Hindu mythology. Conceived in 1113 by the great Khmer King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat was designed by 5000 architects and astronomers, and took 50 000 skilled labourers four years to build.
One group of artisans employed in the construction of this enormous complex were the sculptors entrusted with the task of creating a multitude of intricate female figures into its sandstone walls.
Throughout the temple complex, close to 1800 of these figures can be found; standing individually, in pairs or congregated in distinct groups.
Whilst represented in a variety of poses, facial features, hand positions, clothing, hairstyle, jewellery, and accoutrements, the women of Angkor Wat have many characteristics in common.
Ranging in height from approximately half life-size to that of a small woman, they are invariably shown standing in full frontal view, with both feet in profile resting firmly on the ground. They are perfectly proportioned and stylised with slim waists and curvaceous hips.
Legs are usually rendered in static dignified poses, with only a few assuming positions associated with movement. Arms are rendered in numerous configurations, usually with elbows bent and hands in front of or to the side of the body. Some figures have arms extending towards or over the head, holding objects or placing flowers in the hair.
Many stand in pairs or groups with arms intertwined. Hand positions, mudras, are distinctive. Delicately curved fingers lightly hold objects between thumb and ring or middle finger, whilst the index and small fingers remain extended.
Many faces appear in calm repose with gentle, secretive smiles. Occasionally pure personality shines through, with one unique individual smiling and teeth exposed and another with her tongue poking out.
Hair styles are many and varied. Hair is often scooped away from the face and knotted into one or more elaborate chignons. On other figures the hair is held back by an elaborate diadem encircling the forehead and topped with an exquisite multi-tiered headpiece.
Considered a sign of beauty and wealth, earlobes are always elongated and adorned with an extravagant variety of ear ornaments. Necks are often adorned with highly decorated collars or gorgets, generally tapering to a point between the breasts and bordered with small motifs.
Sometimes body chains are looped between the breasts and around the upper torso. An ornate clasp can be found on each upper arm, invariably in the form of a flared-out motif which appears to be a stylised lotus flower. Sometimes a pendant or two dangles from the upper arm band, and a thick bangle is often found on each wrist and ankle.
Stunning diaphanous wraps encircle the lower body and legs, held in place with decorative knots, belts, and luxurious girdles slung low around the hips.