The Mongolian artist Erdenebayar Monkhor’s world of horses is deeply informed by his early life on the steppe and personal relationships. His horses, in painting and sculpture, are potent metaphors for traditional Mongolian culture and a changing modern society’s complex narratives.
The horse is central to the cultural and spiritual world of Mongolians and one of their most important art motifs, even from the earliest rock art. For Monkhor Erdenebayar the horse has long been the main subject of his painting. And through this he not only expresses his love for the animal but also uses it as a metaphor for Mongolian national identity and as a way of exploring his own childhood memories.
Equestrio Arabia, Spirit of the Steppe, Showcase of Monkhor Erdenebayar, by Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle, Nov-Dec 10
Say the word ‘Mongolia’ and images of nomadicadventureandthegreatMongolgeneral Genghis Khan on horseback come to mind. It was the horse that carried the Mongolian warriors to victory, who in turn treasured them over every other animal. A symbol of power, majesty, freedom, loyalty, magic and fertility, the horse continues to inhabit the Mongolian psyche centuries later, deeply ingrained in the nation’s soul. It speaks of the country’s history and cultural identity, and remains at the heart of Mongolian society, tradition and spirituality, playing a vital role in life and commerce across the Steppe.
The image of the horse is a powerful one. It excites the imagination, stirs the blood, and has been an iconic subject in the art canon since the earliest cave paintings. In myriad folk traditions the horse speaks to humankind’s dark and ancient history, to strength and nurturing, to work and pleasure, and to the mysteries of life and death.
For the Mongolian people the horse has always been at the very core of life and soci- ety, tradition and philosophy, history and religion. The horse carried the great unifier of the Mongolian tribes Genghis Khan (1162–1227) and his de- scendents’ swift-moving armies across Asia and, in the 13th cen- tury, into the heart of Europe as far as Poland and Hungary.