Ukiran Minangkabau (Analysis of Mosque Carving in the Study Local Culture Wisdom of Sumatra Barat)

Riya Wahyuni, Zakaria Sukarya Soeteja, Tri Karyono

Art Education, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia,

Jln. Dr. Setia Budi No. 299, Bandung, Indonesia

Corresponding Author:


Carving for the Minangkabau Society located in Sumatra Barat, is a visualization as a guide for life in the community. Usually carving can be found in traditional houses, but ukiran Minangkabau can now be found in some existing architecture in ranah Minang, one of which is the architecture of Masjid Raya Sumatra Barat (the great mosque of Sumatra Barat). This study aims to determine how the shape and meaning of ukiran Minangkabau used in the architecture of the mosque. The method used in this research is descriptive method of analysis to obtain qualitative data in finding out the message contained in ukiran Minangkabau used in the mosque by using the theory of cultural studies of semiotics. The preliminary results of this study are to show that ukiran Minangkabau used in the architecture of the mosque is not just for decoration but has a moral message that can be used as a guide in people's lives.

Keyword: Ukiran Minangkabau, local wisdom of Sumatra Barat, semiotics

baca juga: Hoyak Tabuik Tradisi (10 Muharram Hoyak Tabuik di Pariaman)


This article will analyze the design of Masjid Raya (The Great Mosque), West Sumatera in the study of the forms and meanings using descriptive analysis based on the Minangkabau people's views on the carvings that guide the behavior in the life of the community. The Minangkabau community is one of the ethnic groups located on the island of Sumatra province of West Sumatra. Minangkabau abbreviated as Minang is known by the matrilineal kinship system and the majority of its people are Muslim and hold the principle of "Adat Basandi syarak, syarak basandi Kitabullah" (custom based on law, law based on Al-qur'an) which means custom in Minangkabau society based on the teachings of Islam.  Rumah Gadang is a traditional house that symbolizes the Minangkabau ethnic. "Traditional houses" called rumah gadang or "big house", became an amazing part of the Minangkabau highlands. Although the house is not as common as the past where some older, larger houses provide shelters for some matrilineal close family (matrilineal lineage) in one roof "(Tjahjono, 2002. p. 26) which makes this house so prominent because of its shape large and majestic with size 120 x 15 m with 20 rooms and living room that allows 60-80 people live in this one house. In addition, this house has a color and carvings that beautify the traditional house.

Minangkabau carving knows the slogan "alam takambang jadi guru" (all that exists in nature is the teacher in living the life of society) that usually carvings in Minangkabau are inspired from nature such as taking the form of animals, plants, and other forms to conform to the beliefs of the majority Muslim community.

The community recognizes several types of carvings that usually reside in traditional Minangkabau houses namely "rumah gadang". Each carving has a meaning in accordance with the placement of carvings in the gadang home, because the carvings are considered sacred with all its meaning according to the belief of Minang society. But unlike the traditional house, in the development of the current era, the carvings are no longer located in "rumah gadang". Engraving can now be found in several buildings, especially mosques, one of the most famous mosques in West Sumatra that use the carvings on the walls of the building is Masjid Raya West Sumatra. In addition to the unique shape of the building but also the development process that requires considerable cost. The uniqueness of the mosque is due to adopt the form of Minangkabau traditional house along with its carving. This is the focus of researcher and the research is to analyze the shape of mosque carvings as well as the meaning of engraving on Masjid Raya West Sumatra adjusts to the carvings that exist in Minangkabau as one of the local wisdom of culture in Minangkabau. 

Types of Minangkabau Motifs and Carvings 

Carving in Minangkabau located in "rumah gadang", has 50 more types of motifs and 45 carvings in accordance with its placement. Because "rumah gadang" is a place that is considered sacral then the motive placed must be the motif with the appropriate meaning. Here are some motives in Minangkabau that can be found in Minangkabau traditional house that is Rumah Gadang or "big house"

  1. Motif of Siriah Gadang (big betel leaf)
  2. Motif of Kaluak Paku Kacang Balimbiang
  3. Motif of Pucuak Rabuang (bamboo shoot)
  4. Motif of Bada Mudiak (small fish)
  5. Motif of Aka Bapilin (spiral roots)
  6. Motif of Aka Cino (chinese roots)
  7. Motif of Kuciang Tidua Jo Tampuak Manggih (sleeping cat and mangosteen)
  8. Motif of Itiak Pulang Patang (ducks back home in the afternoon)
  9. Motif of Saik Galamai, (pieces of galamai cake), etc. 


The mosque is an important architecture in the development of Islamic religion. The mosque serves as sacred places and holy for religious people of Islam because it is used as a place of social activities and worship to Allah SWT. Mosque architecture is at the peak of its glory seen since the death of Rasulullah SAW, during the reign of the Abbasid caliphate in the period 737-961 AD (Rony, 2014). Until nowadays many mosques are encountered with the form with unique designs due to enter the modern era and the development of Islam in a society to a better direction. The mosque is considered as a living cultural work, because the mosque is an architectural masterpiece used by Muslims and is used continuously from generation to generation. However, the unique form of mosque design that also adapts to the variety of local cultural wisdom in the local community until sometimes the mosque does not escape into one tourist destination. The mosque never loses its existence as a place of worship.


Masjid Raya, West Sumatra is the object of research in the analysis of the study of the shape and meaning of a carving which is used in the exterior of this mosque is a fusion of elements of culture that exist in Minangkabau with nuances of Islam in modern life. The blend creates a uniqueness that aims to preserve carvings and provide reintroduction of one local local wisdom that is rarely known by the public.  Engraving is one part of the visual culture that also has a language or symbol language that can replace the meaning of a space or an empty field like ornament. Either presence or absence of ornament has a value, function and purpose (Destiardmand. 2009). Which means the existence of an ornament both ornament and carving in giving a beautiful impression is not has no meaning, so it is with the provision of carvings on the mosque because basically humans have the need to 'decorate' to everything the place they lived (Syahputra, Wibisono, Darmawan, & Yan Sunarya, 2016). Engraving on the exterior of the mosque is a combination of some Minangkabau motifs and Arabic calligraphy is the name of Allah and the prophet. 

Calligraphy in English derived from the Greek word "kalligraphia". The word begins with the word "kalos" which means beautiful and "graphos" means writing. The blending of the carvings is designed in a simplified way (deformation) or stratified (stilasi) which sometimes makes it difficult to recognize the basic shape of the carving motif. However, the composition of the form creates a beautiful and unique form. The change of form and content are two aspects of unity that become the essence (value) base on a work of art (Kiswanto, 2017). Included in the carving of this mosque itself.

 If the carving with Islamic nuance comes from calligraphy, carving with Minangkabau nuances used is an imitation of nature like vines, roots that have leaves, flowering and fruiting roots. The pattern of roots that are used usually form a circle, the roots are aligned, coincided, interwoven, and also connect, nature that produces the form of an ornament by determining the order, rules, and forms that appear on the basis of consideration (Knight.1999).

It is seen from the picture above, here is a picture of Minangkabau carving with the design pattern that has been presented, the design made by Minangkabau community figures shows aesthetic that has a meaning that reflects the life of the ethnic community because the design drawings are made not only as home decoration. However, it has things that affect the social life that is part of a complex dialectic in symbolizing the social system of society, to produce a framework of ideology that has one understanding. (Riley 2004).

 To see how the ideology of the meaning of engraving in Masjid Raya, West Sumatra, researcher will use the analysis of cultural theory of semiotics because Minangkabau carving is made with certain considerations and thoughts with interactions among others. Seeking to adopt an attitude of viewpoint in accordance with the Islamic Shari'a that ultimately involves the signs (semiotic) it can be integrated with the sociology of phenomenology with the idea that a meaning articulation (Saussure) or linking objects or signs by a interpreter (Peirce) is understood as 'deliberate'. (Heiskala, 2014). 

This 'deliberate act' which eventually produces a picture and becomes a carving that has meaning for the local community. As part of a science, semiotics reveals scientifically all the visible signs in people's lives, both verbal and nonverbal. (Kasmahidayat, 2010, pp. 35). The meaning to be analyzed from the carvings of this mosque will see how the carvings are interconnected between local wisdom of West Sumatra (Minangkabau) and religion in modern times today, does it still have a linkage? For the symbolic level of any society is shaped by a set of semiautonomic cultural fields that exist but in interaction with each other. (Jofr, 2015). Based on that view, the researcher can draw the conclusion that there is no sign (symbol) in a local wisdom of society that persist in every development era even though not in static form. Each sign (symbol) like the carving, when viewed from the nature of the syntagmatic axis, must develop like the semiotic around it. (Werse, 2013).


To study or analyze the shape and meaning of engraving on Masjid Raya, West Sumatra. Researcher uses qualitative methodology to explore engravings that emphasize the embodiment of a sociolinguistic meaning and practice (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). Through this qualitative methodology will be expressed the meaning of the engraving Masjid Raya, West Sumatra, descriptive research is selected in order to describe every composition that is used along with the characteristics that exist on the carving of the mosque. Because research using descriptive is more concerned with what and not how or why something is biased to happen. (Nassaji, 2015).

This descriptive qualitative research involves direct exploration into the field which then identifies themes, drawing patterns as well as the recurrent concepts of the carvings in detail, and then interprets the results of those findings. Therefore, observation and survey tools are often used to collect data (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2007) in order to obtain accurate and truthful data. Especially in seeing all the phenomena found in the location, how local culture of local wisdom and religion can be incorporated into a beautiful artwork but still in existence it is because art is an integrated cultural system (Husein, 2013)


The discussion of this research will analyze the form and meaning of Minangkabau carving that exist in architecture of Masjid Raya, West Sumatera, in the life of society. 


Masjid Raya Sumatra Barat (The Great mosque of Sumatra Barat)

masjid raya sumatera barat

Masjid Raya, West Sumatra, is a new architect that addressed in the city center, Padang, Jl. Katip Sulaiman, District of Padang Utara Kota Padang, Province of West Sumatra, Indonesia. The architecture of this mosque occupies an area of 40,343 square meters with a building area of 4,430 square meters. The work of Indonesian architects named Rizal Muslimin. This building consists of 3 floors with a capacity of 20,000 people. 

Mesjid Raya (the great mosque), West Sumatra, is not only famous because of the large but also jarena uniqueness. This mosque took the cultural element and Islamic elements in the design up to, many tourists who took the time to come see the building of this mosque. The mosque that takes the cultural element as the basis of this design also does not lose its existence as a house of worship and the value of local wisdom that is imposed. Because the combination of design makes this mosque is classified as a mosque with post-modern style (Neo-Vernacular). Neo-Vernacular school is the result of the postmodern era so as to create new forms of style from within its architecture (Alimin, 2016). In the construction of this mosque, the designers adapted to the geographical situation of the prone coastal city. So that the mosque in the state has the resilience to the earthquake, because basically the development of neo-vernacular architecture in its development must memperharikan technology architecture, attention in development should be more focused "how to build it?" Because it must deal directly with the environment not only local characteristics but the building climate. (Wang, Li, & Gan, 2016).

The Shape and Meaning of Engraving on Masjid Raya, West Sumatra.


Bentuk Ukiran Masjid Raya Sumatera Barat

masjid raya sumatera barat

Visualization of the shape of the field on the carved exterior of the mosque adapt from the original songket cloth from Minangkabau, it also introduces one of the other local wisdom from minangkabau culture besides Minangkabau carving. At first glance, the appearance of the exterior carving of the mosque looks like the motif weaving the songket Minangkabau, but on the contents of the fields that form the triangle there are several combinations of minang motifs and Arabic calligraphy that has a deep meaning for the people of Minangkabau. 

Analysis Using Semiotic Theory 

Semiotics theory is used to see the clarity of the visual identity of the mosque carvings used in the architecture of Masjid Raya, West Sumatra. The theme shown in the mosque is to show the magnificent Minangkabau culture that must be preserved its existence. Through the adoption of culture as an idea in designing mosque architecture. Society is reintroduced to their culture.

Not only from the form of buildings that adopt Minangkabau traditional house but also carvings in the show on the exterior of the mosque building that reminds the original songket from Minangkabau. In an effort to understand every carving motif requires a deep synthetic intuition in order to know its meaning. Synthetic intuition is an essential thought of one's psychology and his view of life on the creator of the work (Panofsky, 1955: 41) 


Carving on the Exterior of  Masjid Raya West sumatera

Analysis of the shape and meaning of the engraving of the Great Mosque of West Sumatera based on the interview to Minangkabau cultural experts, will be explained using the following table:

Based on the carvings displayed on the exterior of the mosque, it is an expression of preservation in maintaining culture through a unique art with the intent and specific goals. The combination of trend and local culture combined with the hope that the culture can survive as an inheritance for the future though in different ways. Different is the uniqueness of conveying a culture in a different way in accordance with the creativity of the human. Activities and human creativity in transforming himself to the culture of his life


The conclusion of this study is about the fact that the carvings that are on the exterior of Masjid Raya, West Sumatra, is an adoption of the local wisdom of Minangkabau culture seen in the form of carvings that resemble the Minangkabau carving form. At a glance the community is introduced or reminded of the visual form of the original songket woven fabric from Minangkabau. But there are differences in the field of motive is a combination of Minangkabau carving motifs and Arabic calligraphy written ALLAH SWT.

Furthermore, the meaning contained in the Minangkabau carving in use on the exterior of the mosque revealed the way of thinking and behavior of Minang people who learn in nature in order to always be grateful, mutual cooperation and mutual respect. To preserve the culture in a new way so that the culture of local wisdom can survive and be recognized by the local community although with different styles and with the support of the local community's social skills.


The author would like to thank Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan (LPDP) or Indonesia Endowment Found for Education which gave full support to the author to join this international conference


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Informasi artikel ini telah di seminarkan pada

Sumber : 2018 International Conference on Education and Global Studies (IConEGS 2018) 

terbit: seminar Prosiding jilid 2, terbitan 1 di Hyugo Univercity, Jepang. April, 2018

hal: 244-256

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