Art History:   Grade 6 Lesson 6

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  SENEGAL TO HONOLULU - Indonesian Art 

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  1. Batik Artist,  c 1965, Central Java, Reproduction photograph.
    In addition to the wayang shows and figures and the kris, batiked textiles are third most characteristic of advanced Indonesian and especially Javanese culture. Batiked textiles are used above all for clothing, both for festive occasions and for everyday wear. Apart from the practical use, we also know of instances where batiked fabrics assume a cultic function; in Java for instance, batiked kerchiefs are draped over the tombs of princes as a sacrifice. The origin of the technique has not been definitely traced. Although a variation of batik work is known in India, the fact that it was not practiced in Bali and a kind of batiking existed in Central Celebes suggests an Indonesian origin. The technique started to flourish after 1500.

    Batik is a method of executing color design on fabrics in a cold dye by coating the parts not to be dyed with wax. As the first step in the process of dyeing, the pattern is traced onto the properly prepared white fabric. Hot wax is then applied to areas to be left blank, through a spout or spouts (approx. 1mm in diameter) of the cylindrical instrument called "tjanting". Applying the wax is the job traditionally of the women. Dyeing, the first step of which is usually using indigo, is done by a man who also scrapes off the wax once the material has dried. Indigo-blue dyed areas that are to remain blue are then covered with wax  after a starch treatment to make the wax stick better. The process is repeated as many times as needed to apply all the colors.

    Hand-batiking takes at least 12-15 days to produce a single piece. This process was replaced after 1850. Wax then was stamped onto the fabric with blocks similar to those used in European blue-dyeing. Batik-work is therefore no longer a female handicraft but became a male industry, although hand-batiking also survived.

    Of the colors applied, dark indigo-blue is the oldest; kerchiefs colored white and blue were worn for example by the Javanese princes and their officials on the days when they held court. Crimson, obtained from the root of a tree, yellow, green (mixed from blue and yellow) and black are the other principal colors. Maroon is popular, and as the most characteristic hue of Javanese batik after 1700, this shade became the official court color. As for decorative motifs, which cover the surface symmetrically, it can be generally said that geometric and floral , and the partly stylized animal designs are the most frequent.

    bullet Children's video of how to make Batik


  2. Skirt (detail), early 20th century, Dayak, Borneo. Female decorated with beads. Ethnographical Museum, Budapest. reproduction photograph.
    Despite the best unity of style, the art of the individual Dayak groups differs in the motif applied, in the range of their creation, and in the quality of their products. The specialization stimulated commerce, and the products from individual groups reached even distant tribes. The women are responsible for sewing the beads onto the fabric. Artistically outstanding pieces come from artists specializing in this field. Tiny bells, which are not shown in this photograph, hang from the hem of the skirt.


  3. Kris, 19th century, detail of hilt, iron and steel. Enlarged Reproduction photograph.

    3a. Kris, 19th century, iron and steel. Reproduction photograph.

    In addition to the Wayang Show, the other most characteristic element of Javanese culture is the Kris. Tradition has it that Price Pandji, the hero of the Wayang Gedok plays, ruler of Djanggala in Eastern Java, forged the first kris, which became his favorite weapon, one he always wore, and one that was symbolic of his supernatural powers. As to its function, the kris is at the same time a weapon, an ornament, and a cultic object, something that every Javanese adult male had to possess. The kris is the link between the owner and his ancestors - even if the father had the kris newly made for his son entering adulthood - for it is the form, the sacrifice presented at the forging and compliance with the rules in its shaping that gives the soul to the kris and in this way links the young man to his ancestors.

    Association with the ancestors is also suggested by the fact that the kris, together with other important and valuable objects, was kept in the rear of the old Javanese houses, the part reserved for cult of the ancestors. Its presence in the house was supposed to bring good luck for the inhabitants, to relieve the pain felt by women in labor, to avert fire and flood, and so on., whereas the kris of the princes affected the fate of the population of the entire country. Once a year the kris was taken out, a sacrifice was shown to it, incense was burnt, the blade was rubbed with lemon juice and then arsenic, and finally oiled.

    The kris is exclusively a male implement, in some way identical with the wearer, a "brother" or his double. In South Celebes, for instance, a young husband returns to his parents for a few days after his nuptials, leaving his kris with his bride, who honors the kris as if it were her husband. In Java, the kris can substitute for the presence of the bridegroom at the marriage rite. although the ancient magic and religious function of the kris has somewhat diminished over the centuries, its use at ceremonial occasions still prevails in Java. The groom wears a kris at his wedding, a kris is stuck into the belt of the ceremonial dress of a young boy at the time of circumcision. There are also definite rules defining the wearing of a kris.

    It is believed that the kris brings good luck to its wearer if the owner inherited it or if the spirit inhabiting the kris resembles him. In case of danger, such a kris rattles in its sheath to warn the owner; in combat it guides the hand of its master, and can fight by itself; wearing it makes its possessor unwoundable.

    The motifs on the blade also had magiac significance. The kris-smith or empu was supposed to present a sacrifice before settling down to work, starting out only on a lucky day. When the desired design appeared on the surface of the blade, the empu engraved in it the form of the naga snake from the tip to the base. The blade is encrusted with gold and silver.

    The hilt, made by a different craftsman, is of wood (the most frequently used material in Java) with figural designs, generally showing mythical beings, most often the Garuda eagle, Vishnu's mount, and the demonic Rakshasa - Demons of frightening appearance who are enemies of the gods and their worshippers.


  4. Wayang Kulit puppets, late 19th century, paper replica of cut and painted buffalo hide..
    In broad translation, "wayang" stands for all the dramatic plays whose figures are drawn from the repertory of shadow-plays,. It is more than a mere play. It was something to strengthen the bonds linking man with his ancestors or adopted ancestors (e.g. the heroes of the epics.) What was seen on the screen was not merely the shadows of the puppets, but living things, the gods themselves,. By the 10th century they were generally known in Central Java.
    At the place of the performance the guests are accommodated in two rooms,. The women watch the play from the inner house, the play takes place in the intermediary lobby, and the men are in the reception hall before it. The screen  about 2 yards tall and sometimes five or six yards long and stretched over a frame of bamboo rods - is set up in the lobby. The dalang, who is in charge of the show, sits in front of the screen. To his right and left are freshly cut banana tree trunks, into which he sticks the figures, arranging them by size. Above his head, an oil lamp burns and throws the shadow of the figures onto the screen. Near the dalang there are two cups in which sacrifices are made before the beginning of the performance (The performance starts in the evening and lasts until the next morning.) On his left is a chest containing the properties he needs. The dalang manipulates the puppets, conducts the orchestra and recites or sings the text. He occasionally has trainee assistant. The dalang's place is on the side facing the men so that the men could enjoy the figures of the puppets in their full splendour whereas the women could only see the shadows on the screen.

    The oldest type of wayang figure is the wayang kulit. The artist first cuts out the contours of the wayang figure from hide using chisels of various sizes and a pattern. Then he cuts out the inside design, using 12 different motifs. Before it is painted, the hide is rubbed smooth and given a white ground prior to applying colors. The cutting out and the coloring are usually done using a special pattern-book.


    bullet Wayang Kulit Shadow Puppets
    bullet Speaking through Shadows - Origin & function of Wayang plays


  5. Jewelry from Indonesia,  ,Poster.


  6. Balinese Masks, .
    The masks are of ancient origin and act like lightning rods in the sense that they attract the spirit of the person who is portrayed. They are sacred. The Balinese believe that the living masks can provide inspiration for the wearer, whether a dancer or actor. The plot of the play or dance comes from the mask. i.e. as the Balinese say, the mask "speaks". Masks are used in dance and dramatic performance and are treated with much respect. they represent the faces of gods, heroes and revered persons. Masks are put on the head, the most sacred part of the body, and never on the ground. They take many forms, usually carved from a softwood called "pule". endless sanding and at least 40 coats of varnish produce a striking surface. They are usually kept out of sight, wrapped and inside a box, often covered with a white cloth.


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