- 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Wayang Kulit puppets,
late 19th century, paper replica of cut and painted buffalo hide..
Jewelry from Indonesia,
|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.
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
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.
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