Thursday, May 15, 2008

Java Jive '08 Part 7: The Art Of The City

When in Jogja, do what the Jogjan tourists do: Get conned into riding one of these rickshaws, or becak.

Don't get me wrong. I love getting onto one of these rickshaws as it squeezes through rush hour traffic without bothering to stop at lights and cars are expected to stop for it whenever it crosses their paths.

It's just that every so often, they will just stop by 'special shops' that sell the 'cheapest' batik, or the 'best and cheapest' Indonesian paintings, or (this is the best one) the factory outlet where students of the local art colleges stock up their work. Every purchase you make will yield them a commission. Smart, eh?

Having said that, this t-shirt shop was quite reasonable with their prices and their t-shirt designs were quite humourous and interesting. Yes, I got persuaded to buy not one, not two, but EIGHT t-shirts! Good thing I brought along an extra luggage to stuff all these shirts in.

A trip to the batik factory was next. Jogjakarta is famous for its unique brand of Indonesian batik, with its earthy tones and intricate repetitive designs.

As with most artistic work, a large portion of the batik-making process is manual, and we witnessed a few elderly ladies patiently and skillfully drawing the designs onto roles of cotton fabric.

These are metal stamps that are used to print the batik designs onto the cloth. There were about twenty metal stamps on display, each with its own unique design.

Using a special blend of dye and molten wax, the designs are stamped onto the cloth at least three times to make sure the imprint is completely transferred onto the fabric.

Once all the printing and painting is done, the cloth is then washed and soaked in a vat of hot water before it is hung out to dry.

Indonesian batik is most commonly made into cotton or silk shirts, dresses and sarongs. There was this batik shop which even made and sold batik ties and underwear!

Jogja is also famous for its contemporary arts scene. Artists from all over the country flock to the city to learn and to display their works in makeshift art galleries everywhere.

A majority of the art works employ similar batik techniques, using metal stamps and waxy dyes. The subjects, however are very eclectic, ranging from the traditional motifs of flora and fauna, to artistic renderings of religious icons such as Buddha and Jesus Christ.

I was very tempted to buy a few but hesitated as I couldn't figure out where I would hang them. My walls were full of pictures as it was!

In the end, I gave in to the constant persuasion by the very able salesperson, and bought this simple painting depicting Indonesian kampung life.

Just next door to the batik art shop was a workshop that specialised in puppets and facemasks.

Here they made all sorts of face masks usually worn by dancers and theatre actors during their cultural performances at weddings, religious celebrations and festivals.

I realy liked this particular mask, but unfortunately it was not for sale. Something about sentimental value for the artist. Whatever.

Then there were the puppets. These aren't your average Barbie dolls. These are Indonesian dream dolls. I think they probably would give me nightmares....

Of course no tour of Jogja would be complete without a trip to the shadow puppet performance.

When we arrived at the theatre, the show had not yet started. So we went to the puppetmaster's workshop to witness the puppet-making process.

This is the design framework for one of the puppets. I wonder how long it took for the artist to produce such a fine and detailed work.

And this is the finished product all nicely painted and stacked on a wooden block ready to paraded on the screen.

Shadow puppet plays or wayang kulit typically present mythical and morality tales based on ancient texts such as the Ramayana and Mahabhrata epics.

As the background orchestra started playing the music, signalling the show was about to start, we entered the theatre and got ourselves really good seats front and centre!

I ventured behind the screen to see these lovely female singers getting ready for the night's performance.

The orchestra used traditional musical instruments to produce the distinctive Javanese sound famous the world over.

Finally the show begins. Oh no, it was in Javanese (and not in Bahasa Indonesia which I could understand!). And man, was it hot in there. All the windows were closed and there was no a/c, not even a ceiling fan! Sadly, I lasted only fifteen minutes in there before I made a hasty exit to the cool outer courtyard to dry myself off. ;)

No comments: