Posts Tagged 'Indonesia'

Object: Shadow Puppet

bellaspen_106967_9644650_blog post image 1

Object: Shadow Puppet of Hindu Epic Character

Accession Number: E/2004/2/001

Object: Multicolored and metallic gold painted shadow puppet made of hide with 3 controlling rods.

Location: Java, Indonesia

Date: Pre-1980

Materials: Hide (possibly buffalo), possibly horn, string

Keywords: Shadow Puppet, Wayang, Shadow Theater, Southeast Asia

 

The “Shadow Puppet of Hindu Epic Character” in the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Museum exhibits many features that identify it as Javanese. These features include the joining of the feet at the base of the figure; the combination of a front-facing perspective of the shoulders with a profile view of the face, feet, and body; and the elongated neck and arms. In comparison to other images, Javanese shadow puppets share other features, including cupped hands, wrist and sometimes ankle bracelets, upper-arm adornments, complex head shapes, and elongated noses. [2]

[2][1]

Shadow Puppet in the Sam Noble Museum’s Ethnology Collection (left) and other Javanese shadow puppets with similar features

This shadow puppet is dated as pre-1980, and it is in good condition. The cutout figure is made of thin but sturdy hide, possibly buffalo hide as this is traditionally what shadow puppets of Java are made of. [2] The rods connected to the body and each hand are probably some type of horn because this is the material that was traditionally used. There are several small bands of elastic-like material attaching the main rod to the hide body, and bright blue joints at the shoulders and elbows that may be made of plastic. The rods that control the hands are connected to the hands with a string that is still very clean. Metallic gold paint is used most extensively compared to the multitude of other colors and covers the neck, chest, arms, and legs. The other colors include red, pink, dark blue, light blue, white, dark green, yellow, and light purple. The face is painted black with red and gold details.

Pictures showing more detail of the head, face, and torso of the puppet, taken at the Sam Noble Museum

The origin of shadow puppetry, which is practiced in distinct ways throughout Europe and Asia, is unclear, however, theories include precedents to Indonesian shadow puppetry from ancient Greece and nomadic tribes. For example, Plato described plays in ancient Greece in which figures were used to cast shadows on cave walls, probably as part of religious ceremonies. Nomadic peoples of Central Asia may have used shadow puppets made of leather as part of religious rites and ceremonies as well, using firelight to cast shadows onto the tent walls that they used as screens. The use of these puppets may have been continued among the nomadic peoples because of the ease with which the small figures could be packed up to use in ceremonies in their next location. Shadow puppetry may have been brought to Java, an island in Indonesia, by Buddhist missionaries accompanying Indian kings that invaded the island in the 6th century. Despite being introduced by an outside culture, shadow puppetry rapidly became a sophisticated and complex art form in Java that was distinct from other cultures’ puppetry traditions. [1]

Traditional Javanese shadow puppet (or wayang kulit) performances would take place over a course of up to 41 days and told epic stories that communicated philosophical and moral values of Javanese culture. The master shadow puppeteer, or dalang, would start each performance with an incantation. The solo puppeteer would be accompanied by an extensive musical ensemble that helped set the tone for each scene. The ensemble also played specific tunes to announce the entrance of new characters in the play. [1]

bellaspen_106967_9644658_blog post image 7A shadow puppet master, or dalang, mid-performance (http://beta.indonesia.travel/en/post/the-riveting-wayang-kulit-shadow-puppet-shows-of-java-and-bali)

In Javanese culture, the shadow puppet exhibits multifunctionality by serving as a theatrically functional tool of Javanese shadow puppetry while also serving as a store of philosophical and religious values. The “theatrical functionality of figures” is vitally important to the continuation of the shadow puppetry tradition in Java. [1] The assembly of Javanese shadow puppets includes movable joints and controlling rods because the main component of any shadow puppet’s value is its functionality. The shadow puppet in the Sam Noble Museum’s collection exemplifies ease of mobility with operating joints and coordination rods. The puppets are viewed as tools for the trade-like tradition of shadow puppet performance. As with any other traditional trade or art form, masters of shadow puppetry mentor young Javanese citizens who are their apprentices and aim to carry on the art form for the next generation. [2] In this way, the tradition and knowledge are passed down from one generation to the next with individual variation, as is indicative of folk culture. In addition to being functional tools, puppets serve as meaningful works of art. Shadow puppets were traditionally considered sacred objects, or pusaka, in Java. [2] Although the puppets are elaborately and intricately constructed and decorated, as exemplified by the Museum’s painted shadow puppet, the puppets also store cultural values that are most clearly communicated through every performance in which the puppets are used.

Shadow puppetry in Javanese culture is used to emphasize moral and philosophical values. One tradition that relates to this function is that Javanese shadow puppet plays begin with the evil characters on the left side of the screen of the play, and noble characters on the right. [1] Another traditional custom is the use of a 2D screen for performances to separate the audience from the play and emphasize the other-worldliness of the events and characters depicted in the show, although 3D screens are among the adaptations included in some modern performances. [2] Today, shadow puppetry is used to communicate the cultural importance and value of global topics such as deforestation and climate change. This is just one example of how new stories are emerging in Javanese shadow puppet repertoire that use many traditional elements and themes but addresses modern-day concerns [3].

 

This is a short video that summarizes the Javanese practice of wayang kulit, and includes clips of actual shadow puppet performances:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfydro4X2t0

 

 

Works Cited:

[1] Chen, Fan Pen. 2003. “Shadow Theaters of the World.” Asian Folklore Studies 62

(1): 25-64. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1179080.

 

[2] Cohen, Matthew Isaac. 2007. “Contemporary ‘Wayang’ in Global Contexts.” Asian

Theater Journal 24 (2): 338-369. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27568418.

 

[3] Diamond, Catherine. 2014. “Whither Rama in the Clear-Cut Forest:

Ecodramaturgy in Southeast Asia.” Asian Theater Journal 31 (2): 574-593.

URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187442.

 

Additional Reading:

Cohen, Matthew Isaac. 2014. “Introduction: Global Encounters in Southeast Asian

Performing Arts.” Asian Theater Journal 31 (2): 353-368. URL:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187430.

 

((Aspen Bell)) Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Object: Statue of Vishnu Riding Garuda

Figure 1    Basalt statue of Vishnu riding Garuda from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Basalt statue of Vishnu riding Garuda from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/2003/14/1
Statue of Vishnu Riding Garuda
Indonesia
Unknown Date
Materials: Basalt, stone

Carved basalt statues of Vishnu riding Garuda are a prominent artistic and religious feature of southeastern Asia. These particular types of carved statues are often found in temples and shrines dedicated to Vishnu and his bird mount Garuda. The image of Vishnu and Garuda spread throughout Southeast Asia with the spread of Hinduism, and has even been adopted as the national emblem of Indonesia and Thailand. This statue from the Ethnology Collection is carved from basalt—a volcanic rock found naturally in plateau deposits and volcanic terrains—and is commonly used for carving statues, tools, and weapons. Carved basalt statues like this are incredibly heavy, which indicates that they aren’t intended to be moved around, but instead stationed at a temple or shrine for long periods of time. Statues of Vishnu and Garuda are often carved from basalt, granite, wood, and bronze, and are also featured in pillars and architecture. This particular statue was acquired in Indonesia, and measures about 5 feet in height.

Vishnu is one of the three iconic deities of the Hindu faith and is often depicted with his mount, Garuda. Garuda is often portrayed as half man, half bird, with his wings spreading out as he supports Vishnu. Stories and myths of Garuda date back more than 3,000 years, and his image can be found throughout Buddhism as well as Hinduism. The Hindu myth of Garuda tells that he became the mount of Vishnu when he attempted to steal the elixir of immortality from the gods to free his mother from the serpents who imprisoned her. Garuda resisted drinking the elixir himself and prevented the serpents from taking it. Vishnu was impressed by his strength and determination and made him king of all birds. After that point, Garuda became the mount of Vishnu and the enemy of all serpents. The image of Garuda is often used today for protection against snakes and snakebites, and he continues to be an important religious icon across Southeast Asia.

Take a look at this video of a sculptor carving a wooden statue of Vishnu riding Garuda:

[Adisson Bolles]

References Cited:

Behera, Prajna Paramita. “The Pillars of Homage to Lord Jagannatha” http://www.orissa.gov.in/e-magazine/Orissareview/jun2004/englishpdf/pillar.pdf

“Carved and painted figure of Vishnu riding Garuda” britishmuseum.org. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/asia/f/figure_of_vishnu_riding_garuda.aspx

Dietrich, R. V., “Basalt” Gemrocks: Ornamental and Curio Stones. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://stoneplus.cst.cmich.edu/basalt.htm

“Garuda Wisnu Kencana Statue” GWK Cultural Park. Accessed February 14, 2015. http://www.gwkbali.com/about/2/garuda-wisnu-kencana-statue

“Hindu deity Vishnu, 1100-1200” Asian Art Museum. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://education.asianart.org/explore-resources/artwork/hindu-deity-vishnu-1100%E2%80%931200

“Prambanan Temple Compounds” unesco.org. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/

“Opposites Attack” American Museum of Natural History. Accessed February 13, 2015. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/mythic-creatures/air-creatures-of-the-sky/opposites-attack

“Prambanan Temple Compounds” unesco.org. Accessed February 15, 2015. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/642/

Object: Dance Mask

Figure 1     Balinese Dance Mask from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Balinese Dance Mask from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1958/24/1
Indonesia: Island of Bali
Materials: Wood and paint

This carved, wooden dance mask, known as a topeng mask, is from the island of Bali in Indonesia. It represents a devil figure, with flapping ears, a movable jaw, large canines, exaggerated eyebrows and eyes, and an attached moustache and beard.

Figure 2    Map of the island of Bali in Indonesia

Figure 2 Map of the island of Bali in Indonesia

Topeng masks are used in a variety of dances referred to as topeng dances, a dramatic form of Indonesian dance that originated in the 17th Century. It is believed that the use of masks such as this devil mask is related to the cult of the ancestors, which considers dancers the interpreters of the gods.

These traditional masks often include several characters: “Topeng Manis (the typical refined hero character), “Topeng Kras (the violent, authoritarian character representing power), “Topeng Tua (an old man who may joke and draw-out the audience), “Penasar” (a buffoon or jokester who often acts as the narrator), and “Dalem” (a sovereign or leader). There is also usually an element of evil, represented through a demon, witch, or other character that must be overcome to achieve the happy ending in the story. This devil mask may represent a character such as Rangda, a fanged child-eating demon from Balinese mythology. In topeng dances, there is an attempt to include all aspects of human nature such as the dualities of the sacred and the profane or beauty and ugliness.

Figure 3    Rangda mask and costume

Figure 3 Rangda mask and costume

A typical performance alternates between speaking and non-speaking characters, and can include dance and fight sequences as well as special effects (sometimes provided by the gamelan, a traditional musical instrument). It is almost always wrapped-up by a series of comic characters introducing their own views, even including current events or local gossip to amuse the audience.

There is another style of Balinese mask in the Ethnology collection (Click this link to view: E/1958/24/3). What kind of character do you think it represents? Why? Let us know in the comments or send us a note via e-mail!

 

Take a look at this video describing the history of Bali and how it has influenced performance and art on this fascinating island:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Bartmann jug

Bartmann jug

Figure 1   Bartmann jug from the Ethnology Collection
of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/2007/4/5
Sumatra, Indonesia
Materials: Ceramic, salt glaze

The history of an object, how it moves from place to place over time, can teach us a great deal about a culture. It can tell us about trade, intermarriage, and, in general, how people and societies interact with one another. This jug is a fascinating case study of how an object can reveal an incredible story. It was purchased on the island of Sumatra in western Indonesia in the 1960’s-1970’s from a street vendor at a camp near the capital city of Pekanbaru.

This stoneware jug is made of hard, dense clay that is glazed using a method known as salt glazing. Salt glazing occurs when salt is introduced into a kiln when firing a ceramic vessel. It results in a glassy, mottled surface that makes the vessel impermeable to liquids. This jug is decorated with the image of a “bearded man” figurine, indicating it is a type of vessel known as a Bartmann (or Bellarmine) jug. Originally from the Frechen region of Germany, Bartmann jugs mainly date to the 16th and 17th centuries. They were used for transporting liquids and were traded widely across Northern Europe and the British Isles. The “bearded-man” figure represents a wild man from Northern European folklore and was thought to be a protective figure that warded off evil. In fact, sometimes these jugs were used as a charm against witchcraft!

So, how did a German jug for transporting liquids end up in a market in Indonesia, over 6,000 miles away? One possible answer is The Dutch East India Trading Company. One of the first multinational corporations in the world, The Dutch East India Trading Company routinely transported goods from Europe to Indonesia, which was then called the Dutch East Indies, between 1600 and 1800. The islands of Sumatra, Java, Madura, Borneo, Celebes, Maluku, Bali, and East Timor (among others) became the Dutch East Indies, known as the “Spice Islands” for their production of exotic spices such as nutmeg, cloves, pepper, and cinnamon.

When these islands came under control of The Dutch East India Trading Company, the company developed world-wide monopolies on these highly desired spices. The city of Pekanbaru was an important trading port for imported objects such as this jug. However, by 1800, mismanagement and bankruptcy resulted in the end of The Dutch East India Trading Company. The Dutch retained control of these culturally and agriculturally rich islands until the mid 20th century, and Indonesia did not become its own country until 1949 following a national revolution.

Today, Indonesia represents a crossroads of culture and trade between the Indian and Pacific oceans with more than 300 distinct ethnic groups and more than 700 languages still spoken. This object is a fascinating example of worldwide trade, the introduction of multinational corporations onto the world stage, the spread of cultural ideas, and the legacy of a colonial power.

Take a look at the video to learn more about the history of Indonesia and the Dutch East India Trading Company:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

 


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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