Indonesian An­tiques

Indonesia Expat - - CONTENTS -

Due to the in­ter­twined his­to­ries of In­done­sia, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore, some “Indonesian an­tiques” ac­tu­ally share their roots with our Malaysian and Sin­ga­porean neigh­bours. In this ar­ti­cle, we will look at some his­tor­i­cal arte­facts that have their ori­gins firmly in In­done­sia.


The keris is a spe­cial type of dag­ger orig­i­nat­ing from the is­land of Java. Through­out his­tory it has been used by some of the largest em­pires in South­east Asia. Th­ese in­clude the Malac­can Em­pire, the Sing­hasari

King­dom and the Ma­japahit Em­pire. It has also been used by the Sul­tanate of Maguin­danao, mean­ing the keris has even reached the south­ern Philip­pines. The blade is cre­ated by us­ing al­ter­nat­ing lam­i­na­tions of iron and nickel, which is how the in­tri­cate pat­terns are formed.

Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, the keris has su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers which its own­ers can use to save lives. This can be done by wash­ing or bathing the keris on the first Ja­vanese lu­nar new year. Then, the dag­ger is of­fered a se­lec­tion of fra­grant flow­ers, rice and in­cense. Gen­eral be­lief is that poor treat­ment and ne­glect of the keris can cause its mag­i­cal pow­ers to dis­ap­pear into the spir­i­tual world.


Trans­lated into English as “oil lamps”, lampu minyak were very pop­u­lar in the 1800s when they were first in­tro­duced by the Dutch colonis­ers. Elec­tric­ity was hard to come by, es­pe­cially for colonies that lived in far-off vil­lages, hence lampu minyak were the best sources of light. Th­ese lamps come in di­verse de­signs – from plain and sim­ple to those that were dec­o­rated in­tri­cately and metic­u­lously. Th­ese oil lamps were pop­u­lar up to the 1980s be­fore they fell out of use due to the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tric lights. They are of­ten used as a last re­sort dur­ing black­outs. Th­ese beau­ti­ful lamps are still sought af­ter as an­tiques and are pow­er­ful and at­trac­tive re­minders of our past.


This type of bi­cy­cle, known as the “road­ster” is a type of util­ity bike, highly pop­u­lar in the 20th cen­tury af­ter be­ing in­tro­duced to In­done­sia by the Dutch. It was one of the most com­mon types of bi­cy­cle used from the 1950s to 1970s. From around the year 2000 on­wards, In­done­sians gave up their bi­cy­cles and started us­ing mo­tor­bikes for trans­port. Around the same time, due to its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, the sepeda ontel be­came seen as a unique an­tique and is now sought af­ter by stu­dents, un­der­grad­u­ates and of­fice work­ers as a means of trans­port and as a protest against global warm­ing.


The old­est known record of wayang kulit goes back to the ninth cen­tury. Wayang kulit ( lit­er­ally “skin pup­pet”) is a pup­pet made of leather stretched across a frame used to cast shad­ows on a screen. The shad­ows por­tray char­ac­ters from leg­ends such as Ra­mayana or Ma­hab­harata. The wayang kulit pup­pet is sought af­ter by col­lec­tors be­cause it rep­re­sents the essence of Indonesian cul­ture.

In a wayang kulit per­for­mance, the dalang, or the shadow artist, uses a taut li­nen screen to clearly dis­play the shape of the char­ac­ters. The dalang ma­nip­u­lates the po­si­tion of the pup­pets and the light source to cre­ate shad­ows and il­lus­trate the sto­ries.


A brangkas kuno (old fash­ioned safe) is a safe made of wood or metal that was used to keep valu­ables safe. They vary in size and ap­pear­ance; most are like large cab­i­nets, oc­ca­sion­ally with elab­o­rately en­graved de­tails. Some peo­ple, how­ever, opted for a smaller, sim­ple metal box. Now, the brangkas kuno is used for dec­o­ra­tive pur­poses in homes and is pre­served be­cause of its his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance.

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