The aus­pi­cious kris dag­gers are a cut above in Ba­li­nese cul­ture.


The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Contents - Words I Wayan Ju­niartha

For decades Pande Wayan Suteja Neka has been known as one of the most in­flu­en­tial col­lec­tors of and ex­perts on Ba­li­nese tra­di­tional paint­ings. His Neka Art Mu­seum, which houses works from the is­land’s most ven­er­ated tal­ents, is the re­flec­tion of Neka’s love for Bali’s vis­ual arts.

In mid 2000, a strange turn of events saw Neka ex­pand the mu­seum’s ac­qui­si­tions to in­clude one of the coun­try’s finest col­lec­tions of kris (dag­gers). For months, the then 68-year-old Neka had bat­tled a disease that af­fected his eyes. Sev­eral trips to a hos­pi­tal abroad failed to gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant re­cov­ery.

In sep­a­rate meet­ings with the el­ders of his clan, Neka was ad­vised to start as­sum­ing his hered­i­tary re­spon­si­bil­ity as the de­scen­dant of the Pande blade smiths. His an­ces­tor had once served as a trusted kris maker and guardian in the court of Peli­atan.

The sug­ges­tion stemmed from the lo­cal be­lief that some­times phys­i­cal dis­eases have a spir­i­tual cause. A Ba­li­nese man who does not con­tinue his an­ces­tors’ and clan’s duty, could be scolded by his an­ces­tors. Sick­ness is seen as the most com­mon phys­i­cal re­al­iza­tion of such a spir­i­tual warn­ing.

Neka, who al­ready pos­sessed sev­eral krises, took the ad­vice and com­mit­ted him­self to add krises to his mu­seum’s col­lec­tion.

“Cu­ri­ously, in the months af­ter I made the com­mit­ment, many im­por­tant fig­ures ap­proached me and en­trusted me with their kris, the pre­cious heir­loom of their fam­i­lies. It was as if there was an un­seen force that guided all th­ese old krises to mgather at the mu­seum.”

Co­in­ci­den­tally, the eye disease dis­ap­peared with­out a trace. Not that Neka re­ally gave it a thought. He was too busy hunt­ing for beau­ti­ful krises in var­i­ous places in Java, Bali and Lom­bok.

“I see a kris as a work of art crafted with pas­sion by men who ded­i­cated their life to sus­tain this com­plex tra­di­tion. I am not into kris as a mag­i­cal ob­ject. I do not deny that cer­tain krises have su­per­nat­u­ral

“I see a kris as a work of art crafted with pas­sion by men who ded­i­cated their life

to sus­tain this com­plex tra­di­tion.”

pow­ers – one only has to watch the recorded feed of the mu­seum’s CCTV to see that. But I would rather fo­cus on the beauty of the kris and the unique and dif­fi­cult method the kris mak­ers use in forg­ing layer upon layer of met­als to cre­ate it,” he stressed.

In 2007, the mu­seum of­fi­cially opened its ded­i­cated kris wing.

“I don’t want to own the kris as my per­sonal pos­ses­sion. I want to share all th­ese beau­ti­ful art pieces with the pub­lic, the young peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar, so this tra­di­tion would be able to sur­vive well into the fu­ture. All th­ese krises now have been reg­is­tered as the prop­erty of the mu­seum.”

Sit­u­ated on the mu­seum’s sec­ond­floor, the kris wing now boasts more than 200 krises of tang­guh sepuh, forged be­fore In­done­sia’s in­de­pen­dence in 1945, and tang­guh ka­mardikan, forged af­ter 1945. In­cluded in the prized col­lec­tion are 27 his­tor­i­cal kris heir­looms of royal fam­i­lies from Bali and Lom­bok and 63 works of sev­eral old mas­ter kris mak­ers.

The rest of the col­lec­tion was cre­ated by con­tem­po­rary kris mak­ers, who have dis­played ex­cep­tional skill and mas­tery in the de­mand­ing art.

Th­ese con­tem­po­rary kris mak­ers in­clude the late Djeno Harum­brojo (Yo­gyakarta), Krat Sukoyo Hadi Nagoro, Krat Hartono­din­ingrat (Surabaya), Krat Subandi So­pon­ingrat (Su­rakarta) and M. Jamil (Madura).

“We also have ac­quired sev­eral ex­cep­tional works by Ba­li­nese kris mak­ers. Al­though I must ad­mit that when it comes to adorn­ment and gold-plat­ing, the lo­cal kris mak­ers have not been able to achieve the qual­ity of their Ja­vanese coun­ter­parts,” Neka said.

Among the works of the Ba­li­nese kris mak­ers are a gi­ant 108 cm kris made by Jero Mangku Ke­tut Sandi and a ma­jes­tic 70 cm kris with 21 curves made by Mangku Pande Wija.

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