The auspicious kris daggers are a cut above in Balinese culture.
LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE CUTTING EDGE BELIEFS OF REVERED TRADITIONAL KRIS.
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.