Jogja (Yogyakarta) is the cultural and arts (and crafts) center of Indonesia, so I went and took a look at the batik factories, the silver shops, the wayung kulit, and the Ramayana ballet.
One of Jogja’s specialties is batik – Indonesian cloth made using a special wax and dye technique, then used for all sorts of clothing, decorations, and art. Jogja’s streets are chock full of batik stores, but I wanted to see how it’s made, so I paid a visit to a batik factory.
As a result, you now have a cloth dyed one color, with the underlying cloth showing through where the wax was applied. For simpler patterns, you’re done! For more complex patterns, however, you can re-apply wax, re-apply dye, and bam, you add a second color! And of course, you can repeated again and again to apply even more color.
The same process can also be applied to make batik art – here’s a batik art shop!
Jogja also known for its silver, so I duly went and visited a silver shop, to see how silver ornaments are made. It’s pretty cool – you’ve got these artisans who take tiny silver filaments, bending them with pliers and making them into pendants, bracelets, and necklaces:
Lesson of the day: there are two main types of silver: sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver, is quite malleable. Plated silver is thin layer of silver on top of some type of base metal, and is much less pliable. It also oxidizes after a couple of months, turning a much less attractive shade of grey.
Also, when buying silver, the listed price is always a multiple of the standard price – even in stores with official-looking price tags. When buying a piece of silver as a souvenir, I negotiated a 50% price cut in a matter of minutes, and I’m positive that I still paid a lot more than the true value.
Wayung Kulit, or shadow puppets, is this really unique Javanese puppet show, where behind a thin screen, a puppet master uses puppets to tell a story. A light is then shone on the puppets, casting a shadow on the screen – hence, shadow puppets:
While moving the puppets around, the puppet master also narrates the story. Especially awesome are the fight scenes – the puppet master maneuvers the puppets like an elementary schooler playing with action figures, complete with Pow! Boom! Crash! (in Indonesian).
The Ramayana is one of the two heroic epics of Hinduism (the other being the Mahabharata), and Jogja is known for having a ballet version, so I had to give this a try. Within this part of the world, the Ramayana is a story that everyone hears while growing up, and is part of the national identity. In India, people once rioted to get the government to commission a TV drama series on the Ramayana!
The monkeys in the ballet are pretty cool. There’s Hanuman, the monkey king, with a bunch of kids playing his monkey followers, climbing all over the stage! (not shown, my camera died mid-show)
Oddly enough, I think this was the first ever ballet performance I have ever seen.