Travelogue: Arts and Culture in Jogja (Yogyakarta)

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.

First, wax is applied to the cloth.  This can be done through printing blocks:
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik printing blocks 2 Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik manual printing 1

It can also be applied manually, by drawing patterns by pencil onto the cloth and then manually applying wax to the cloth:
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik pattern drawing Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik wax drawing 2

As a result, you get wax-patterned cloth.  Wax from printing blocks tends to be more regular, more patterned:
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik printed pattern

In contrast, wax from manual applications tend to be more intricate, more unpatterned:
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik drawn pattern 1 Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik drawn pattern 2

The cloth is then plunged into dye – which covers and dyes the areas of cloth not covered by the wax.
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik dyeing

It’s job completed, the wax can then be boiled off the cloth and reused.
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik dye reusal

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.
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik single color

And in the end result, you get all a multi-color dyed cloth, with either a regular or irregular pattern based on if the wax is applied by print or drawn by hand:
Jogja arts culture - Batik multiple colors 1 Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik multiple colors 2

A batik clothing shop:
Yogyakarta arts culture - Batik store

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:
Jogja arts culture - silver filaments

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.

Sterling silver:
Yogyakarta arts culture - sterling silver

Plated silver:
Yogyakarta arts culture - plated silver

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
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:
Jogja arts culture - wayung kulit backside 1 Yogyakarta arts culture - wayung kulit 2

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).

There’s even an orchestra to accompany the performance!
Yogyakarta arts culture - wayung kulit daytime orchestra

Shadow puppets are a lot cooler at night compared to in daylight:
Jogja arts culture - wayung kulit 1 Yogyakarta arts culture - wayung kulit daytime

The puppets themselves are pretty cool too!
Yogyakarta arts culture - shadow puppets 1 Yogyakarta arts culture - shadow puppets 2

Ramayana Ballet
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!
Jogja arts culture - Ramayana performance 5 Yogyakarta arts culture - Ramayana performance 8

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)

Fight scenes and dance scenes!
Yogyakarta arts culture - Ramayana performance 7 Yogyakarta arts culture - Ramayana performance 6

Oddly enough, I think this was the first ever ballet performance I have ever seen.

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