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Indonesia: Java

Only spent four days in Java. Our tour group stayed at the historic and high-end Phoenix Hotel in Yogyakarta , not the largest city but a center of art, especially batik. First we visited the Kraton (palace) and then went to the studio/workshop/gallery of two of the most respected and well-known Indonesian batik artists, Nia & Agus Ismoyo. Nia is American who came to Java over twenty years ago to study batik, ended up marrying Agus and staying. They make gallery-type art, some of it in collaboration with artists and students from all over the world with whom they’ve done workshops. They employ local women to make more conventional batik, though still quite different than classic in both design and color,  which they sell in the shop to support the art.

After a lecture on batik techniques, history and motifs, we toured the gallery, bought batik (including scarves and necklaces made from batik scraps). Nia and Agus took us to a great fish restaurant that Indonesians actually patronize (most of the restaurants we went to were for tourists as locals don’t usually eat dinner out) and then accompanied us to most of the other workshops/craftspeople during our stay: a women’s batik cooperative in Giriloyo, a very small village; Pak Ledar, a shadow puppet maker; the village of Imogiri where the keris is made,  the wavy dagger which is purported to have magical properties–different people make different parts of the dagger and then they are assembled; and Pak Hadi, a tjap (copper batik stamp ) maker. We also visited the 8th century Hindo Prambanan Temple and the very famous Borobudur Buddhist monument, the largest Buddhist complex outside India, also 8th century. I wandered around on my own in the Yogya (the city’s nickname) market taking pictures (and bought some tea cup covers–one picture of the woman I bought them from with her daughter) and then the street taking more photos, especially the city-sponsored murals–truly an art city!

I’m going to attempt to group the photos better than I did for Ubud starting with a few from the Phoenix Hotel. The view of the pool courtyard from my room, the library where our group often met where there were some sculptures made from Chinese coins  which kind of fascinated me so I have a photo of one of them plus a close up.

I only took a few photos I like at the Yogyakarta Palace

Same with the Nia and Agus Ismoyo’s studio and gallery. I have one shop in the gallery, one of one of the workers drawing with wax on the cloth and a very interesting colonial piece of batik from the Ismoyo’s collection

Next some photos fromBima Sakti, the women’s batik co-op in the village of Giriloyo including the snacks we were served — delicious!

Nearby was the village of Imogiri, a village where the wavy Indonesian daggers are made, don’t know if all the men in the village do this work, but certainly many and then they also assemble the parts. We saw working conditions that would not be tolerated by OSHA for sure :))

Along with photos of different processes and the finished product, I have some photos of the village itself. A whole row of children sat on a wall looking at us. I went into the village shop… and then the sky opened

they told us this keris in the yellow box is a collectible

The visit to the puppet maker was terrific. We were a big group and had an appointment. Somehow they thought we were from UNICEF and put out a press release and a photographer from a Yogya paper showed up and our picture was in the paper the next morning. Pak Ledjar is very prominent, an art student from Korea was there studying with him for 6 months.

The art of making the copper batik stamp, tjap, is nearly lost. Pak Hadi is a master. He got a grant from an international agency to train a young person from his neighborhood and had to return the money because he couldn’t find anyone willing to learn the art. Understandable, I guess, as it is a tedious, slow process cutting small pieces of copper and fitting them into a frame to create the pattern. He does custom work too. There was a wall of tjaps in the next room–beautiful in their own right

The Hindu Prambbanan Temple complex is about 17 miles east of Yogya, it’s also known as the Lorojonggrang Temple. It has 3 concentric squares, each bounded by a 1 meter high wall. Inside the middle square there are 224 Perwara temples arranged so the shorter temples are on the outside getting higher towards the center. The center square has 16 small and big temples.

Only one photo from the Ramayana dance performance–not easy to take a good photo there without a flash


Borobudur is a Buddhist monument, said to be the largest Buddhist monument outside of India. It’s about 25 miles northwest of Yogya, built between 750 and 850 AD, about 300 years older than Angkor Wat. It was abandoned following the 14th century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam. It was rediscovered in 1814 by Sir Thomas Raffles (yeah, the guy they named the hotels after 🙂 who was the British ruler of Java at that time.

Viewed from above it takes the form of a mandala. It has 9 platforms, the lower 6 are square and the upper 3 circular. The upper platform features 72 small stupas surrounding one large central one. Each stupa is bell-shaped. A Buddha sits inside each pierced enclosure (or once did). It is also decortated with 2,672 relief panels depicting the life of the Buddha. It was built with an estimated 1.6 million blocks of volcanic stone. We went very early in the morning, the view of the mountains was gorgeous. There was a large groups of English speaking Buddhist pilgrims visiting in front of us.

Some photos from my visit to the downtown market.

this is the woman I bought some little tin lids that are always on top of tea glasses.  She didn’t speak English. We managed our transaction with sign language. I was happy there was a little sign on their basket with the price on it. I think they were about fifteen cents

These next photos are ones that don’t really fit anywhere else: people, street scenes, a fighting cock…

the photo on the right is rice being threshed

this is the postal clerk I bought stamps from. It was easily 85 degrees and very humid. She didn’t even seem to be sweating!

on the left a whole street of open-fronted shoe stores. on the right is the Yogya railroad station

For other photos from Yogya (I’ve done a page of just murals and other street art and another on the bicycle rickshaws called becaks) and other Indonesian photos see the list under pages on the right side of the blog

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