30 June 2011

Manik-manik and a corkscrew


Jalan Surabaya, a row of flea market stalls, was the source of many of our Indonesian barang-barang (things—though my dad might define it as "crap") now in London and Laroque. This crowded commercial street, which tapers off into stall after stall selling suitcases of various sorts, is located in Menteng, Jakarta's most salubrious and leafy residential area. It's quite a contrast to the embassies and palatial residences that line the other avenues we made our way through yesterday.

Wednesday was another hari raya, this time in celebration of the Prophet's ascension. Since Michael wanted to accompany me on this nostalgic expedition, it was a perfect opportunity to avoid any weekend crowds. Connie even talked Mark into leaving his finance reports behind for a couple of hours. We were right about no crowd: definitely far more vendors than shoppers, so we were a real focus of attention as salesmen from up and down the street kept bringing us more and more examples of whatever we happened to look at. For their sakes, I hope the weekends are a helluva lot busier. This open-air market needs more customer feet on the ground and hands in the wallet.

While the treasures of previous years aren't much in evidence, the buzz is fun and in one shop at least, very fine antique manik-manik (beads) were still available. I had neither the funds nor the expertise to make any purchases at stall 133, but I plan on returning after I'm more au fait (reminds me that I'm supposed to be working on my lamentable French, too; hasn't happened yet) with current prices. For the time being, we stuck with a few cheap and cheerful beads that were far more likely to have been buried in the ground, newly made, for a few months than discovered in someone's grandmother's trunk. As long as I like the way they look and the price is right, I'm not all that concerned about old vs new. Same with textiles.

Jalan Surabaya has always featured items found by fishermen, but there's more creativity—and glue-gun dexterity—at work now:

 Tea service, anyone?
Perky-breasted Balinese maidens perhaps??

Reconstructing a cash register that was just about functional by the time we strolled back up to where the car was parked.
This elephant, meanwhile, simply disappeared from view.
The vendors seemed (and, I hope, were) very happy to have their photos taken. This woman was scraping the mask with a piece of glass.
There weren't as many wayang golek puppets as there used to be, but a certain Barry Obama now makes an appearance next to the president of Indonesia, SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono); the mayor of Jakarta is the figure on the left [see fourth puppet photo below].
Doors from Sulawesi, none as tempting as the one Michael found here about twenty years ago.
A modest purchase: two betel/lime powder canisters from Lombok.
133, the stall where I bought nothing but could happily have handed over a few million rupiah (one million equals about US$117).
Temptations: the ones that probably won't be there when I go back.

If we were wealthy, all these would have been in my shopping bag. I especially covet the string of glass beads.

Bead dealer showing me book inscribed to him by author.

I hope the owner doesn't remember me when I return. He was very helpful, but I think my offer (which I was pressed to make) was probably insultingly low for the quality of his wares. He doesn't look very happy, does he?

Here's what I did buy, three large manik-manik from different stalls for Rp100,000 each. The dark bead from Sulawesi is a real mystery, different from any others we were shown. Michael thinks the crystals visible in the broken end mean it's some sort of mineral rather than glass. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Finally, a corkscrew to add to our collection back in England. We have no idea of its vintage, but were taken by the elegant design. Michael wasn't 100% sure he wanted it (I, of course, acquisitive as always, was), so the poor merchant followed us all the way down the street, eventually dropping his price to a third of what was originally asked. This sort of "discount" isn't at all uncommon in the tawar-menawar (bargaining) exchanges that are an obligatory part of the Jalan Surabaya experience.

28 June 2011


It's about time I provide a tribute to the team that makes my life here so blissfully easy. Eky (from Padang, Sumatra) and Desy (from Depok, Jawa Barat) are the pair who appear most often to make beds, sweep floors, empty trash, dust, vacuum, change towels. . . .

Bandi was helping Eky the first day I coerced them into posing for me, since Desy has Sundays off. I'm including lots of photos since I hope their friends and families back home may be able to access the pictures at internet cafés. As new members of the team appear, I'll add them to the post.




Like Eky, Anshori is from Padang, Sumatra.


Pameran kain tradisional unggulan nusantara (exhibition of superior traditional fabric from the archipelago)

Two weeks ago I received an email from Elly, Michael's colleague from Lasmo days, alerting me to an exhibition at the Jakarta Convention Center that she referred to as "a must-visit event for Batik lovers." She was right.

Michael was keen to tag along, so this became his Father's Day outing, since that Sunday was the final day we could view this remarkable collection of textiles old and new. 

The large lobby was filled with stunning pieces from museums and private collections, beautifully displayed.
Detail of tulis ("hand-drawn" in wax) work above.
Pengaruh belanda (Dutch influence -- adjectives follow nouns).
Photos from the colonial era were part of the exhibits.

Japanese influence (during WWII occupation). Very atypical colors.

Detail of batik in foreground, above.

We are absolutely entranced by the artful combinations of pattern and color.

Natural dyes.

Unusual display — in a gazebo-like structure we would have happily installed in our own garden at Tucker's Barn. That would have caused some comment in the village.

From museum calm into the melée: shopping time.

Kebayas floating above a stall.

Intricate carving on stand used for textile display. Note that the figures are working on batik.
Biru dan putih ("blue and white") 

This and the following two photos were taken at the Tenun Imam ("Imam's Weaving) stall where we chose — with great difficulty, given the quality of what was on display — Michael's Father's Day textile (shown at end of post). The website is wonderful: http://www.tenunimam.com/

These contemporary designs on unusual fabrics were created by Benny Adrianto, a Jakarta-based designer.
Another artist's modern take on batik.

Dra. Dameria Nainggolan, "Language Consultant, Editor and Interpreter," whom I'll be taking out to lunch this Thursday. She has spent a lot of time in North America and approached us to say hello. We were rather conspicuous, given that we spotted only two other bules in the couple of hours we were ogling textiles.

New style of wayang golek now available.

Demonstration of ikat dyeing and weaving:

Lace-making. Michael captured the quite astonishing virtuoso speed in his video.

We were rather taken aback when we had spotted this tapestry on our way in. As we left, however, we realized it was one of three. Title: "Glares of Defiance."
 "Masters of Conflict"
"Iron Butterflies"
Back home. I promised Michael I'd put this photo in, but I hope the batik jacket will look less dowdy with a different shirt. Nothing I can do about those veins on my hands....

I really loved these outfits, but looked even dumpier when I tried them on. Another five inches in height would be useful.

Finally, our treasure: the silk weaving from Tenun Imam. This may seem an unlikely Father's Day gift for Michael, but it actually has far-reaching implications. The colors he chose will dictate the redecoration of our London bedroom when we get home. Goodbye, sage green and burgundy; hello, grey and bronze. In the 42 years we've been married, this is only our third bedroom color scheme. The navy blue and rust we started out with lasted for a couple of decades—with vestiges still in the Laroque guest bedroom.