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.

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