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Indonesian Arts and Crafts

The diversity in Indonesian textile forms is astounding and is
yet another representation of its rich cultural heritage.
Indonesian textiles include hand drawn and stamped batik,
the design of which takes months to create; double weave ikat
from the islands of Nusa Tenggara, ship cloth from Lampung,
silk Bugis sarong from Sulawesi, gold-painted Balinese prada
fabric; shimmering kain songket from Palembang utilizing
silver and gold metallic threads weft in woven cotton or silk
ikat; and Tapis weavings from Lampung.
Weavings from the 27 provinces utilize different materials,
methods, colors and designs. Primarily formed on back looms, weeks or months are spent
creating intricate designs for everyday use or ceremonial wear. These weavings are
primarily known by the different techniques that are used to create the distinctive designs.
The symbolism of the various ethnic groups is evident in the variety of textiles. Color,
shapes and their arrangements all have special
meanings. Certain designs can only be worn by women
or men, or only by the members of the royal family or
Special textiles are worn or exchanged in life cycle or
rights of passage ceremonies celebrating birth,
circumcision, puberty, marriage, childbearing and
death. Textiles play an important role in many
traditional events and ceremonies.
Written records dating to the fourteenth century document the importance of textiles in the
social and religious lives of Indonesians. The highly distinctive traditional dress, or pakaian
adat, best shows the diversity of uses of textiles throughout the archipelago. The even more
elaborate bridal dress displays the best of each province's textile and ornamental jewelry
Wayang -- Puppets
Puppets have been used for centuries in Indonesia to tell the stories of the ancient epics,
the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, as well as ancient myths.
Modern stories also utilize this ancient art form for contemporary
Puppets fall into two major classifications - wayang kulit - the
leather or shadow puppet of Central Java, and wayang golek -
wooden puppets of West Java. There are several varieties of
wooden puppets. Some expats enjoy collecting the same character
by various artisans, or all the characters in a scene or story, or
just characters that strike their fancy. Good guys, bad guys, gods,
demons, nobles, giants, clowns, princes and princesses and
monkeys ... all can be found in traditional puppet forms.
Less commonly seen are the Wayang Klitik, a flat wooden puppet. Links to sites with
information on wayang
Traditional Toys and Games
The congklak, or dakon board game was brought to
Indonesia by Indian or Arab traders centuries ago.
Made from plastic or wood, or highly carved by court
artisans, this game has been played in Indonesia for
centuries. Examples of early congklak board can be
found in the National Museum.
Traditional toys can be found throughout the archipelago
and forays into the provinces will undoubtedly turn up
many simple toys made by villagers for their children. These can be purchased at local
pasar, roadside stands or near popular tourist destinations.
Ceramics made their way to Indonesia over centuries of trade with China dating back to
205 BC. Ceramic items range from everyday common vessels and plates, to
fine ceramic pieces that became heirlooms passed down fromgeneration to
Modern reproductions of these antiques abound ... so take the time to
learn the difference between a genuine antique and a modern reproduction.
The Ceramic Museum in Jakarta, ceramic study groups at the Indonesian
Heritage Society and a wealth of books on Ceramics will help introduce you
to this fascinating ancient art form.
More affordable, and yet just as beautiful is jewelry made from antique
ceramic shards discovered in port cities throughout the archipelago. While formerly these
broken dishes served as ballast in ships from China, modern artisans have turned these
broken ceramic pieces into beautiful jewelry and other useful items.
Contemporary ceramic design can be found in a wide range of useful household items.
Lombok pottery in particular is popular with expats. The intricate terra-cotta pottery made
in the village of Kasongan near Yogyakarta is also a favorite of many.
Natural fibers and materials
A wide range of items, both useful and decorative are made from natural fibers such as
pandanus, rattan, bamboo and grasses. Rice spoons, bowls, containers, woven mats,
baskets, lamp shades, boxes, natural paper products and a multitude of other items are
made from natural fibers in Indonesia.
Bamboo, while exotic in the west, is one of the most
practical natural plants. The uses of bamboo in Indonesia
are numerous and Indonesians utilize bamboo extensively
for a variety of items including baskets, winnows, cups,
buckets, furniture and woven walls in traditional homes.
The fine strands used for fans, purses, bags, hats, baskets
and other items. Larger, thick strips are used for flower
baskets, walls and other items. While bamboo was
originally used for practical items around the house, these
have been further developed into new items which sell well as souvenirs.
Bone, rubber, coconut shell, fibers, horn and other natural materials are used in many folk
handicrafts from blow pipes, figurines, bags, storage items, painted umbrellas, and even
ships made entirely from cloves.
Shells are used by Indonesian artisans to create a wide variety of useful items, wind chimes
and jewelry. The waters surrounding the over 17,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago
have given forth an abundance of aquatic splendor. Exotic shells can be purchased for
small sums of money. However, be cautious in your purchases as many species are over-
harvested and their extinction is only a matter of time. In particular, avoid purchasing the
Nautilus and giant clam, protected species which are already endangered.
One of the richest art forms in Indonesia reflects the Indonesian woman's desire to
ornament her traditional dress, which wouldn't be complete without various items of
traditional jewelry. Ornamentation used with traditional dress is rich in symbolism and
design. From modern designs in 22 karat gold, to intricate filigree silver jewelry from
Yogyakarta, using precious and semi-precious stones, or modern plastic, wood or
ceramic ... there are many designs, materials and price ranges to choose from. Many expats
indulge their love of a particular type of jewelry ... buying opals or silver jewelry until
they've built up quite impressive collections.
Antique jewelry (both authentic and reproductions) is a favorite of expats. Antique trade
beads, or their reproductions, are very popular.
Mabe pearls are a favorite with expats in Jakarta. You can purchase the loose pearls and
have them set in your own gold or silver design at your favorite jewelers. Pearl farms
harvest huge quantities of mabe and fresh water pearls in Lampung, Maluku and Sulawesi.
A trip to the gem markets of Jakarta or Kalimantan is a fun adventure and provides an
introduction to the variety of gemstones available in Indonesia. These include diamonds,
South Sea pearls, opal, sapphire, amethyst and banded agates. Beware that many stones
are actually manufactured ... what is termed masakan in Indonesia. The karat content of
gold can often misrepresented and gemstones could be fake. Depend on a trusted jeweler or
shop with knowledgeable friends.
Antique Furniture
Beautiful Dutch colonial and other antique furniture from the 18th
and 19th centuries is popular with expats, including Balinese opium
beds, rice storage units, old cupboards, Javanese carved wall panels,
doors and unique tables. These pieces may need restoration or may
have already be refinished or reconditioned by the shops.
Many shops cater to the expats love of antiques and sell authentic
antiques or reproductions. Widely available too are new designs of
furniture, utilizing old wood. The advantage of old wood is that it is
less likely to split when you bring it back to a dry climate, as the
wood has been seasoned for decades. Much 'antique' furniture
available is actually new furniture that has been left in the sun and
rain for months to . age. the furniture. Be careful to purchase from a trustworthy dealer if
you want to be sure you are getting authentic antiques.
Wood Carvings
Wooden carving traditions and skills can be found
throughout the Indonesian archipelago, with the most
famous being from Bali, Central Java, Madura,
Sumatra and Papua. Different areas developed very
different traditions so that many items are immediately
identifiable as being created by particular ethnic
groups. Most popular with expats are Javanese and
Balinese wooden image carvings, Jepara lattice-like
three-dimensional reliefs and Irianese primitive carvings.
Even amongst wooden carvings from a particular province, differences in design, style and
subject matter are easily evidenced after some study. Irianese tribes such as the Asmat,
Dani, and Komoro have very distinctive styles of carvings of totem poles, weapons, figures
and utensils.
Whimsical, brightly colored modern carvings are
produced primarily in Bali. And the popularity of these
pieces has influenced the wooden carving traditions of
other regions as well.
Used in prehistoric times in burials, the use of ancient
spirit masks have given way to masks used in many
traditional dances. These highly stylized masks, topeng,
depict the various characters in the story told by the
dance. Masks enable the performers to assume new identities and depict a variety of
characters from demons to animals, princes or gods. Amongst the most famous masks
used in dance are the Rangda and Barong masks from Bali. In this traditional dance,
performed often for tourists, the interaction of Rangda, representing evil, and the Barong,
representing good, restores the harmony between the good and evil in life.
While masks for sale in stores are primarily from Central Java and Bali, masks from other
ethnic groups were used widely in the past to communicate with ancestors, for blessings for
harvests, protection from evil spirits, to acquire new
personalities or great powers.
Fragrant sandalwood from the Nusa Tenggara is available in
carvings, medicine, incense, cosmetics, prayer beads and
useful items such as pens and fans. It is usually stored in a
special glass cabinet in stores and a stroll past the cabinet
will quickly acquaint you with the exotic fragrance of this
special wood.
Woods used in carving include ebony, teak, mahogany,
ironwood, sandalwood and other lesser known indigenous woods. The price may often be
related to the type of wood used, as harder woods are more difficult to carve. Since many
are concerned by the cutting of tropical hard wood forests, many wood items are made from
teak trees which are cultivated on plantations. Look for the labeling designated the item as
utilizing plantation-grown teak.
Traditional Arts, Crafts and Trades of Malaysia

These are some of the traditional arts, crafts and trades which are well known in Malaysia.
They keep us connected to our roots and build our cultural identity. While some of these
crafts stand strong against the tests of time, others are faced with challenges as their
artisans struggle to keep the cultural heritage alive. Here are 50 traditional arts, crafts and
trades you should know.1. WAU

Along the coast of

Kelantan, you can find the legendary kite maker, Pak Shafie, who makes these traditional
kites by hand. There are many different kinds of wau, each with their own unique design,
story and personality.

many, these Chinese lanterns is a part of one’s childhood. Made with transparent paper,
the vibrant lanterns would be lit up during Moon Cake Festival.

around Little India in Brickfields or Hindu temples, and you will see rows of attractive
flower garlands being sold on the streets. Symbolising spirituality, prosperity and honour,
flower garlands are an important part of worship and are believed to ward off bad spirits.

old-school way of making charcoal in Kuala Sepetang involves baking local mangrove logs
in kilns. This art of making “black gold” was brought in by the Japanese during the war.

a beadwork is one of the most fascinating aspects of Peranakan culture. The women
painstakingly stitch fine beads onto costumes, purses, handkerchiefs and slippers – it is no
wonder they are highly prized! It takes a lot of patience and skill to complete each piece.
The finished work, filled with floral and butterfly motifs, are nothing short of spectacular.