A tree! (01) But it's made from leather! It's a figure for the shadow theatre! The dalang puppeteer did everything alone: he moved the figures, told the stories, imitated the voices of all the characters, and indicated the orchestra's rhythm with his foot.
The show lasted all night. The puppeteer stood in front of a sheet, together with the orchestra and the men from the village. At his feet was a lamp that projected the shadows onto the sheet. On the other side of the sheet the women could only see the shadows... this is why the figures are so carefully shaped.
The figures (02) are made from leather, carved and then painted and gilded. The arms can be moved, but not the legs. They are fixed to a wooden rod that gets thinner towards the top.
There were many figures: giants (03) like this and then evil and devilish (04) figures who can be recognised by their potato-shaped nose, their sneering, rabbity teeth and, at times, a beard and brightly-coloured face.
But there are also good characters who have a straight profile without any interruption between the forehead and nose. Often their face is pale and golden.
The holes (14) are different: there are long ones on the body alternated with round ones; curved shapes were used for the moustaches and hair; comma-shaped ones were for the crown and for jewels; spirals for the beard and hair; flame-like shapes for clothes; for earrings the forms were various, but they are always laid out in circles.
Even in shadow theatre stories, which were derived from ancient poems, there were tales of bloody battles. In many battles in Java a kriss (15) was used, the typical knife found throughout Indonesia, though it perhaps originated in Java. It has a a curved shape and it causes wounds that can rarely be cured. Sandokan, a fictional pirate in Italian stories, used a kriss to kill a tiger in Malaysia.
Oh - I said a tiger, but this is a lion! It is depicted on a cloth that has been batik-dyed (29). This means that the fabric has been coloured by first covering some parts in wax; when the fabric is immersed in water, the wax repels the dye and that part stays uncoloured. The wax is poured from a special utensil, a canting, a small recipient with a handle and spout for allowing the wax to be poured. At times brushes or small copper plate can be used. Just think how much time it took to paint this fabric with various colours! In fact, once these fabrics were reserved for the noble women of the island of Java. Today, though, it is popular throughout the length and breadth of Indonesia. Indonesian batik does not have a back or a front: it is printed on both sides!