Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Johan van Zyl 12th July 2017 08:47 AM

My appreciation of the keris
Friends, with this thread I do not mean to show you a new keris which I got (I wish - fat chance for that to happen to the likes of me and considering my whereabouts), but just to try to convey to you that the keris has taken up a prime position in my leisure-time activities. There's nothing I like more than to look up beautiful pics in our forum, to study the comments and to compare and evaluate what I see. I am sometimes overwhelmed with awe at the craftmanship I see in many of the kerisses portrayed.

Not wanting to bore you much with my rambling, let me say I have been influenced by Alan's and others' insistence on the keris being fully understood also in relevance to history, culture and geography. To this end I have been reading a LOT, also compiling an album of pictures, descriptions and comments to which I can refer and ponder on. My reading has even taken me to the dark history of the colonisation of Indonesia, the abduction of people to serve in slavery in foreign countries. I have looked at biographies of "servant" & "master" alike to get a balanced impression of their lives and times, and wondered at the influences that have happened, for instance of the Bugis language into Afrikaans. I believe the word in Afrikaans for jail ("tronk") actually has its root in Buginese. Many people live in close proximity to me that have ancestors that lived in Sulawesi long ago. It does seem that their bond to their ancestry is far from strong, which I think is sad.

The name for the Celebes changed back to Sulawesi, as it was in olden days. The word means "rods of iron" or something like that, which points to the island being rich in iron ore. I'm not saying this to teach anyone on this forum, but to mention it as an example of one of the aspects I have read up on, that has been so gratifying for me to delve into keris history.

I have been so incensed by the pleasure I have gained from my reading, that I have written two two-page articles in my home language on the keris (namely one on my Java keris and one on my Riau keris). I'm not saying they are exhaustive, as I have purposely brought in just the minimum of material to make them enjoyable to read. I have never before encountered any work in my language on the keris.

With only two genuine kerisses to my name, I cannot come even close to being an expert now or ever, but I took the challenge to write these articles nonetheless. You must understand that one problematic aspect lies in making the articles read differently, although they both deal with one type of edged weapon, the keris. I wanted no duplication and the train of thought (angle of attack, if you wish) must differ. One of them has already been accepted for publication in the association of which I am a member, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

You all have been a positive influence on my enthusiasm due to your exemplary handling of the forum. Please keep up the good work!

mariusgmioc 12th July 2017 09:36 AM

Good luck with your newly developed hobby! :)

Bjorn 12th July 2017 05:26 PM

Glad to hear you have been inspired, Johan :)
The topics of keris, history, culture and geography do indeed seem to be inexhaustible.

Will we have any chance to read your articles on the keris? (I assume they are composed in Afrikaans.)

Johan van Zyl 13th July 2017 11:29 AM

Thanks, Marius & Bjorn. Yes, they are in Afrikaans, and yes, the one on the Bugis keris is available. The one on the Java keris is awaiting publication, so ethically I should not set it "free" yet.

You yourself would probably understand the Afrikaans, but I fear most of the Forum members will not. David might suggest that all those who want the Bugis keris article, can request I send it to them by email. What say you, D?


mariusgmioc 13th July 2017 01:14 PM

Unfortunately, despite living in the Netherlands, I cannot understand Dutch well as I am an expat here. ;)

David 13th July 2017 05:25 PM

Originally Posted by Johan van Zyl
You yourself would probably understand the Afrikaans, but I fear most of the Forum members will not. David might suggest that all those who want the Bugis keris article, can request I send it to them by email. What say you, D?

Johan, that would probably be best for now unless you wish to go to the trouble of translating the articles into English. ;)

Bjorn 13th July 2017 06:01 PM

Thank you, Johan. I will send you a PM for the article. I look forward to reading it!

Johan van Zyl 14th July 2017 10:22 AM

Thank you, David & others. I am in the process of complying to the PM requests of some forum members. Please bear in mind that I had to make very compressed statements in an article of only two pages, and I tended to generalise for that reason. However, I am dead-set on not incorrectly representing the facts and therefore I am prepared to accept well-meaning criticism. If the article upholds the good name of responsible writing and it proves to be interesting and a pleasure to read, I am happy.

Johan van Zyl 15th July 2017 09:08 AM

Coming to David's suggestion that I translate the article: I might consider it if I can get my energy up for the task. Translation is never straight-forward, but an exacting art. To flex my translating wings, I grabbed the first two paragraphs and now give them to you below. (This might be the end of my translation fervour!)

"People who have an interest in the origin and history of edged weapons will have knowledge of the kris, the traditional dagger of the peoples of South East Asia.

"This distinctive weapon easily attracts the attention of gullible tourists who seek out suitable mementos of their trip around Indonesia. The markets there offer a wide choice of krisses, and some certainly command very high prices. More often than not it is the wavy blade that catches the eye, and some, if they allow their imagination to run away with them, would find it easy to believe that a blade of that shape is more lethal than a straight one. Then you begin to believe that there are degrees of comparison for 'dead'!"

(You see how easily one opens one up to differences of opinion when one puts something to paper. The very word I use to describe the kris as "distinctive" might cause some edged weapons collectors to disagree. Some might argue that the Moro kris, having very similar shape to the Indonesian kris, takes away the distinctiveness of the latter. I personally think the Moro kris is another type of weapon altogether, more a sword than a dagger; that is why I still like the description 'distinctive'.)

In another article I wrote: "there is no other dagger having a shape like that of the Indonesian kris".

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