Thread: Apropos display
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Old 20th May 2010, 11:29 PM   #11
A. G. Maisey
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Join Date: May 2006
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David, let me try to explain the idea of "Jawa".

If you look at a map you will see an island that is identified as Jawa (or Java) as a part of Indonesia.

But to traditional Javanese people, this island is not The Land of Jawa. Jawa to the Javanese is the place where the Javanese language is spoken, and the core area of this is Central Jawa, in the localities under the influence of the Karatons of Surakarta and Jogjakarta.

Within this Land of Jawa there are people from many different ethnic backgrounds, there are people who identify themselves as Arab, Indian, European, Chinese, Balinese, Madurese. There are Javanese people who, although Javanese, pay lip service only to Javanese cultural mores, and seem to think of themselves as Indonesians, rather Javanese. There are Javanese people who are very rigorous in their devotion to Islam, or to Christianity or Buddhism, and the tenets of their faith prevent them from acting in ways that are not in accord with their religious beliefs.

Then there are people who identify themselves first and foremost as Javanese.However, just because they do identify as Javanese does not necessarily mean that they understand or practice every principle of being Javanese. They may recognise a principle if reminded of it, but the reality of every day life no longer requires that they practice those principles on a day to day basis.

To this demographic that I have outlined above we can add all those people who live outside the Land of Jawa, and we then have the demographic from which the buyers of keris are drawn.

A trader will sell anything that his customers will buy. If a buyer wants something, it is a trader headed for bankruptcy who does not ensure that he makes every effort to provide what the buyer wants.

David, you have asked:- "--- why then would Javanese people who are accustom to Javanese mores create such a display piece for the commercial market?---"

I feel that if you consider what I have written above, you will have the answer to your question.

The truly Javanese people whom I know and who have a number of keris, do not ever place those keris on public display. A man may have many keris, and he may think of himself as a keris collector, but his collection will not be on display.It might be necessary to visit that man several times before he will allow you to see one of his keris. My daughter's brother-in-law is a collector of keris, and he is a Javanese who follows Javanese philosophy. He keeps his keris in a locked wooden cupboard in a particular room of his house that is not open to visitors. Because I'm family, I have been into this room and I have seen and handled his collection, but not even a friend will normally be permitted into this room, and that friend will only only see one or two keris at any one time, which will be brought into the front visitors area for him to see.

Empu Suparman had a display of 7 keris in his front visitors room. They were keris that he himself had made. His three personal keris were kept in a locked cupboard in a private room and were never seen by anybody except very close friends or family.

In a village situation a family may have a keris that is considered to have certain protective powers. From time to time that keris may be placed in a public area of the house, it may be hung high on a wall, and if the family also has a blawong, it may be hung on the blawong, but it is unlikely that it will be a permanent fixture in that public position.

I could go on all day quoting similar examples, but it is probably sufficient to say that to a person who truly subscribes to Javanese philosophy and standards, it is anathema to place his personal keris on public display.

But the bulk of people who are members of this discussion group are not traditional Javanese. Yes, there are members here who are ethnic Javanese, but I rather doubt that many of those people are hardcore traditional Javanese.

So possibly we need to ask ourselves if it really matters to us how we keep, store, display and treat our keris.

If a collector in New York or Sydney or Amsterdam has a primary focus on the physical object and only a more or less general interest in the attendant culture, he can probably display his keris in any way he wishes.

However, if his involvement in keris study is perhaps a little deeper, he may wish to follow at least some of the basic principles of traditional Javanese society and culture.
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