Thread: Sunggingan
View Single Post
Old 8th May 2013, 11:50 PM   #15
A. G. Maisey
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 6,781

Yeah, you're right David, I connected Rasdan and Jussi.

My apologies to you both, gentlemen. I'd just finished watching one of my favorite movies --- Borderline, Jack Nicholson--- and I was somewhere else. If you don't know this movie, its really worth an hour and a half of your time. Don't have an hour and half? Go listen to the Ry Cooder song written for the movie --- same name. Its not all Cooder's work, John Hiatt and some other bloke, Dickenson?, were also involved. Freddy Fender did the sound track version, Harry Dean Stanton did a version with Spanish lyrics, Dylan's done it, Springsteen's done it. Never was a hit, most nobody except musos know it, but it is one of the truly great songs of the last 50 years. I doubt it was written as an anthem for anything, Cooder just got the order for a soundtrack piece and put it together with a bit of help from his friends, but it very eloquently tells two stories, one obvious, one not so obvious. The not so obvious story is the story of every human being.

OK. Keris time.

Rasdan, on the subject of appraisal, what I mean by "learning the standard" is this:- we do not apply the standards of Dutch Old Masters, nor of Italian Renaissance artists to the work of Javanese sunggingan craftsmen. We compare like with like. Thus learning the standards means that we need to understand what is good work, and what is lousy work for a sunggingan craftsman.

Poleng motif. Yuuzan is pretty much on the mark with his response, it is philosophically a representation of the necessity for balance. The original is black & white, there are others I know of, white/black/grey, and white/black/red that are also used in Bali, but essentially any symbolic colours can be used, especially in a non-sacred application. I believe that the white/black motif goes back to Hindu Jawa, as this motif still appears in Javanese applications, and is the dominant one in Bali, where it is still used as the sacred motif. There can be variations in size of the squares and in the borders used, and all these things can be interpreted differently. I really don't know anything worth knowing about this poleng motif, but I'm sure that it is something that could be relatively easily researched for anybody with the interest to do so.

I've seen, and I have , a number of examples of sunggingan work from Bali, and I've seen examples of sunggingan work on scabbards and hilts from Sumatera and generic Bugis.
What a lot of people do not realise is that our present day appreciation of the natural characteristics of materials was not something that necessarily appealed to the tastes of the ancients. The candis of Jawa were carved very skilfully, then covered with a thin layer of plaster, and this plaster was painted, so Prambanan and Borobudur and all the other candis we are so familiar with would have glowed as brilliant gems when they were in use. This taste is reflected in the painted decoration on sunggingan keris dress, and is perhaps more representative of indigenous taste than is the beautifully polished finish that most people now appreciate.

Incidentally, this taste was not exclusive to SE Asia. It applied in Rome and I believe Greece as well.

Sunggingan colour codes. Had a look at me note books. January 1987, sources were Empu Suparman, M'ranggi Agus Irianto (Agus Warangka), and Pak Harjonegoro.
Colour means the base colour:-
White or yellow --- bupati or the royal family
Gold --- pangeran
Sea blue --- penewu
Light green --- mentri

Pendok colours:-
Red --- royal family or a bupati
Green --- penewu or mentri
Dark grey --- lurah
Black --- jajar and may also be used by all ranks, and for wear at a funeral

Court clowns can wear any colour sunggingan or pendok, but must wear it with a rojomolo ukiran
Cantung balung have same rules as clowns, but usually wear poleng motif.

The lambang or crest is as Yuuzan has said, indicative of the Karaton Surakarta Hadiningrat, but it represents Pakubuwana, not the Karaton, it is the ruler, Pakubuwana, who is at the centre of the universe, not the Karaton. The word "Karaton" or "Kraton" means the place of the ruler, it is not regarded as something with any permanence and only has significance if the ruler dwells in it. It is the ruler who is at the centre of the world we know, fulfilling his role on earth just as does the Supreme God in the cosmos. The traditional role of the ruler in Javanese thought is as the entity that intercedes between the natural world and the people of the realm, effectively the ruler ensures protection and prosperity for the realm and the people who are ruled. He does not "own" the realm, nor the people, he is "owned" by the realm and the people, just as the Supreme God is indistinguishable from the cosmos. The kraton itself is unimportant, it is just a heap of bricks and wood, it is the Susuhunan, Sinuhun, The Lord, who is the centre of all, not the pile of bricks. The traditional Javanese ruler had the same rights and obligations on earth as did the Supreme God in the cosmos.

Of course, all that is history now, but it is necessary to understand the place of the Javanese ruler in historic times, to understand the mindset of the grassroots Javanese people now.

David, 'woody woodpecker" is actually a bintulu motif; number of variations, extensive use in Balinese art, connection to kala motif and Bhoma. Pretty easy to research I think.

David, the reason I had two threads was because I needed two for the number of images I posted.

Barry, I can see no reason why we shouldn't all post our sunggingans to this thread.

I think that's covered everything that has been raised, if I missed something please draw my attention to it and I'll try to address it.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote