Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Keris Warung Kopi
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 26th April 2013, 03:36 AM   #1
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default Collecting:- opinions sought

I've been in Solo over the last couple of months, and have been in contact with a different collecting environment than the one which applies to many of the contributors to discussion in this Forum.

This morning I spent some time going back over recent threads in this Forum, and the contributions to those threads. This exercise has raised some questions for me. I'm not sure if these specific questions have been raised in previous threads, if they have, possibly somebody who is better organised than I am may be able to refer me to those threads, however, even if these questions have been raised previously, I do feel that current opinions could still be of value, as opinions do change with the passing of time.

Q1.

does knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item come enhance the pursuit of collecting those items?

Q2.

if the response to Q1. is "yes, it does", is it a reasonable expectation that the majority of collectors would attempt to improve their knowledge in these areas ?

Q3.

if the response to Q1. is "no, it does not", can the reasons why it does not be identified ?


These questions are directed at my own self education, and I would very much appreciate your responses.

Thanks people.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th April 2013, 05:15 AM   #2
Timo Nieminen
Member
 
Timo Nieminen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 422
Default

Q1: Yes.

Q2: No. Many would, but I don't know about a majority.

Q3: This knowledge of culture/history/society tells you about the item in context, about the use of the item, the meaning of the item. I think that is an enormous bonus, without which the item can only be appreciated for its aesthetics or perceived monetary/status value. (And for arms intended for use, "handling" is surely part of the aesthetics - how can this be appreciated with no context?)

But learning takes effort. Surely it is simpler to simply view the items as art objects and/or objects of value. Learning about how things are used seems rather like a grubby plebeian activity; some might even say "better to view them as art/value objects".
Timo Nieminen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th April 2013, 05:41 AM   #3
Gavin Nugent
Member
 
Gavin Nugent's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,413
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Q1.

does knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item come enhance the pursuit of collecting those items?

Q2.

if the response to Q1. is "yes, it does", is it a reasonable expectation that the majority of collectors would attempt to improve their knowledge in these areas ?

Q3.

if the response to Q1. is "no, it does not", can the reasons why it does not be identified ?



Q1.
Yes. I believe more so when a specific item found in context. Consider also many people may actually be involved in the pursuit of understanding a specific culture firstly which then led them to collect material item from the cultures they have interest in.

Q2
Yes. I think it is fair to say two thing;
Once an interest is piqued it usually grows and develops.
BUT, everyone learns at their own pace and methods.

Q3.

NA.

Gavin
Gavin Nugent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th April 2013, 08:04 AM   #4
Bjorn
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 163
Send a message via MSN to Bjorn
Default

Q1.
In general, I would say that it does. For keris, one of my primary reasons for collecting them in the first place is to gain greater insights and a better understanding of Indonesia now and then.

Q2.
I really couldn't say. Some people may collect keris merely as part of a larger collection, some only for their aesthetic or exotic value. For those who do have an interest to learn more I can imagine that it would be a daunting task. One needs to be truly interested to dig deeper and deeper.
Bjorn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th April 2013, 08:10 AM   #5
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: CSA Consulate, Rm. 101, Glos. UK: p.s. - Real Dogs Have Feathering.
Posts: 3,191
Default

q1 yes.
q2 yes.

as an american collector of mostly european and south east asian edged weapons, i have visited and/or lived/travelled in both, ate the food, studied the history. i of course now live in the UK, which is (marginally) european. whether i am typical? probably not. i have also lived in the middle east (KSA) for about 10 years, and have a couple of pieces from the region. knowing the culture aids in understanding the derivation and usage patterns of the items. the more you learn, the more you understand.
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th April 2013, 03:47 PM   #6
GIO
Member
 
GIO's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 253
Default

Q 1 : yes
Q 2 : yes, but only to a certain extent. I collect Western, Indonesian and Japanese (very few) weapons, and have an idea of the general cultural and historical background of the Countries concerned, but I find that a full knowledge of what stays behind is very difficult, complicated and far from our culture and tradition. I am referring mainly to Indonesia, as you can immagine. In my opinion the understanding of Javanese thinking would take an entire life, and "even more" if one could not have the possibilty of living in Indonesia, in contact with all categories of people, and for rather long periods of time. The alternative is to read books, but this is by far insufficient.
To conclude, a collector should do his best to understand other cultures as much as he can, but the main appeal for the items he collects will always consist in their artistic and technical aspect
GIO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26th April 2013, 09:55 PM   #7
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Thank you for your responses, gentlemen, and I do hope that some of our other members will also let me have their opinions.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th April 2013, 04:11 AM   #8
VANDOO
(deceased)
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: OKLAHOMA, USA
Posts: 3,140
Smile

QUESTION ONE YES
2. COLLECTORS ARE SOMETIMES ATTRACTED BY THE EXOTIC LOOKS OF AN ITEM, BUT OFTEN IT TAKES A BIT OF A STORY OR TRUE INFORMATION TO HOOK HIM. THE LEGENDS OF MAGIC, MYSTERY, METEOR IRON BLADES AND STRANGE POWERS MAKE ONE WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE KERIS. THIS LEADS TO A STUDY OF THE TECKNICAL PART HOW THEY ARE MADE AND WHY THIS OR THAT IS MADE IN SUCH A MANNER AND WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OR MEANING OF ITS PARTS. IT ALSO LEADS TO A STUDY OF THE CULTURE WITH ITS LEGENDS, AND HOW THEY VIEW AND VALUE THE KERIS AND WHY THEY HAVE THESE BELIEFS.
3. SOME COLLECTORS WILL STUDY ONLY THE KERIS AND ITS CULTURE AND EVEN WHEN SPENDING A LIFETIME STUDYING NO DOUBT THEY WILL STILL HAVE THINGS TO LEARN.
MOST COLLECTORS WILL LEARN A LITTLE BIT BY BIT OVER THE YEARS BUT WILL STILL BE NOVICES AS THE WHOLE STORY OF THE KERIS AND ITS MANY VARIATIONS IS COMPLICATED. I PERSONALLY COLLECT KERIS WHEN I SEE SOMETHING I DON'T HAVE OR THAT APPEALS TO ME, SO I DON'T COLLECT LIKE A SCHOLAR OR AN INVESTOR.

4. THE INVESTOR WILL ONLY BE INTERESTED IN CASH VALUE AND POTENTIAL PROFIT NOT A STUDY OF THE KERIS OR THE CULTURE AS HE IS BASICALLY A COLLECTOR OF MONEY. SO TO HIM THE BLING= GOLD, JEWELS,IVORY, ROYAL PROVANANCE, AGE OR THE NAME OF A FAMOUS MASTER MAKER ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS. TO EACH HIS OWN.

ONE CANNOT TRULY LEARN ANY CULTURE BY READING ABOUT IT ONE WOULD HAVE TO LIVE A LIFETIME WITHIN THE CULTURE AND SHARE ITS BELIEFS AND TRADITIONS TO BELONG AND TRULY KNOW. THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE WITH THE CULTURES OF THE PAST THAT ARE LOST AND HAVE CHANGED OVER TIME. THE CURRENT BELIEFS SELDOM WILL BE EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE ORIGINAL CULTURES. OFTEN WE READ OBSERVATIONS WRITTEN BY A VISITING RESEARCHER OR ADVENTURER ABOUT THE CULTURE IN THE PAST. THESE ARE USUALLY THE OBSERVATIONS OF THE OUTSIDER NOT THE WAY THE LOCALS PERCEIVE IT AT ALL. EVEN A KEEN OBSERVER IS USING HIS LOGIC AND POINT OF VIEW NOT THAT OF THE FORIGN CULTURE HE IS STUDYING SO MISTAKES ARE MADE. YEP!! ITS COMPLICATED BUT VERY INTERESTING

Last edited by VANDOO : 27th April 2013 at 04:31 AM.
VANDOO is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th April 2013, 10:58 AM   #9
Jean
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,373
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Q1.
does knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item come enhance the pursuit of collecting those items?

Q2.
if the response to Q1. is "yes, it does", is it a reasonable expectation that the majority of collectors would attempt to improve their knowledge in these areas ?

Q3.
if the response to Q1. is "no, it does not", can the reasons why it does not be identified ?



Hello Alan,
I mostly concur with what has been said by the other members. As I used to collect other artifacts than Indonesian krisses (such as old Omani ethnic jewelry and silver artifacts), my reply will be more general.
Q1: Yes, but for me the pursuit of the knowledge of the society, culture, and history was not the immediate priority, but it came naturally after developing a strong interest in the collected items and a sufficient collection.

Q2: Not necessarily, many collectors will satisfy themselves jut by improving their knowledge about the specific type of item collected only and ignore or neglect the cultural environment.

Q3: In many cases it is very difficult to get acquainted with a foreign culture and society related to a type of collected item: for instance I lived in Indonesia and worked closely with Indonesians (most of them were Javanese) for 3 years and learnt very little from them because of societal and cultural barriers. In Oman I found that very little had been written or even transmitted orally by the locals concerning their ethnographic treasures, for instance the origin of the pieces and meaning of the silver decoration motifs. Of course the language is a major barrier.

Best regards
Jean is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th April 2013, 12:17 PM   #10
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Thank you Barry and Jean.

It seems that everybody agrees that the act of collecting, is enhanced by knowledge of the background to the article collected.

It also seems that once we get past that initial recognition that knowledge enhances collection everybody seems to take a slightly different position.

As I stated at the outset:- I asked these questions to help my own understanding, and I appreciate the contribution you people are making to that understanding. I'm not yet quite sure what I am learning from this exercise, but it is re-enforcing a point of view that I have held for many years, and that is that the majority of collectors in any field are primarily that:- collectors. They have little interest in the objects that they collect apart from the physical being of the objects. The background to those objects seems to be something that is not of very much interest, and hence receives much less attention than the objects.

I feel that not only am I learning something here, but we all are, so I do hope that the opinions will continue to flow.

Thank you.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th April 2013, 11:23 PM   #11
guwaya
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 45
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
"... that the majority of collectors in any field are primarily that:- collectors. They have little interest in the objects that they collect apart from the physical being of the objects."

Thank you.


A statement which reflects my own opinion, the question is just 'why is this so?' and 'what does collecting mean for the person or what is the intention of collecting?' (But these questions can be hired first).

In my opinion there are two ways of collecting:

1) Collecting special objects or a group of objects (e.g. edged weapons in general) with the aim to acquire as much different objects as possible. The interests of this group of collectors are more the aspects of the technical work and quality of craftmanship and possibly also an aesthetic point of view, etc.. Some superficial cultural background information are a positive side effect but rather of miner interest for this group of collectors.

2) Collecting grew out of an interest in a culture and was more present in former times I suppose. This assertion is among others to recognize in the partially short essays appeared in scientific periodicals. The authors were mostly persons who lived for a longer while in a foreign culture and over the time certain objects aroused their interest with the result, that they entered deeper in the significance of the object for the culture. They learned, that material culture represents the different cultural aspects of the group and that they could 'read' a lot out of the item. Those people possibly started to collect special objects but within a reasonable quantum.

For me the collecting of ethnographic art is inevitably connected with an interest in the culture it comes from - it is the materialized image of this culture.

Unfortunately the "background to those objects seems to be something that is not of very much interest, and hence receives much less attention than the objects." (A. G. Maisey). This trend seems to continue immensly fast - a result of our quickly changing times?

Regards,
guwaya
guwaya is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th April 2013, 11:55 PM   #12
rasjid
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Jakarta - Indonesia
Posts: 114
Default

Hi Alan and forum members,

Yes, I do believe society, cultural, place of origin, etc affect us in how we collect things. In Keris specifically we can say few stages happen:
1. Learning stages: u only listen and absorb:dangerous stage with limited knowledge - possibility get burnt if you are not carefull. This is also depending on who is your local ring ( people you know and telling you) could be local n possibly overseas. Thanks to internet n this forum as well.
2. Absorb, study/ research and comparing to what you really want to achieve. At this stage early stage information and also your background knowledge play a part. (Your previous knowledge, etc like Jean mentioned in previous post)
I myself, like to see the harmony in keris. Not only on the Keris itself with their pamor material or design, their slorok, garap, estimate of age, etc. But also their accessories: handle, rongko etc. All have to be in harmony. You can't put keris kodean into cendono rongko with suoso pendok.
3. Maybe after all two points above happens, we are coming at the stage either to stop collecting (caused burnt to much or wrong in making decisions or your partner want to leave you....) or just slowing down re-arrange what you want, review and either making one for your self or wait until a good one arrived within your budget.


Regards
Rasjid
rasjid is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 28th April 2013, 02:28 AM   #13
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Thank you Guwaya and Rasjid.

We seem to be getting into a more general discussion now, so I'm going to make a few remarks of my own.

My questions were directed at collecting in general, not specifically at keris.

I do not really identify myself as a collector of keris. I used to be, but these days I spend much more time, and money, on research and learning about the keris than I do on collecting, in fact I have begun to downsize my collection, whilst at the same time increasing my involvement in learning, not about the keris as such, but rather about all that is behind what we can see.

I collect other things:- pocket knives, paper weights, ivories, watches, small carvings, keris hilts (as distinct from keris). About these things that I only collect, rather than study, I know almost nothing:- I can classify them, name them, describe them, value them, but I know just about nothing apart from that. I wallow in ignorance, and I feel no need to learn more about these other things, I simply appreciate the object. The exception is of course keris hilts, which overlaps my interest in keris.

So possibly the collector is a person who just appreciates and understands what he can see, possibly he feels no need to delve into those matters associated with his collecting interest, which he cannot see.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th April 2013, 06:21 AM   #14
Jussi M.
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 235
Default

Greetings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Q1.

does knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item come enhance the pursuit of collecting those items?


Maybe. I would say it does if one learns to appreciate the s, c & h with the accumulation of knowledge on said, but it can also result in dissolving the mystery that surrounds the collectable items and thus killing the suspense, and, incidentally interest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Q2.

if the response to Q1. is "yes, it does", is it a reasonable expectation that the majority of collectors would attempt to improve their knowledge in these areas


No. Not really as people are lazy. In other words people usually want to know but not learn. These are two different things and not to be interpreted as one. Look at any field of expertise and you´ll see that true aficionados are a rare breed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Q3.

if the response to Q1. is "no, it does not", can the reasons why it does not be identified ?


As stated above:
Laziness and the motives for collecting, as the motives for collecting are not the same as the motives for learning about s, c & h. Yes, the motives for collecting and the motives for learning s, c & h can and do meet and feed each other but to a what degree? Collecting something makes one an expert in the fine art of acquisition. - Not an expert of the society, culture nor history of the time and place where the collectable items originally sprang from. Being a fan is not the same as being a musician.

Converting does happen but it is a rare occasion as the psychological price for jumping of the "collecting wagon" to a new wagon of s, c & h studies is just too steep a step as it would mean questioning your motives.

My opinions only.

Thanks,

J.

Last edited by Jussi M. : 30th April 2013 at 06:34 AM.
Jussi M. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th April 2013, 08:16 AM   #15
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Thanks Jussi, you've made some good points there.

Possibly if the collector has entered into specifically keris collecting with a mystical/magical motivation, yes, perhaps the reality might be a little to much to bear and interest could be lost, but as I remarked in a previous post, I was not targeting keris collecting with my question, I was targeting collecting. In general. Orange peels. Cow pats. Red Cross badges. Stamps. Original Rembrandts. The whole sphere of collecting.

Lets say I'm a cow pat collector. Surely I would want to know what difference age, diet, geographical location, drying time --- & etc & etc & etc made to the form and consistency of the cow pat. Serious business cow pat collecting.

I feel that the "want to ", but "too lazy to learn" is probably absolutely spot on. As a teacher your professional opinion in this is clearly an informed opinion and I reckon you've hit the nail on the head. Mostly people want information served up on a platter. Preferably a silver platter. Not a lot of people are prepared to do the digging to find the gold, they want it left in their letterbox.

And yes again:- having an appreciation of music is a very long way from making music.

I feel you've given us a very nice little analysis of human nature here Jussi.

The simple fact of it is that not everybody needs to be an expert to appreciate something, we can appreciate the object in an almost total lack of knowledge about the background of the object.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th April 2013, 08:31 AM   #16
kai
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,519
Default

Hello Alan,

Quote:
I've been in Solo over the last couple of months, and have been in contact with a different collecting environment than the one which applies to many of the contributors to discussion in this Forum.

I'd suggest that already on Java there are several kinds of collecting environments (e. g. kraton "vs." mere mortals, central Jawa "vs." Jakarta, etc.).

I'm going to give a short response on my personal point of view and hope to get back later for more general discussion.

Quote:
Q1.
does knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item come enhance the pursuit of collecting those items?

For me personally, it does. However, only to a certain point (see below).


Quote:
Q2.
if the response to Q1. is "yes, it does", is it a reasonable expectation that the majority of collectors would attempt to improve their knowledge in these areas ?

I am certainly trying to do so; life with all its mundane tasks as well as distractions keeps getting in the way though...


Quote:
Q3.
if the response to Q1. is "no, it does not", can the reasons why it does not be identified ?

In my very modest research, I am additionally trying an advocatus diaboli approach, too: only focusing on extant artifacts and intentionally ignoring any cultural "baggage" is IMHO a complimentary approach which can help to cross-examine supposed "facts" by pointing to areas of possible conflict between "culture" and "science" which need further attention.

Regards,
Kai
kai is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th April 2013, 12:41 PM   #17
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Thank you for your thoughtful contribution Kai.

Probably anywhere that we look at any kind of collecting activity we will find different approaches to that activity. What I said in my initial post was this:-

"I've been in Solo over the last couple of months, and have been in contact with a different collecting environment than the one which applies to many of the contributors to discussion in this Forum."

The total environment encompasses many divisions, and those divisions give rise to many different approaches to a number of activities, one of the activities is collecting. I did not mean to imply that there was only one approach to collecting in Jawa, rather I intended to address the environment wherein this activity was practiced. I had observed a number of different approaches to the collection of keris, by several different persons, virtually one after another on the same day, within the space of probably no more than four hours. I witnessed one of those approaches when I was called upon to advise the daughter of a recently deceased relative of my daughter's husband on the prices to expect when she was disposing of her father's collection. Her father had adopted an approach to collecting that was of immense comfort and value to himself, but one which did not result in him leaving very much of value to his family.

This man's approach to the keris was absolutely Javanese in nature, and would probably not be understood by anybody who was not absolutely traditional Javanese. It would certainly not be understood by the new wave of Indonesian collectors who address the keris as an art object. I most sincerely doubt that any collector from any western environment would even be aware of the existence of the foundation upon which the deceased gentleman constructed his collection:- this collection is a product of the Javanese environment.

Thus, it was the environment that I was focussed on, and the act of collection, rather than keris and one's personal approach to that, which possibly has as much detailed variation as there are collectors. In addition I was thinking of "collection" in the widest possible terms, not only in respect of weaponry and keris.

I recognise that different people have different interests in their field of collecting. Since we seem to be moving more and more towards discussion of the collecting of the objects for which this Forum caters, I'm going to stop swimming against the tide and talk about the collection of the keris.

Sixty years ago when my grandfather ignited my interest in edged weapons and in keris in particular by gifting his small collection of edged weapons to me, my primary interest was typical of probably most 12 year olds:- brandishing and skewering imaginary foes. I even revived some ethnic weapons as functional hunting weapons --- a khukri as a knife for hunting feral pigs over dogs, and knife from N.W. India as a general purpose belt knife ( I re-hilted that one in American white oak).
I developed an interest in the culture, society, history and art of Jawa at a fairly early age, but that wasn't driven by the keris, it was driven by a movie that I cannot remember the name of that featured lots of scenes of Surabaya and roving around the islands.

Then I went through the "I don't want much in life, only every keris that was ever made". It took me a long time to grow up. By the 1960's and 1970's I was obsessed with the technology of the keris and long before Empu Suparman took me under his wing I had learnt to weld pamor and had made a couple of weapons, including one small keris, that displayed pamor.

Then in the period between 1978 and 1982 two remarkable things happened:- Empu Suparman began to teach me about keris, and I experienced what can only be called a revelation as to the true nature of the keris. I worked on the knowledge given to me by Empu Suparman, and I put the revelation on ice. But those two things together pushed me in a completely different direction in respect of collection. Probably from that point I became primarily a collector of knowledge rather than a collector of keris, even though I have continued to acquire keris and associated objects.

I myself have been through a number of very different approaches to the collecting of the keris, and speaking strictly for myself, the more I have learnt, the more interested I have become. Had I not become involved in the process of learning, it is entirely possible that my collecting instincts may have turned in a different direction.

So in my case there can be no doubt that the acquisition of knowledge has fuelled the acquisition of keris, as each time there has been an increase in my knowledge my involvement with and understanding of the keris has increased.

But as Jussi has so clearly pointed out:- not everybody truly wishes to travel this road, and in some cases attempts to gain knowledge could well result in the destruction of dreams and the obliteration of desire.

I am reminded of the old saying:-

"be careful what you pray for, you just might get it"

In the case of keris knowledge that could very well apply.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th April 2013, 07:10 PM   #18
David
Keris forum moderator
 
David's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: The Great Midwest
Posts: 6,026
Default

Actually Alan, given that this is the Keris Forum i think that it is best that we keep our discussion specific to keris collecting.
I have been watching this thread with great interest, but think i will add my own thoughts at this time.
I have always collected things. Stamps and coins, feathers, old keys, old cameras, hot wheels cars (i have over 1000 ), etc. When things pique my interest before long i find i have a couple, then a few, then a whole collection of them. Each subject of collection is usually driven by a different set of parameters. I must say that when i used to collect feathers i had little interest in the history other than a simple identification of the bird it came from. Old keys just look cool, so i do little research there. Keris are a bit different for me.
My interest in keris began in 1982, but my first find was actually it's larger cousin, a rather impressive Moro kris that i came across in an antique market in rural New Hampshire. I had no idea of it's origins and neither did the seller, but it fascinated me and i wanted to know more, so i bought it. I was living in NYC at the time so i made arrangements to meet with the curator of the arms & armor division at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He kindly gave me a brief background that further fueled my interest. Soon after i saw a street vendor selling a magazine with a Javanese keris on it's cover and bought it. The article was filled with legend and inaccuracies, but it pushed my interest further and lead me to discover the Indonesian variety of keris. As with many i was lured by tales of magick, flying keris that battled each other and pamor made of "star metal" (meteorite). I must say that the more i learned about the keris and it's culture did not diminish my interest. I have always been interested in lore and legend and that is indeed still a part of keris culture even if the stories are just that. I have also made a very long study of magick and mysticism throughout the world and saw ideas about the "magickal" keris blade as another chapter in these stories and legends from around the world. I also tend to have a somewhat different and perhaps more practical approach to the question of what "magick" actually is than most of the Westerners i know. I have studied other animist cultures and perhaps work from a better understanding of the ideas of the "seen and unseen" worlds than most Western collectors do. So as i learned more about the realities of the associated keris cultures and how it fit into their societies i did not find the information a letdown from the legends. The more i read and experienced, the more interested i become.
My first Javanese keris came into my possession a few years after the Moro blade. A friend who likened himself a shaman knew of my Moro blade and said he had this smaller keris he wanted to pass on. It is a well made, but well worn old boy with erosion through the sogokan. My friend (a skilled woodworker) had made the sheath himself, functional, but not in any true Javanese form. It became a ritual blade for me and in many ways is still one of the most important keris to me personally, though it is of little intrinsic value to any collector. While i have still maintained an interest in Moro weapons (and have a fair numbers of them) over the years they are not the true focus of my edged weapons collecting and remain a side interest.
My study on these two blade was sparse for some time, but then i entered the world of the internet and for more than a decade now both my interest and my collection has exploded, mostly thanks to this forum and the suggestion that i contact a certain member here for more information about where to obtain a mendak.
It is true that books can only take you so far and that many of the books on keris merely recycle and repeat incorrect information. Some of the best books i have read towards furthering my understanding of keris are not ones really directed at the subject, but rather the cultures from which the keris developed. I do tend to obtain well produced picture books, not so much for the info in them (which is often disappointing), but so that i have nice detailed images of keris outside my collection to study the formal elements in their design. Sometimes one can develop interesting, if not always verifiable theories based upon simple observation.
So i guess my answer here is obvious. Yes, by all means, knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item comes does indeed enhance the pursuit of collecting those items...for me.
Of course this study comes slowly for me. I read what i can, but that is never truly enough. I have been in the process of planning a trip to Java and Bali, but it may still be a few years before that becomes a reality. Even then, learning any culture as an outsider is always difficult and my time in that culture will be strictly limited. But it can certainly be said that my interest in the keris, which started with a fascination of the pure form and artistic beauty of the blades is now driven by a much deeper interest in the culture and history of the people to whom this blade was so important. It has lead to a side collection of Indonesian art and artifact (especially puppets) which only help further inform my study of keris.
David is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 30th April 2013, 10:27 PM   #19
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

I think all the people who have responded to my initial post were thinking keris in any case, David, so the thread has been keris orientated from day one.

I was not thinking keris when I framed the questions, but the framing of the questions was driven by keris. I find that when I start to think about something in depth my thoughts run off into different directions and explore the factors that contribute to the core.

Collecting is a behaviour pattern that seems to be driven by the environment and experience of the collector, as well as inherited factors. Here in Oz we have bird called a bower bird that collects blue coloured things to build a bower in which he dances as part of the mating ritual. So collecting is not even a wholly human behaviour pattern.

We often learn more about a core issue by moving away from that core issue and considering it from a distance with the benefit of seemingly unrelated matters. You have mentioned that your keris interest has taken you into areas that might at first glance seem not to be related to an increase in information about keris, and from these apparently unrelated areas you have gained considerable knowledge that applies to the keris itself, this in turn has contributed to your enjoyment gained from acquiring keris. Not really all that dissimilar from my own experience.

To my mind, discussion of the keris embraces all those factors which touch, or are touched by, the keris. Discussion of the collecting of keris embraces all those matters which provide a better understanding of the act of collection.

One of the things about our discussions here in this Forum that disappoints me very considerably is the repetition of questions related to matters of identification. It is very seldom that I encounter a question, or any discussion, of the genuinely important and relevant matters that surround the keris. The nature of the questions and the discussion could be seen as an indication of the level of interest that the questioners have in the subject, and this in turn could be seen as an indicator of how much genuine study has been carried out in order to improve the level of knowledge. Is this a product of environment or is it an indicator of human nature, as suggested by Jussi? I don't know, but I do know that for a truly interested person there is an enormous amount of information available that can contribute to an understanding of the keris, if that is desired.

But perhaps it is not. I had a friend of 50 years who has now sadly passed, who had a wonderful collection of all sorts of eastern edged weapons, including a very nice collection of keris. He knew virtually nothing about the societal and anthropological aspects of his collecting, and he seldom discriminated on the basis of quality, but he did build a very large collection, and he got an immense amount of satisfaction from that collection. His interest was purely in the acquisition of the objects.

It could be that this behaviour pattern is the driver for a majority of collectors:- the pure act of collection.

Perhaps I'm no different. As I remarked previously, my collecting has now moved from collecting the object to collecting information that relates to the object. I still buy the occasional keris for myself, but I am now driven by different motivating factors and I'd sooner spend a couple of K on acquiring some smidgen of information that relates to the keris than on acquiring another keris.

So David, yes, we can restrict our discussion to keris related collecting, but this restriction can act as a lens that can be used to focus on what triggered my initial questions. Either way, I'm getting an education --- perhaps we all are.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 07:55 AM   #20
Jussi M.
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 235
Default

Mr. Maisey -

one thing that should not be forgotten herein is time. Yes, we´ve often spoken on this forum about the importance of time from the perspective that in order to understand better an object such as the keris (that comes from a distant time and past), we inevitably need to try to understand that distant time and place better as time alters perspective. - Thus the need for educating oneself on areas such as s, c & h.

Fair enough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
One of the things about our discussions here in this Forum that disappoints me very considerably is the repetition of questions related to matters of identification. (...) The nature of the questions and the discussion could be seen as an indication of the level of interest that the questioners have in the subject, and this in turn could be seen as an indicator of how much genuine study has been carried out in order to improve the level of knowledge.

We should however be aware that time still envelops us - we all, as the keris, change as time moves forward. You yourself Mr. Maisey joined lives with the keris over 60 years ago. That is a long time, and during this time of over half a century, your perception, understanding and motives in continuing to live with the keris have changed. Dramatically!

Indeed it was not a short jump from "acquiring every keris ever made" to become a collector of knowledge, much of which has become wisdom already. Thus, whilst I do understand your call for deeper discussion and less show and tell, I wish you patience as most of us here are still at the very beginnings of our process labelled as "collecting". Or, in the case of the few gifted (read truly motivated) ones, dare I say, "study". Maybe it could also be said that many of us are just happy being devoted fans. - For myself the keris represents many a things: friendship, relaxation, awe, mystery and a sort of a peep hole onto something else that I have true passion for.

You, Mr. Maisey, are the Professor whereas I, and most others here, are like the junior freshmen. That is OK, but it is not OK for the professor to expect the freshmen to be able to deliver as do those who have already climbed to the upper echelons of the academia as maturing takes - pun intended - time.

I am afraid that some people might get discouraged reading threads such as this as they still have not learned how to write and they might understand wrongly that novels are expected from them. Let me assure you they are not.

The only thing valid? - Join the discussion. Be active. Ask. Enjoy. Learning happens best when you are having fun and you can have fun even if the subject is loaded.



Thanks,

J.

Last edited by Jussi M. : 1st May 2013 at 08:23 AM.
Jussi M. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 08:26 AM   #21
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Yes, you're right on the money Jussi:- things change over time. I no longer go running through the lignum chasing pig dogs so that I can severe the spinal cord of a boar with a khukri blow. It was great fun when I was 20, but it would kill me now.

These days I'm more in tune with ploughing through multi volume publications that deal with 14th century Jawa. I would not have been capable of this when I was 20, but I am now, so I've lost one ability and gained a different one.

But Jussi, please do not think that I lack patience. Patience is one of my very few virtues, and I have it in spades. I do realise that not everybody wants the same things that I do from a keris interest, and I do realise that for many people just being able to tell the difference between a Jogja keris and a Solo keris is a major leap forward in knowledge --- as it was for me many, many years ago.

I understand that we all need to learn our ABC before we can begin to read Shakespeare. My little bit of bitching above was because I truly would like to see some of our more long term members advance just a little bit beyond simple questions of ID, and begin to try to understand the significance of the keris within its cultural context. This is something I'd very much like to see, but if it never happens it won't deter me from jumping into discussions from time to time and annoying people.

Oh yeah --- Jussi, in The Land of Oz we tend not to address people by use of an honorific. In other words we do not use "Dr.", or "Mr.", or even "Prime Minister". If mister average were to meet the prime minister of the day he would most likely greet her with "G'day Julie". In fact, the use of an honorific can in some circumstances be interpreted as an insult.
So, may I most politely request that you address me as "Alan"? Regrettably we did not go to the same high school at the same time, nor do we belong to the same club, otherwise I would request that you address me as "Maisey", without the "Mr."
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 08:28 AM   #22
Jean
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,373
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
This man's approach to the keris was absolutely Javanese in nature, and would probably not be understood by anybody who was not absolutely traditional Javanese. It would certainly not be understood by the new wave of Indonesian collectors who address the keris as an art object. I most sincerely doubt that any collector from any western environment would even be aware of the existence of the foundation upon which the deceased gentleman constructed his collection:- this collection is a product of the Javanese environment.



Hello Alan,
I feel puzzled by this "absolutely traditional Javanese" approach to kris collecting, can you tell us more about it? It would help us to get a glimpse of the Javanese mind and culture.
Best regards
Jean is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 08:31 AM   #23
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Sorry Jean, not in public.

This matter deals with a man for whom I have a great deal of respect who has now passed to another realm, his personal preferences should not be aired in public
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 02:24 PM   #24
Jussi M.
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 235
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Oh yeah --- Jussi, (...) may I most politely request that you address me as "Alan"? Regrettably we did not go to the same high school at the same time, nor do we belong to the same club, otherwise I would request that you address me as "Maisey", without the "Mr."

Sure thing Alan!

And, for the record (for the reader), I did not aim for sarcasm when I addressed Alan as Mr. Maisey. - That is just how I´ve addressed him since day one on this public arena.

Going to high school together... That would had been interesting...!

J.
Jussi M. is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 03:25 PM   #25
mross
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 445
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Q1.

does knowledge of the society, culture and history from which a collected item come enhance the pursuit of collecting those items?

Q2.

if the response to Q1. is "yes, it does", is it a reasonable expectation that the majority of collectors would attempt to improve their knowledge in these areas ?

Q3.

if the response to Q1. is "no, it does not", can the reasons why it does not be identified ?


These questions are directed at my own self education, and I would very much appreciate your responses.

Thanks people.


Q1 No, it can be a intresting side note, but that is all.
Q3 The reasons can easily be identified.
I collect ethnographic objects based on what I consider their intrinsic beauty. I have a very diverse collection of items I consider beautiful. When it comes to metal I am a steel junkie. I love wootz, pattern welded, "watered" and carved steel. I have many examples of these types of blades from many different ethnographic reagions.
I also like to see much of the same patterns in wood. Hence I also would collect wood that is burled or some other wise intresting pattern.
Age also intrigues me so I have a smattering of fossils.
mross is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 03:45 PM   #26
Iain
Member
 
Iain's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Morava - Olomouckı kraj - Czech Republic
Posts: 1,572
Default

If you'll permit a perspective from a non kris collector (African takouba), I find the topic at hand fascinating and it is something I have often thought about.

Q1: Yes

Q2: I think so, although the level of detail any individual collector might find necessary to satisfy their interest will greatly vary.

To expand on Q2 slightly, I still actively collect but have become completely narrow minded. My collecting began as a passing interest in a particular form, truth be told inspired by a boyish desire to own something like a "knight's" sword but quite a bit cheaper. This was admittedly a rather shallow place to start from. However, at the start my knowledge of the cultures, peoples and history that produced this particular form was just about zero. Through collecting I became not only aware that I couldn't understand the objects in the context I wanted to without further study of the cultures that produced them, but genuinely interested in the history of that part of the world. The swords being very much a gateway into a broader desire to learn.

I think in general there are two motivations for collectors - some collect to fill a niche, a spot on the wall, generally a good example exemplifying the particular form being acquired. This, because of a fascination with swords or weaponry as a whole and as a topic within its own right. This is a very valid collecting path to my mind and is a broad approach that I sometimes truly envy! It is perhaps often characterized by an emphasis on classification related to that need to fill particularly categories.

On the other side, as in my case, the sword or weapon is simply a way of achieving a physical connection to the history or culture that interests us and a real and present reminder for continued research. I think I could have started with any sword form and gone down the same rabbit hole. I just happened to start with takouba and got stuck.

I have to admit I am quite lax even with displaying my collection and have quite a few 'piles' around the house. The real joy from each piece is the interest to learn, research and formulate ideas about the history and development of the form. I have happily read about everything from brass working, to leather tanning, textiles, religion, trade and general history in the context of the cultures that produced takouba. I find myself less and less interested in the minutia of each example I acquire but in the context it can find in the overall 'story' of this particular sword form.

I have no motivation to collect other objects and in that sense I am quite limited. My learning is confined to a somewhat narrow scope of what can be seen to directly impact the topic of this sword form, but that has turned out to be quite a lot! I would simply put, not collect if I felt like there was nothing new to learn and contribute. It is the to drive formulate new ideas and theories that keeps me acquiring pieces and the sense that there is always something more to learn about them.

Best regards,

Iain
Iain is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st May 2013, 09:36 PM   #27
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Thank you gentlemen.

The responses to my questions are beginning to exceed what I had hoped for. It seems that this is a subject to which many of us can relate.

Iain, I particularly like what you have written; it seems to echo to some degree my own experience, possibly demonstrating that perhaps I am not the keris-compulsive-obsessive that I have sometimes been accused of being.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th May 2013, 03:21 PM   #28
ariel
Member
 
ariel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 4,872
Default

Sorry for being late and brief, but I am traveling :-)

Q1: Of course, it goes without saying. There is a corollary as well: collecting ethographic weapons in the first place stimulates one to know more about relevant cultures, their histories, beliefs etc. My guess, the latter is more prevalent than the original formulation as defined by Alan.

Q2: Sure, it helps. But not to the point of "going native". One can collect Maori weapons without engaging in cannibalism, South Indian ones without internalizing the idea of animal sacrifice and cutting his ( her) own head off and Persian shamshirs without converting to Shia Islam or dreaming about becoming Nader Shah's valet :-) The same attitude is correct, IMHO, to any other culture, from Sudan to Indonesia.

Last edited by ariel : 7th May 2013 at 03:28 PM. Reason: addition
ariel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 7th May 2013, 10:03 PM   #29
A. G. Maisey
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 5,475
Default

Ariel, I doubt that any reasonable person could disagree with what you have written, but what you have written does not really address my questions.

My guess is that the desire to collect anything can arise from a multitude of sources, taking myself as an example, my knife and keris orientation probably began with visits to the home of my mother's aunt, whose son chose to live in a village in Malaya after he was released from Changi at the end of WWII:- its a long story and doesn't need repeating here. Then there was the uncle who broke all the rules and gave me an enormous handmade bowie knife when I was about 5 years old.

These were beginnings, but there were a lot of forces came into play after that, so yes, agreed, one interest can stimulate another, and to identify which came first might need a little thought.

With your second response, again I agree, and again you have given an irrefutable response to a question other than the one I asked.

Agreed that nobody needs to become a chicken to know what an egg looks like, however, in respect of the knowledge of a society and culture other than the one into which one has been born, I submit that the degree of knowledge sought will dictate the degree of involvement in that society and culture.

A quick read of a National Geographic Magazine article in one's lawyer's waiting room might be sufficient for some people, whilst a life altering obsession may not be sufficient for others. It all depends upon what one desires to know.

I hope you are enjoying your journey.
A. G. Maisey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th May 2013, 03:20 PM   #30
ariel
Member
 
ariel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 4,872
Default

Alan,
I found myself in front of the computer and felt that I had to answer you.
Yes, there are as many collections as there are collectors, and we all have our own ways to engage in this mild form of insanity. I can imagine a person whose ethnographic interests lead him to collect weapons of the culture of his original interest. I may even know one. But I bet that for every such sequence of events there are 1000 people who started as collectors and only later on began digging into history, ethnology, beliefs erc of the original owners of his wll hangers. You yourself, - what would have happened to you had it not been for your politically-incorrect uncle? :-)

As to the degree of involvement... I still find it mildly amusing to see perfectly normal Mid-Western guys trying to act Persian, Japanese ( ninja, here I come:-)) or Indonesian as if they have a hope in the world to pass for the legitimate inheritors of totally foreign traditions. Perhaps you, who spent a lot of time in Indonesia, may feel some understanding and involvement with the Javanese "society and culture", but for the rest of collectors it is a pretend game. As you have seen from the answers, most people here prefer to maintain their sanity and be "involved but not committed": the difference between the chicken and the pig in the process of creation of scrambled eggs and bacon:-)

So, I am perfectly happy to leave all esoteric functions and fearures to the native collectors of all ethnic swords: it is their patrimony and they are the legitimate owners of it. Most of us are just outsiders and enjoy purely military, historical, metallurgical or decorative components. More than enough, to my taste.
ariel is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 12:24 AM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.