Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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jagabuwana 9th July 2020 05:09 AM

Sukarno's keris gift to Fidel Castro
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Sometime in 1960, Sukarno went to Havana and met with Fidel Castro. It seems that he presented him with a keris as a gift. Given Sukarno's sympathy towards anti-colonial, anti-imperialist causes and struggles I would guess that he respected Fidel and that they could perhaps relate to each other as revolutionaries, and perhaps then this would have meant that the keris that was gifted to him was quite a good one.

The colour photo looks to be someone much older than Fidel but it appears to be the same keris. I'm not sure if it's from the same visit and the photo was colourised or if it's from a different event. But I digress...

EDIT: I had a sneaking suspicion that the colourised photo was photoshopped with a much older Fidel. Turns out to be true. God knows why. I have included the original photo underneath it.

EDIT 2: The second photo is also photoshopped. Am I so easily duped? :mad:. Did any of this even happen other than in a talented photo forger's imagination?! :p


As for the keris, I think it's luk 15 but I have trouble counting it due to the obstruction.

The base looks to be closer to a symmetrical, triangular arrangement, like what one would see on a sepang keris. There also appears to be kinatah.

What else can people distinguish about this keris, whether by sight or by any knowledge or research you have?

A. G. Maisey 9th July 2020 11:28 AM


David 9th July 2020 08:28 PM

I don't think the colour photo is necessarily a fake. That is how brother Raul on the far right and he seems an appropriate age for the older Fidel in this photo.
Note the Sukarno is nowhere to be seen in this image. I image this might have been some ceremonial re-enactment of him receiving the keris. The B&W version is certainly photoshopped with the younger Fidel from the original ceremony with Sukarno. Not sure why this was done.
I tried searching for other images of this keris, but can't find any. It is possible it is keris sepang, but hard to tell for sure. It does indeed seem to have kinatah. It is also possible that the wrongko might be ivory, though i can't tell the form of it from the resented angle. It does seems an unusually long keris for Jawa. It looks keris panjang length in fact, but wavy. So maybe this keris is from Sumatra? But i don't think there is enough evidence here to make any decisive assessment.

jagabuwana 10th July 2020 01:25 AM

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I can't imagine the keris being so significant to Fidel that he would have reenacted it. I doubt its veracity still , but at least the keris is the same.

I'm inclined to lean towards Bali too, Alan, or what about Lombok? It could be my imagination but I think I can make out a ring-style mendak that you might find on keris from this area. Not sure what the correct term for these are, if not mendak.

A. G. Maisey 10th July 2020 01:31 PM

Bung Karno's mother was a Balinese lady from Buleleng, his father was Javanese.The dominant culture of Indonesia is Javanese, and the roots of Javanese culture are to be seen in Balinese culture.

Lombok has no keris form that is original to Lombok. This island was settled by people from other parts of the Archipelago and each of these cultural groups has its own keris form. Balinese keris that were made and/or worn in Lombok are still Balinese keris, but Balinese keris from Lombok. It is really quite difficult to be certain whether a Balinese keris has originated in Lombok or not, the differences, if there are any at all, between a Balinese keris from Bali, and a Balinese keris from Lombok are slight and often pretty unconvincing.

Bung Karno was a leftist. This is the base reason why USA was so interested in getting rid of him, and there are very many people still, today, who believe that the USA was responsible for the fall of Sukarno.

As a leftist he had good relationships with other leftists across the globe. Apparently he had a close relationship with Castro and as a token of friendship he gifted Castro with this keris. At the same time Sukarno and Castro exchanged hats, so Castro got a peci out of the deal too, not just a keris.

It is totally unthinkable that an Indonesian President would gift anything other than a Javanese or Balinese keris to another head of state. Sukarno's mother was Balinese, he himself was very much aligned with Bali, he had a very genuine taste for things Balinese.

Looking at the keris in the photo there is not much to be seen, my suggestion of it being Balinese is based on two things, the very small section of gonjo that can be seen and the shape of the pendok.

The Balinese "keris ring" is called wewer or uwer, uwer is probably more correct.

jagabuwana 13th July 2020 05:27 AM

Thanks for your thoughts David and Alan

Mickey the Finn 13th July 2020 11:48 AM

I've seen this photo before. Castro " fingers the blade" like no-one should ever do. This is the image which causes me to shudder at the thought of gifting a golok, parang, or pisau (to say nothing of a keris) to any white person or Westerner.
Mr. Maisey:

The Balinese "keris ring" is called wewer or uwer, uwer is probably more correct.
Do you mean that "uwer", or "ooh-wer" ["ooh-wer" is how I pronounce the word Romanized as "uwer", stress on the second syllable; if this is not phonetically correct, please correct me, and quickly] is more correct with respect to proper Basa Bali usage and/or pronunciation than is "wewer"? Or do you mean that "uwer" is probably more correct with respect to how the word ought to be pronounced and/or written, in comparison to the manner it is written and/or pronounced currently? Could you post "uwer" in Aksara Bali, and in any other scripts you think might be pertinent (Kawi might be more understandable than IPA)? When I was about six years old, I gave up trying to convince Anglophones that there is a right way and a wrong way to pronounce and transcribe vowels.
[איך קען נישט וויסן אויב עס איז אַ דיסטינגקשאַן צווישן דעם און די פריערדיקע קשיא.] פֿאַר אַ תּלמיד פון געזעץ און פסוק, די גענוי אויסלייג און פּראָונאַנסייישאַן פון ווערטער איז די חילוק צווישן "ריכטיק" און "פאַלש." איר פּרובירן צו דערקלערן צו אַ נאַריש עדות אין פּראָצעס אַז זי מוזן איבערחזרן די ווערטער גערעדט דורך אַ דריט פּאַרטיי, און נישט די טייַטש וואָס זי מיינט אַז די דריט פּאַרטיי בדעה אָדער מענט צו יבערגעבן. דאָס איז געווען אַ פאַרפאַלן פאַל, אין דעם פאַל איך טראַכטן פון. איך כאָשעד איר זענט מער דיסערנינג.

A. G. Maisey 13th July 2020 12:36 PM

Mickey, I know a lot of Balinese people, people ranging from village housewives to university department heads, but I do not know a single Balinese person who is competent in reading honocoroko. Going back around 30 odd years I had some old Balinese texts dealing with symbols in Balinese script that i wanted translated, so I asked a relative who lived in Bali and was married to the daughter of a Brahmin if he could find somebody to do the translation for me. His father-in-law had a go, but gave up because he reckoned it was written incorrectly, he could get some, but not all. I think there are probably still a few people who can read the old scripts, but I imagine they are mostly academics.

Its a similar thing with reading and writing honocoroko in Jawa. The last man I knew in my community who could read and write honocoroko fluently died around 25 years ago. I think all kids are still taught a more or less standard form in lower school, and I have text books that I can use with great difficulty. My son-in-law is pretty good, but only with the standard forms, he struggles when the script is cursive.

In today's Jawa & Bali the old scripts are pretty much irrelevant unless you are an academic or have some special need to use or understand the scripts.

As for pronunciation of uwer it is the normal, straightforward phonetic pronunciation, the thing most native English speakers fail to do, maybe cannot do, is to roll the "r". Indonesian pronunciation is a lot like Italian pronunciation.

As to usage, most people I know simply call it a keris ring --- cincin keris. But that's probably because Balinese people tend to use Indonesian with everybody who is not Balinese, as with Javanese, Balinese really needs to be learnt from the time one's feet are permitted to touch the ground, or maybe before.

My opinion on correct usage is because I've heard uwer used more often than wewer.I could be wrong.

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