Java as part of Indonesia is rich in art and culture which are intertwined with religion and age-old traditions from the time of early migrants with Western thoughts brought by Portuguese traders and Dutch colonists. The basic principles which guide life include the concepts of mutual assistance or "gotong royong" and consultations or "musyawarah" to arrive at a consensus or "mufakat" Derived from rural life, this system is still very much in use in community life throughout the country.
Making of Gamelan
Though the legal system is based on the old Dutch penal code, social life as well as the rites of passage are founded on customary or "adat" law which differs from area to area. "Adat" law has a binding impact on Indonesian life and it may be concluded that this law has been instrumental in maintaining equal rights for women in the community. Religious influences on the community are variously evident from island to island.
Unlike some countries art forms in Indonesia are not only based on folklore, as many were developed in the courts of former kingdoms such as in Java, where they are part of its tradition. The famous dance dramas of Java and Bali are derived from Hindu mythology and often feature fragments from the Ramayana and Mahabharata Hindu epics.
Highly stylized in movement and costume, dances and the "wayang" drama are accompanied by a full "gamelan" orchestra comprising xylophones, drums, gongs, and in some cases string instruments and flutes. Bamboo xylophones are used in North Sulawesi and the bamboo "angklung" instruments of West Java are well- known for their unique tinkling notes which can be adapted to any melody.
The "Wayang kulit" (leather puppets) of Java is performed with leather puppets held by the puppeteer, who narrates the story of one of the famous episodes of the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. It is performed against a white screen while a lantern in the background casts the shadows of the characters on the screen, visible from the other side where the spectators are seated.
The "Wayang Golek" (wooden puppets) of West Java is based on the same concept. The crafts of Indonesia vary in both medium and art form. As a whole the people are artistic by nature and express themselves on canvas, wood, metals, clay and stone. The batik process of waxing and dyeing originated in Java centuries ago and classic designs have been modified with modern trends in both pattern and technology. There are several centres of Batik in Java, the major ones being Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Pekalongan and Cirebon.
The Performing Art From graceful court and temple dances to charming folk dances and boisterous play, the performing arts of Indonesia offer an astounding range of types and styles for the visitor to study or enjoy, reflecting, as they, do, the soul and traditions of the various ethnic groups who support them. Music, dance and drama are very often intertwined, such as the ludruk transvestite theatre of East Java and the lenong folk theatre of Jakarta, both known also for their slapstick humor and early Shakespearean simplicity on their stage settings.
An important form of indigenous theatre is the puppets play, of which the most celebrated is the wayang kulit shadow play of Java where the characters are represented by the shadows of intricately carved and painted flat leather puppets, cast on a screen with the help of a torch (nowadays often substituted by an electric bulb).
The puppet theatre has many forms and employs a variety of media. In West Java, for example, the most popular form is the Wayang Golek, using carved and painted three dimensional wooden puppets. Both the Wayang Kulit and Wayang Golek take their repertoire from the classical Indian epics but in Central Java, the wooden puppet theatre traditionally brings only stories derived from popular folk legends revolving around the spread of Islam. There are other forms still alive today, such as the Wayang Klitik and Wayang Kruci, each having its own standard repertoire.
The oldest form of "shadow" play is probably the Wayang Beber, in which the dalang or puppeteer simply unrolls a scroll bearing the scenes and figures of the story while he delivers his narration accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. A popular contemporary form of wayang theatre is the Wayang Wong, is which actors or dancers represent the characters in the story which is presented on a conventional stage.
These are establishments for the purpose of entertainment and are found in many of the big cities of Indonesia. They are a kind of permanent night fairs presenting nightly performances of local folk theatre, local handicrafts and other attractions of popular character. One of the oldest and best-known entertainment parks is the Sriwedari park in Solo (Surakarta) which offers nightly performances of popular wayang wong plays.
The Folk Dances
Like most of the performing arts of the Orient dance in Indonesia is believed by many scholars to have had its beginning in religious workship. Even today, many dances are considered sacred or can be traced back to their early spiritual associations. Among these are not only the temple dances of Bali, but also such seemingly profane dances, such as the Bedoyo Ketawang of Solo, performed only on such rare occasions that they are in peril of becoming lost for the lack of younger generation dancers able to perform them.
Dance traditions today are as widely diverse as the various ethnic cultures of which they are part. Nurtured to refined perfection in the royal Javanese courts and princely homes the classical dances of Central Java are highly stylized expressions which have probably already attained their basic movements during the height of the Hindu-Javanese culture from the 8th to the 13th century. From the courts, those dances eventually reached the broad strata of the common people who gave them a more spontaneous form of expression.