The Living Masks of Bali: Chapter 02

Living masks of Bali

The Living Masks of Bali,.. a Recap

Earlier this month, we introduced Ketut Sukerta. An exceptional Balinese ceremonial mask maker. Our community have been very lucky to have such a wonderful addition to our team. Ketut’s introduction to Sawidji Artist Collective coincided with a very busy time in Bali. Busy in respect to traditional ceremonies that take place in the months of July and August. Balinese Cremation Ceremonies often fall into these two months.

However when he joined, he was able to complete the six masks of Topeng Babad (otherwise known as Sidakarya). Upon the completion of that series, Ketut has now embarked on a special new project. Special in many ways. From its considerable rarity, its meaning as well as its mixed cultural history. Our next chapter is in the carving of a pair of Masks, the Barong Landung.

Our Objective

Sawidji is committed to a joint objective with Ketut Sukerta. That is, together, we wish to complete a collection of Bali’s traditional ceremonial masks and with each completion, document and share the history and the stories behind these sacred faces. This is most certainly a long term project, as there are many, many masks in Bali’s cultural history. It goes wtithout saying that you cannot create Masks that are alive and rich with meaning and energy, if there is no deep respect or love for it. This is a joint project to share that joy in the process of creation of Bali’s Living Masks.

And so, despite the responsibilities and everyone’s extenuating commitments during August, we have had a truly warm and exciting month. Ketut, accompanied by his wife Koming, have come to visit our studio on free days. Here they both work together. Ketut bringing his latest project to our studio, that we may see directly the progress of his present dedications. On some days, we may go by Ketut’s studio and have a cup of coffee with him there as he takes us through the process of his work.

An Insight into the process of Ceremonial Mask Carving..

A Conversation With Ketut..

8th of August until 17th August

During this time, this is where we select the wood. The specific wood for this is called Pule. And then, it is processed (prepared) on a good day, such as ‘Tumpak Wayang’ in the Balinese Calendar. There is a ceremony, a simple one, to mark this beginning and offer thanks.

The Masks of Barong Landung is a pair. A husband and wife. The measurements for the mask of the ‘Male’ is slightly larger 30 x 29cm. On the other, the ‘Female’ or wife requires a piece 30 x 27cm.

Author’s Note:

There are very strict rules and guidelines in the making of Bali’s Ceremonial Masks. Starting from selecting an auspicious day to begin the working stage. There is a rhythm, and none of it can be hurried or bent to anyone’s whims. It is not an ambitious process, but a remarkably humble one. The artist asks for blessing, for guidance, for strength and purity in order to complete his task well.

In the beginning, we start with taking only a little. Shaping only a little. Perhaps best to say, revealing only a little. On the days of Tumpak Wayang and Kajeng Kliwon, so you cannot do too much. If you do too much. Rush yourself or the mask, it is believed that it won’t turn out well. That if you follow your own inclination and do too much on that first day, perhaps the face that will emerge will not be the true face, but another face.

‘ ..tidak boleh lebih karena kalau sampai lebih kemungkinan wajah kedua itu akan berbeda dia. Lainnya ,.. umpamanya isteri pertama diambil, kemungkinan tdk bisa terbentuk wajahnya, mungkin sepeti lelaki dia.

Ketut Sukerta

So, both the masks of the husband and wife have begun, but we only take a little bit at a time that first week. In that week, little by little, you have to find the true faces within the wood. On the 8th, the wife and on the 13th of August, we began on the Husband. By the 17th of August you have to start to sandpaper and polish both masks. This is because the day Anggara Kasih is nearing. Kasih meaning love. So that first part of the process should be completed by then.

The Barong Landung Masks differ from other Barongs of Bali.

By definition, the Barong is a panther-like creature and character in Balinese mythology. He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders in the mythological traditions of Bali. The battle between Barong and Rangda is featured in the Barong dance to represent the eternal battle between good and evil.

How the Barong Landung Pair Differ

In the case of the Barong Landung, they are shaped liked giant dolls. A man and a woman. The male Barong Landung is known as Jero Gede, and his appearance is frightening. The mask is coloured brown to black. His teeth will jut outwards in an extreme fashion, like fangs. Whilst on the other hand, the female Barong Landung is Jero Luh. Whose expression has a touch of comical humour. Her forehead and chin will protrude outwards slightly. The mask is coloured white to cream.

The history of Barong Landung explains why this manifestation differs from other Barongs of Bali..

It is believed that the Barong Landung is the manifestation of a royal couple, the King Jayapangus and his Chinese Consort Kang Cing Wie.

The story goes, that the royal couple were deeply in love but after many years had not been blessed with children. In need of a successor, the King went to Mount Batur to meditate and seek guidance. As he meditated there he met and took as his second wife the Dewi Danu. The daughter of the Goddess of Lake Batur. It is after this second marriage that conflict continued to haunt the family of the King Jayapangus. In summary, The Goddess of the Lake, angry to see her daughter hurt and betrayed. Because of this She destroyed King Jayapangus and his first wife Kang Cing Wie.

From Curse to Blessing

But, King Jayapangus is well respected and loved by his people, as was his Queen Kang Cing Wie. He was a benevolent and respected leader of his kingdom. Having him taken away from them, It was the effect on his people, their grief and loss that made the Goddess realise she had acted too rashly. The Goddess of Mt Batur then made a decision. For the King and Queen to be able to return to their kingdom in times of strife and great need. They will be reawakened to provide purification and protection for their people, as a couple together.

There are, as you can imagine, several variations of the legend. However, the one we have here is a well known story. However, this serves as an apt summary of how the Barong Landung came to be.

Coming Up Next Week..

We will have the unveiling of the completed Barong Landung Masks when they arrive here and settled in our Gallery. We are looking forward to it very much with anticipation.

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