The Living Masks of Bali: Chapter 03

Dewi Dian Reich
Dewi Dian Reich


Founder of Sawidji Artist Collective and Gallery.
Director/Curator of Sawidji & Co

Just over a week a go we had a conversation with Ketut, covering some of the processes that he went through in the making of our very special Barong Landung Masks. And we knew it would not be very long before they arrived home here at Sawidji.

True to his word and on schedule, Ketut came and brought with him two very beautiful, very special Masks. A few days ago they arrived and very happily welcomed. Today, we just wish to share with you a living history, very much part of our present. And as life would have it, also a part of the journey that Sawidji is on.

Barong Landung Homecoming
Barong Landung Pair, welcomed home to Sawidji Gallery

When the Barong Landung arrived, we were fortunate again, that they met with good fortuitous days. As with the beginning of their creation, a small, simple Blessing ceremony was held.

As with most things in Balinese Culture, we do not exist alone. There is recognition that all are part of Nature and is plays a role in the overall Balance. When ceremonial objects are made, they are given a Blessing or Cleansing ceremony. This acknowledges that they are Sacred Objects, or simply ‘Bersih’ meaning clean.

The camera along with post editing work can make a lot of subtle and amazing changes. However, it is quite remarkable just how quickly I came to capturing a perfect portrait of the Barong Landung Pair with no tinkering in the studio. As well as little to almost no post editing, they simply shine and exude this wonderful beauty.

Perhaps it is because I have been immersed in their story. Perhaps it is because I was part of their making, from the beginning. That may have something to do with how much I see their beauty. Not simply in the artistry of the Mask Maker’s skill (which, clearly is a key factor here).

It is also the beauty of knowing that this pair, their story, their history have touched the lives of people for centuries and now ours. The connectivity of human experience spanning centuries. And now here they are, welcomed home to Sawidji. For me, that is a beautiful thing.

If you missed the previous ‘Living Masks ‘ post here is a recap on the history of Barong Landung..

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.

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.

Or revisit previous chapters..

Barong Landung

The Living Masks of Bali: Chapter 02

The making of Barong Landung, a conversation with Mask Maker Ketut Sukerta

The Living Masks

The Living Masks of Bali: Chapter 01

The unchanging faces of history and the Mask Makers who keep the traditions alive

Coming up next The Living Masks of Bali: Chapter 04..

We will have a chapter on the tools of the Mask Maker. A little insight into the aides that make possible the creation of the beautiful ceremonial masks of Bali.

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