Indonesia – Java

Indonesia is said to be the most ethnically diverse country — ranking fourth in the world as far as population, with 249.9 million people (2013). It is the world’s largest archipelago with an area that spans almost 5,000 kilometres between Southeast Asia and Australia. The country is composed of five major islands and seventeen in total. The unique geography of Indonesia has been conducive to the development of a number of distinct cultures. There are over 400 dialects spoken throughout the country by hundreds of unique ethnic groups, who are generally categorized as either Malayan or Papuan.

Islam is the major religion in Indonesia, observed by roughly ninety percent of its people. They constitute the largest Muslim population in the world. Nevertheless, Indonesian law recognizes freedom of religion and is a secular state. There is also a rich history of Hinduism and Buddhism in the country. The spectacular Buddhist temples at Borobudur and the Hindu temple of Prambanan are fine examples. Representations of Hindu deities are common, especially in Java, which was home to the famed kingdom of Majapahit in the late thirteenth century.

There are a number of ethnic spiritual beliefs, which are unique to the country and an integral part of Indonesian culture. These beliefs and practices are reflected in the nature of the art, much of which serves ceremonial and symbolic purposes. One interesting example of this relationship between art and ritual are the sculptures of the Loro Blonyo (note this name is italicized!) (‘inseparable couple’) wedding figures, which depict the rice goddess Dewi Sri and her consort, Sadono. These figures are presented to a newly wed couple. Placed on either side of the marriage bed, and they are intended to symbolize and promote matrimonial harmony and prosperity. These figures are typically carved from wood, and then paint is applied for detail and colour.   ‘The Married Couple’ (Loro Blonyo) – a two-piece painted teakwood set of a man and woman sitting with vivid facial features, traditional head scarves and elongated arms (230)

Sculptures carved from wood are a popular and highly developed form of Indonesian art. Many carvers are world famous and can be found easily when visiting Bali. Their works are detailed.

The most famous Indonesian art known to Westerners are the batik and ikat textiles.