Yogyakarta means “a city that is fit to prosper” and is named after Ayodhya which was the birthplace of Rama from the Indian Ramayana epic. Yogya, as the locals call it, is no doubt the soul of Java where the traditional arts and culture are still very much alive. It is a royal city still ruled by a sultan living inside his Keraton or walled city palace. The walled city is home to about 25,000 people of which about 1,000 belong to the Abdi Dalem or royal caretakers whose positions, like the Sultan’s, are also passed down from generation to generation. I had the opportunity to photograph some of these royal guards at their posts around the palace.
When it comes to traditional culture in Central Java, Wayang kulit immediately comes to mind. Wayang kulit is a traditional form of puppet-shadow show where the puppets are rear-projected onto a thin fabric screen. Wayang means “shadow” and kulit means “skin” or “leather” in Javanese. The leather puppets are brought to life on the backlit screen and the stories are mainly epics about good vs evil. I was told that these puppet shows can go on all night long.
Markets are a great place to get candid shots of the local people. Bringharjo is Yogya’s main market where all kinds of foods, fruits, vegetables, spices are sold, as well as the traditional batik cloths. It is a lively place where locals come to meet and shop.
One afternoon back in Borobudur, we made a quick visit to the Javanese village of Candirejo where ancient farming methods and traditions are still practiced. The word Candirejo is made up of Candi which translates to “temple or stone” and Rejo which translates to “fertile”. It is a land that is full of stones but yet remained fertile. We were taken around town in a delman (traditional Javanese horse drawn carriage), driving past local houses and seeing the villages go about their daily lives. We had the opportunity to visit the house of the village’s tempeh maker. Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian staple made of fermented soybeans. While we were there, the tempeh maker’s husband wandered in and was quite the model 😃
Another interesting neighborhood we visited was Kampung Code along the banks of the River Code. Kampung Code began as a refuse dump and became a notorious slum where living conditions were dire and crime was rife. In the 1980s, with the help and leadership of priest and architect Romo Mangunwijaya, Kampung Code was upgraded into a much nicer settlement in harmony with the local environment. In 1992, Kampung Code received the Aga Khan Award for architectural design. Kampung Code came to be known as Yogyakarta’s Rio de Janeiro filled with colorful houses and colorful people who call it home.
And of course I have to post again the shots of the ironsmiths I took at the kris workshop of Empu Jeno Harumbrojo in Yogyakarta. I truly enjoyed visiting the workshop and photographing the master ironsmiths. For more about the kris, refer to my earlier post here.
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