Travel and Tourism

Of village life & the rural charms of Central Java

BETWEEN EAST & WEST - Tonette Martel - The Philippine Star

In the cultural heartland of Indonesia, Central Java’s rural landscape is awash with natural beauty — of verdant valleys and fertile farmlands framed by forest-covered and volcanic mountains.  Living in the shadow of Borobudur, the 9th-century Buddhist sanctuary, and in the midst of the Kedu Valley, where 2,000 temples once graced the land, the Javanese are keenly aware of their spiritual, natural and cultural heritage that has shaped their way of life for thousands of years.  It is little wonder that such an environment should spawn a wide spectrum of artists, from artisans and craftsmen to modern masters, social realists and contemporary artists.

At the Amanjiwo resort in Central Java, the works of five artists from Borobudur and Wonosobo are featured in the exhibition “The Charm of Village Life,” on view in Amanjiwo’s Art Room until the end of March.  Viewers will see a diversity of styles, techniques and idioms that says much about the creative spirit of local artists as well as the thriving art scene in Central Java.

Here we see vivid bursts of color, a density of forms, as well as textural qualities that suggest exuberance, and a sense of pride that stems from being part of an age-old culture.  To a visitor, life in Java may appear to be simple, uncomplicated and relaxed.  Yet Amanjiw general manager Mark Swinton explains that there is more than meets the eye. “Peel away this exterior visual, you will see the roots of heritage, history, tradition, spirituality and mysticism run deep into the earth. Some of these artists use symbolism through simplistic scenes to capture the deeper meaning of Javanese life. Life here is very colorful as are the people. Their beliefs, their clothing, their environment, their dances are a rainbow of color, and are vibrant with energy.”

In the works of Wawan Geni, Tantto Dekora, Budi Widar, Ahmad Ghovir, and Awi Ibanezta, art springs to life with radiance as each celebrates the pleasures of rural life, the rich culture of Java, the bounties of nature, and the beauty of village women.

In Ahmad Govir’s “Green Eye,” the soulful eyes of a young woman takes on a cast of green, her face is covered with elements of plant life.  She appears to be one with nature, as nature is one with her.  In “Harmony of Life” by Tantto Dekora, the canvass brims with eye-popping colors, and is dense with forms of animal and plant life.  Life as depicted here, symbolizes abundance, joy and the oneness of all living things.  Another stunning depiction of a local beauty is superimposed with a rendering of batik— one of the most esteemed art forms in Indonesia, used to mark ceremonial occasions, and to denote one’s place in society. In “Beauty in Batik,” Awi Ibanezta is saying that beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, yet is also found in the facets of a culture that define a people, and their aesthetic sensibilities.

 Budi Widar captures the idyllic landscape of Central Java where children can revel in a natural playground with his “Happiness Kids,” where young boys are playing by the riverbanks amid an old tree and a mountainside setting blanketed with greenery. In “Friendship,” rice fields glisten in the afternoon sun, and in the foreground, a farmer works his fields with the help of hefty farm animals.  Nature as depicted in these paintings is an all-encompassing aspect of existence, one that enhances life and sustains it.

  In Tantto Dekora’s “Borobudur 1,” the stupas on the upper levels of Borobudur are the focal point of the painting as they rise above worldly concerns. It is the crowning glory of Borobudur, and of man’s spiritual path when at last he reaches the stage of enlightenment.    

 Visiting Central Java, I was taken by the lush beauty of the surroundings, the serenity and air of mysticism that enveloped the place. I would later learn that centuries ago, and up to this day, many Javanese still seek spiritual revelation at the foot of the Menoreh Hills.  Places of worship, and great religious and philosophical traditions once took root and flourished in this land.  With eyes turned towards layers of tradition and a deep reverence for their natural environment, local artists will continue to heed their inner voices and promptings — giving us insight into the charms of rural life in Central Java.









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