Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trip to East Java: Part II - Madura

Madura is a large island right off the north coast of eastern Java. The Madurese are known for their bull races, their devotion to Islam (apparently, an astonishingly high percentage of Madurese make the Haj, a Muslim's pilgrimage to Mecca in the Middle East - considering the poverty here, and the massive expense of such a journey, this suggests serious prioritization), and their up-front nature. Nina's mom is Madurese. The island is flat with mostly simple farms covering the landscape. Our visit was to shop for some batik (a process/style of dying fabric) and to visit loved ones buried in a cemetery in Pamekasan.

We went to a small northern coastal village where the majority of the women make traditional Madurese batik and the husbands are fishermen. While most of the family was shopping, Herul wandered around talking to people, learning about life in the village, their process for making batik, the demographics of the area, etc. As a career reporter, it seems like Herul has an instinct for finding a story wherever we go. I listened in where I could (though the language is still largely inaccessible to me), and took pictures. This is the contraption one woman was using for the dye process. From what I gathered, in the silver part above there is a mixture of wax and dye. Below is a heat source. The wax protects the dye so that you can set the rest of the fabric in a different dye with minimal bleeding:

The task is split into parts and handled by groups of women. It's quite a process, from an initial sketching in the fabric of a pattern, which might be geometric shapes, flowers, birds, or whathaveyou, to one dying process to another (think background/foreground, or general and detail work). It takes one week to create one large piece of the batik-dyed fabric. You can see there are dark-colored shiny patches on the maroon fabric she is holding - that's where she has applied the mixture:

Here is Eyang playing hardball with the batik seller:

Puci and the others were getting in on the action, too. It was fun watching the scripted encounter: buyer asks for the cost, seller offers something. Buyer scoffs; this is clearly an outrage. Buyer suggests something more agreeable, maybe half the original offer. Seller scoffs; such a price insults the quality of the work! And on and on. Since we were from Jakarta (a.k.a. $$$$) I am sure the final price was a bit higher than the usual. But as a white guy here I'm used to paying the premium:

Here's the trash-stricken beach right around the corner from the seller's house. If you've been following for a while, you'll remember a similar picture from the Puncak Pass outside Bogor - a gorgeous landscape with heaping piles of trash cast heedlessly in the foreground. This is the rule, not the exception, in Indonesia. And the trash, when eventually collected, is almost always burned. I've become acclimated enough to the smell of burning trash that I now recognize it instantly. If you are traveling for a couple of hours in Indonesia, there is a good chance you will encounter it. Also, Herul brought to my attention how close this village is to the ocean. In the event of even a small tsunami, most of these people would doubtless lose their homes and their lives. Risky housing situations like this one were the reason so many people lost their lives in the massive tsunami in northern Sumatra a few years ago. The houses start right behind me in this picture:

Here is an aspiring young fisherman:

The village pier:

After the others finished their purchases, we headed off to the cemetery. We stopped for food here, and I got a couple shots of Madurese street ecology. Here's a picture of a group of Muslims preparing (I think) for the Idul Adha holiday, to take place two days from then. The holiday features the slaughter of animals, usually goats, whose meat is then given to the poor. More on this later:

A large group of motorcycles (ok, there are always tons of motorcycles on the roads in Indonesia, but this was a very high volume suggesting some kind of motorcycle club) passed by. Check out these three guys - I think the one in front is wearing a sarung (sarong), a Muslim man-skirt that is awesomely comfortable and can function as a blanket, towel, or anything really. It is common to see men driving by on motorcycles with sarungs when they go to the mosque for daily prayer:

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