Jumat, 22 Mei 2015


Jakarta lost one of its finest designers last month: Jaya Ibrahim, interior designer of the iconic Darmawangsa, and Indonesian-style ambassador extraordinaire, died on May 5 after an accident at home.

It must be said that for such a big country, with such extraordinary cultural richness, very few designers have devoted themselves to Indonesian style. During the 1980s, Iwan Tirta championed traditional batik as his fashion house grew into an industry — a tradition now continued by a handful of talented designers such as Milo, Ghea Sukasah, and Bin Manansang. In architectural design there really hasn’t been anyone since the great Romo Mangun of Yogyakarta died in the 1960s. One tends to think of Australians Peter Muller and Kerry Hill as master interpreters of traditional Indonesian architecture.

Australian Warwick Purser and Indonesian-born Wieneke de Groot have devoted their lives to Indonesian design and crafts, it is true, and Americans Dale Keller and Ed Tuttle did great culturally-referenced work here over the decades; but the only successful interior-design professional who exported classic Java style was Jaya Ibrahim.

Although a Minang by birth, he worshipped everything Javanese. His three homes in Jakarta are temples to Java style, and museums of exquisite Javanese objects. His ‘regency’ aesthetic, formed over 20 years working in London (see obituary opposite page) fitted snugly over his love of Javanese palace refinement — the base of his work. For formal occasions in Jakarta he dressed as a Javanese nobleman, even affecting the fan and flutters so popular in Javanese palaces. The Jakartan Chinese adored his aesthetic because it was clean, with no hints of voodoo.

I was lucky enough to visit the first two homes he designed – one for himself and his partner, John Saunders; and one for his mother — with photographer Tim Street-Porter, my guru in design voyeurism. Tim and his wife, Annie Kelly, often returned to visit Jaya and document his work — now an important part of the archive of Jaya’s contributions to the international design world.

Very few young Indonesians have tried to emulate Jaya. They either don’t get it (don’t love the Javanese aesthetic) or end up doing mannerist pastiches. Jaya has had more influence over young turk designers from Singapore — architect Chan Soo Khian, WOHA, and landscaper Chang Huai-yan. In Bali, Malaysian architect Cheong Yew Kuan, a good friend of Jaya’s, has developed a pavilion style, based on Indonesian architecture, that is as refined as Jaya’s interiors. 

It is in Jaya’s collaboration with another Indonesian aesthete, Sukabumi-born Adrian Zecha, founder of Amanresorts, that he achieved global recognition. In China, Jaya’s interiors for two Amanresorts there — The Aman at Summer Palace and The Amanfayun — are masterpieces of elegant restraint. Jaya’s more modern work for The Setai in Miami and The Chedi in Milan were also much acclaimed.

This month the Indonesian design community mourns the loss of its biggest star, and hopes that John Saunders and the Jaya teams around Asia keep the legacy alive.

Anyone lucky enough to have stayed in the Darmawangsa Hotel will have experienced the Jaya magic — walking through the uber-elegant museum-like corridors, one is submerged in Majapahit and Central Javanese culture.

Jaya Ibrahim and Asmoro Damais Arifin

Jaya Ibrahim has died in Jakarta, aged 67. He was Indonesia's answer to Harold Acton, the famed gentleman aesthete of Fiesole, New York, and London. Like Acton, he was from good stock — nobleman father from Minangkabau, Pakualaman Yogyakarta mother — had exquisite taste and beautiful manners (honed over twenty years of working with Anouska Hempel (Lady Wienfeld) in London). I met him shortly after his return to Jakarta — and the success of Blakes Hotel, which he did with Hempel — and after he had built the extraordinarily beautiful family home in Cinere that made him a name in designer circles. We went on a trip to Minangkabau with a few friends, and visited Jaya's father's grave: everyone in the township was as handsome as he was, and as lanky, and even the bleached art deco Minangkabau architecture there seemed a perfect fit. As a travel companion, he was gracious, almost regal, and a great dispenser of brotherly and sisterly advice.

 His career really took off after his huge success with the Darmawangsa Hotel in Jakarta. The world seemed to own him for the last twenty years; many of his old chums lost touch. With his partner, John Saunders, he established a base in Bangkok from which to travel to China and Miami and Mexico, where he was in great demand — his clean Asian aesthetic was very much in vogue. His design sensibilities were refined. As he grew more into Madam Butterfly, affecting a fan and geisha make-up during the later years, no-one batted an eyelid. Like Lagerfeld, he had achieved a status and a pinnacle that sort of demanded a more theatrical public persona. It was his slice of cherished English eccentricity, perhaps. With his friends and clients he remained charming and down-to-earth — more dandy than diva. He opened a brilliant shop, called Solo, where we could all buy his amazing furniture and lamps; he published a catalogue of his product, and was much published in Architectural Digest by his good friend Tim Street-Porter. The Venetian-Javanese palace he built with his life-long friend, John, in the hills east of Jakarta, was another masterpiece.  

His sudden departure leaves a giant hole in the Asian design world. He will be sadly missed by a host of friends and family.



More photos of Jaya's work by Tim Street-Porter

Stranger in Paradise : Teenage Trancees Rule

Kepaon village girls convey the Pura Puseh gods during the climax of the Ngusaba Desa ceremonies, 6 May 2015.

The Balinese have decided that they are bored — bored with mass tourism, bored with corruption scandals, bored with us all banging on about plastic.
So what do the Balinese do when they get bored?
They get dressed up and HAVE CEREMONIES!
Now that all the old temples have been rebuilt in the Brontosaurus-Transformer style (andesite layers and giant dragon fountains), it’s time to party — and what ceremonies there have been. Pura Besakih, now bigger than Ben Hur, kicked off the season on the day of the tenth full month with a one-month odalan festival.
A hundred temples seemed to follow suit. Normally the tenth full moon is a ‘busy’ season. but this year it was out of sight. The highest form of temple consecration, the ten-week Ngusaba Desa, which costs around $200,000 to stage, is now the only ceremony deemed respectable enough. Everybody just hocks the grandmothers, takes a month or so off work and hunkers down to the task of making a million offerings, and to taking part in weeks of ceremonies and processions.
It’s like Olympics opening ceremony meets papal mass.
My village, the once-quiet rural hamlet of Kepaon — now centre to the island’s male escort, garment, and auto repair businesses — just closed the main road, one of South Bali’s busiest, for much of May, and processed up and down in various stunning outfits.
For the first time in my 40 years in that village, all the deities of the various house temples — not just the temple deities — were trotted out and paraded about. I had to cough up for 40 new processional outfits, to keep up with the Joneses, as it were.
Woven penjor banners were placed roadside at 20-metre intervals on the two-kilometre processional route, even on the long stretch through the Muslim quarter.
Every morning, all the palace ladies went to the salon to have eyebrows threaded and eye-lashes freshly applied, and to be sewn into form-fitting yellow kebaya.
The pecalang temple guards had extra padding put into their shoulders, and affected golden epaulettes on their black jackets, like Michael Jackson.
Not even high-profile executions or the arrival of 200 sultans and rajas in Klungkung (see photos next page), made a dent in proceedings — the Balinese focus is undeterrable once it comes to ceremonies.
Not to be outdone, my good friends in Sidakarya village near Sanur — also having a Ngusaba Desa, in August — started selling gift coupons for KFC to raise their $200,000.
It is my friend’s job to line up 48 high priests for the coming ceremonies: this takes up much of his day, and impacts seriously on our evening Scrabble program!
My role in the proceedings of all these events is as documentarian. I post sneak preview pictures from the temple on Facebook, and then post a video on YouTube that night. In the temple at night the priests sit up watching my DVDs of the preceding day’s events.
I post the videos on Lost Bali and Bali Expat Facebook pages to placate the palefaces who seem convinced that Bali has gone to the dogs.

Teenage trancee tripping the light fantastic beside the rejang renteng in the Pura Puseh Kepaon, 6 May 2015.

My adopted Balinese family (since 1973) are the only Brahmans in the village: ceremonial duties at big festivals in our village fall on them. Fortunately all of my six brothers married Brahman girls, and it’s they who mostly run things. They know all the high priests, and how to waft offerings off; indeed, they run sizeable factories making ceremonial bits and pieces. For the last five weeks my village home has been a veritable powerhouse of activity, with animal carcasses drying in odd corners in the sun (Brahmans in Bali are expert slaughterers and skinners — it goes with the territory).
My rather quiet younger brother, Ida Bagus Suteja, was made bendesa adat (village chief) some years ago, and even went off to India with all Bali’s bendesa. He hated it: he’s never been the least bit inquisitive about life outside Bali.
I was amazed when, on the day at the temple on which the mayor and the main Denpasar princes were invited, his name was on the commemorative plaque next to the mayor’s — and that he gave a good speech!
I just rattle around taking snaps, and he runs the show. I am so proud of all of them; of the whole village really, because our village is not exactly like Ubud, where the royal family puts on shows like this every other week.
This is a once-in-a-generation event, and the production is flawless. See videos

PUNCAK KARYA links video: http://youtu.be/eAXrnQJWVEM
TAWUR PEDANAN links video: http://youtu.be/B3z6cI-QHro
Mapapada Ngusaba Desa Kepaon links video: http://youtu.be/JidPIqkQi4Y
NGENTEG BERAS links video: http://youtu.be/S-W6B6ShUr8
MELASTI links video: https://youtu.be/6tDe2gGCkmY
Melaspas Bagia Pulokerti links video: https://youtu.be/iiE_tYWR-Eg
Ngusaba Kepaon links video: https://youtu.be/qTnL21Fn5Uo

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SILATNAS RAJA AND SULTAN NUSANTARA  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QloNClprT-E

On the last day, which was Pagerwesi holy day, when the Padudusan Agung climax was held, there were two magic moments.
One, at the start of the morning, when the women’s auxiliary was performing a Rejang Renteng in front of a packed courtyard. Three teenage girls flew into trance and joined the corps de ballet at the side. They swayed and shimmered, eyes closed, until being ushered over to the parked barong, there to be gently coerced out of trance.
It was exquisitely beautiful.

Rangda escorts of the Banjar Sakah Suwung Kauh Barong.
Left: Son of Ida Pedanda Buda of Ubud during the big pray-in.  Right: Local beauty Dayu Pon.

Young girls flying into trance has become very fashionable in South Bali since the re-consecration of many of the local barong.
Another tender moment was during the movement of the arca (votive statues) from the outer to the inner temple courtyard later in the morning. A Topeng Sidakarya cosmic mask-dancer was enlisted to pave the way for the gods. Two trancing teenagers attached themselves to his elbows as he moved from courtyard to courtyard. In the front courtyard this tweaked the attention of the dashing young Baris Gede dancers seated next to the gamelan. Seeing that I was shooting them, they picked up a spent offering and started wafting the essence of it towards my lens. It was such a gorgeous, theatrical, slightly cheeky, gesture. It made my morning.

Moving the gods.
The Topeng Sidakarya and teenage trance assistants, Pura Puseh Kepaon, 6 May 2015.

10 May 2015: To Puri Kaleran Mandala  Peliatan
In the middle of all mayhem at home I am invited to Peliatan, near Ubud, for the last night of a ceremony in the palace of a dear friend — legendary dancer and musicians Gung Bagus. The atmosphere is beautiful and I am the only guest. The palace aunties — all legendary Legongs — are weaving about the courtyard floor and the house’s famous melodic Semar Pegulingan is playing. Agung Bagus plays the rebab (cello) and looks splendid, as always, dressed in regal 19th century palace garb.
Halfway through the evening, one of his pupils does a solo performance of the difficult Kebyar Duduk. At the end of this performance, Bagus’ son storms into the tight court, in normal Balinese dress, and starts a truly inspired version of the same dance but including his father, who remains seated, playing the rebab and his grandmother and small niece.
It is the most touching ten minutes of ngayah (devotional performance), and I feel so privileged to have seen it. You can see it in this video:  http://youtu.be/n50Prr2MVBk

A.A. Iswara dancing in his family house temple, Puri Kaleran Mandala, Peliatan.









YOGYAKARTA ISTIMEWA, Gianyar, 26 April 2015