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Bagong Panel



This figure of Bagong is carved into a panel of old Javanese teak. Bagong is a very popular figure in the Javanese shadow puppet plays. He is the youngest of Semar's children and was created out of Semar's shadow. Semar is a Javanese clown god, created at the same time as the universe. Semar and his children are incorporated in to all the shadow plays that originate from the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are essential in the shadow plays that last from 8 P.M until 5 A.M, to keep the audience awake by making them laugh. Semar, Gareng, Petruk and Bagong' scene begins at about 3 A.M and the puppeteer can also use this scene to make critical comments about contemporary life. The good heroes in both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana listen to the clowns because they realize that they are gods, and after the Goro-Goro scene, fortunes change and good begins to overcome evil.

On the back it is signed "Taris Samunriza, I a SMP Ah. Yani". This gives an indication of the time this panel was carved and why. "I a SMP Ah. Yani" means class 1 A, in the Sekolah Menengah Pertama (Junior High School -SMP) Ahmad Yani; this panel was originally an arts and crafts class project from Taris' school. Ahmad Yani is the name of one of the generals murdered and made a national hero in Suharto's coup in 1965, so this panel was carved after 1965. The name Taris is a very uncommon name, and may be a composite name, abbreviated from Tahun Republik Indonesia Serikat or the Year of the Republic of Indonesian States, which is 1949. If it is true that Taris was born in 1949, by 1965 he would have been 16 years old and if he made this in his first year of junior high school he would be at least 17 or 18 years by that time, the year being either 1966 or 1967. That would mean he started school at about 11 or 12 years old, quite a common age to start school in 1960's rural Indonesia.

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