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(F014)

Pentul in Trance

350

F014

This is a unique statue of a dancer in the Pentul mask, made of a single block of mature teak wood. The Pentul trance dance is popular in Central and East Java, but as teak is more common in East Java, it is highly likely that this statue was made there. The tools used to carve this statue are rather more refined than the common East Javanese peasants' tools, indicating that the maker of this statue was in possession of a set of carver's chisels and was probably considered an artist or craftsman in his community. The bottom of the base of this statue is coarsely hand hewn using an adze but the figure itself is made using a variety of chisels. The detail in the hair and the drapery, and the correct representation of the Pentul theatre costume, suggest that the maker of this statue was very familiar with the subject he was depicting and might have been part of a Pentul trance troupe himself.

Pentul trance dances originate from pre-Hindu culture (meaning before the sixth century AD) and survived through the Hindu Buddha period of Javanese history (600 AD - 1400 AD), through the Islamic period of Javanese history (1300-1600), through the Dutch colonialism (1700-1942) , as a popular peasant (as opposed to court) performance. To this day Pentul trance dances are still performed to celebrate harvest thanksgivings, circumcisions, weddings, or even the Indonesian independence day. However, with the advent of chemical intensive rice farming (in the 1970's planting local rice seeds was made illegal), rice farming villages have been impoverished and most celebrations now make do with blazing audio-cassettes of Indonesian pop music or recitations of the Qur'an. Because Pentul trance dance has always been a peasant performance the fact that this statue is well made using a variety of tools make it even more special and rare.

The most complete performance involving the Pentul mask would be the Reog battle ceremony of the Ponorogo region in East Java, which would consist of at least two troupes that battle in the village square. Each troupe would consist of a fighter with a huge whip, a dancer with a 3m mask of a tiger's head and peacock feathers, several martial artists in masks, including the Pentul mask, a team of bamboo hobby-horse transvestite dancers, and several musicians playing gongs and drums.

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