When I walked into the gallery on Bali I felt quite at home. The ceremonial ‘objects’ were mostly familiar either from our time living and working in Bali or from the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). The NGA has an excellent collection of Balinese art much of which had been recently featured in the Art of Bali exhibition.
The Barong Landung ‘Jero Gede’ is the partner of the Barong Landung ‘Jero Luh’. Jero Gede is strangely compelling. These Topeng are magical figures from Balinese mythology and ward off evil spirits. The barong are only used in performances on special occasions such as when a village is struck by an epidemic or at Galungan.
The Ukur Kepeng (sukat) made from copper in the shape of Chinese coins was of particular interest. Neither John nor I had seen one of these when we lived in Bali even though we’d been to a number of Ngaben ceremonies and visited galleries and museums all over Bali. The first time I’d seen one was in the National Gallery of Australia. It was specially mounted on a white background for the Art of Bali exhibition. The Ukur kepeng at the Museum Nasional was also displayed on a white background.
Ukur kepeng is one of the ritual items used in Ngaben, the Balinese cremation ceremony. The Ngaben often takes place long after the actual death of a family member because of the prohibitive costs of the ceremony. The body is buried until the family is able to hold the Ngaben. On exhumation, the bones of the dead are often separated so an ukur kepeng is made to represent an effigy of the whole body.
Information on the ukur kepeng and Barong Landung ‘Jero Gede’ is from museum labels.