Balanga Museum

Matina has arrived! This gorgeous lady will be leading construction of the large scale puppets at the studio in Sukamulya. She has over fifteen years’ experience constructing scenic elements, puppets and costume and has worked on many notable productions including How to Train Your Dragon, Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo, Sydney Mardi Gras, Vivid and Little Shop of Horrors. She’s also toured the world and run other puppet projects in India & Kenya. Basically, she’s perfect!

Matina welcome breakfast
We met her bright and early at the airport and headed straight for a cafe where we had a most delicious breakfast on the recommendation of Dedy & Argus. These guys both live in Palangka Raya and will also be working on constructing the puppets.

Dayak traditional dressNext on the agenda was a visit to the Balanga Museum (Of course, they are also on Facebook). The museum is an amazing Sababuka maskresource that offers insight into the highly unique culture of the Dayaks, the ethnic people of Kalimantan. You can learn about some fascinating ritual practices, steeped in ancient traditions and magic. The artifacts are astonishing – beaten bark fabrics (shown above), intricate model boats, delicate beading and terrifying masks representing dead ancestors – the Sababuka.

There was also the omnipresent symbol of the
Batang Gari – the Tree of Life. We learned that the three tiers represents the heavens, the Earth and the underworld, and what appear to be leaves, are in fact hornbill feathers. From this moment on we started to notice Patang Gari and hornbill symbolism everywhere throughout the city.

For any of you lucky enough to be living in or visiting Kalimantan, the incredible Isen Mulang Cultural Festival is coming up May 18 to May 24, 2016. This is an unmissable experience to see Dayak culture live and in action, in the streets, on the river and beyond.

Dayak boat

We would love to extend a special thanks to Karen and the team at the Museum for providing a special insight into the collection! We were also directed towards an invaluable resource, the Jokar Photography BlogThe site has a really thorough collection of images and personal accounts of Kalimantan culture, which we have been continually referring back to.