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Gunungan is one of the most important figures that opens a traditional performance of the Indonesian shadow theatre wayang kulit purwa. It depicts a tree of life representing the five elements making up the universe: earth, air, fire, wind and water. It also symbolises a palace, forest, and sea, as well as the above-ground and underground worlds.

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Gunungan is one of the most important figures that opens a traditional performance of the Indonesian shadow theatre wayang kulit purwa. It depicts a tree of life representing the five elements making up the universe: earth, air, fire, wind and water. It also symbolises a palace, forest, and sea, as well as the above-ground and underground worlds. The tree of life appears many times throughout the entire performance, at the beginning, at the end, and whenever there is a change of action or scene. The puppeteer, who is also the narrator, moves the figure in various ways — imitating a bird's flight, shaking or fluttering, evoking the Universe and introducing individual parts of the play. It appears in two forms: the form of a tree of life or a holy mountain. It is always located in the middle of the screen, separating dolls representing generally good characters on the right side of the screen from the evil characters on the left side. When the leader opens the performance by moving the figure, it is a sign that he climbs the tree of life to the kingdom of the gods. At the same time, he invites the audience to enter this lively world of gods, heroes and animals. Only after such an introduction does the actual story begin.
Open cut buffalo skin, polychrome on both sides; bamboo poles.

Elaborated by the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, © all rights reserved

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Marian Raciborski’s Indonesian collection

Marian Raciborski was a botanist who stayed in Java from 1896 to 1900 at the invitation of the Dutch government to conduct research on ferns and crop plants; he worked in the Botanical Garden in Buitenzorg (the present-day Bogor), where he wrote 31 scientific works.

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Marian Raciborski was a botanist who stayed in Java from 1896 to 1900 at the invitation of the Dutch government to conduct research on ferns and crop plants; he worked in the Botanical Garden in Buitenzorg (the present-day Bogor), where he wrote 31 scientific works. Raciborski was one of the first Poles to see the beauty and originality of the rich culture of the Indonesian islands, a small part of which was also brought back home by him in the form of natural specimens (for the Botanical Garden of the Jagiellonian University) and pieces of art and artisan objects (for the Ethnographic Museum in Krakow). His entire ethnographic collection, of over 200 artefacts was donated by him to the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków just before he died in 1917, among which there was: a valuable collection of weapons, especially kris and other types of daggers (over sixty); a large collection of puppets from shadow puppet and puppet theatres (74); valuable fabrics with hand-applied batik techniques (10) and a number of other everyday objects from the island of Java, as well as many objects from Sumatra and Borneo.
The Indonesian collection of Raciborski, though it is not numerically large, has special value; the objects he collected were not mass produced for tourists, but had been created for the needs of the soul; their creators had made a huge effort to make the works as perfect as possible, because only then could they properly fulfil their role. The awareness of this contributes to the fact that today these objects seem to have their own soul and power to influence the viewer and their imagination.

Elaborated by The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, Editorial Team of Malopolska's Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

 

See objects from the collection of Marian Raciborowski:
“Arjuna” — “Wayang Golek” theatre puppet
Tree of life “Gunungan” — shadow theatre figure “wayang kulit purwa” from Indonesia
Sculptures of young couple from Indonesia

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Tree of life “Gunungan” — shadow theatre figure “wayang kulit purwa” from Indonesia

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