Setia Darma: The house for our masked heritage
Nestled in a rather secluded spot in Mas, Ubud, lies one of the most important repositories of heritage in Bali, or even Indonesia - the Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets.
The establishment now houses 1,320 masks from Bali, Java, Lombok, Madura, Kalimantan, Papua and several other countries, including Japan and Papua New Guinea. Moreover, it also possesses the
largest collection of Balinese masks created by master carver I Wayan Tangguh of Mukti hamlet, Singapadu. His works show simply ama-zing details, colors and emotional rendition.
Setia Darma also houses a total of 5,130 wayang puppets, including those crafted of leather and of wood. One prized series in this collection is a full set of Wayang Suket from Purbalingga, Central Java. This rare wayang is crafted of woven dried grass. It also has the richest collection of Balinese wayang kulit (leather puppets), not only those inspired by Hindu’s great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, but also the ones that draw their inspiration from Calonarang, Panji, Tantri and other local folklore.
“It is an ongoing project and a labor of love, we collect these wayang and masks simply because we love them and want to preserve them. Hopefully, in the future this place could provide inspiration for our younger generation to fall in love once again with the creations of their ancestors,” Setia Darma curator and custodian Prayitno said.
The house was first opened in 1998 and was conceived of by Prayitno and a wealthy businessman, Hadi Prayitno. Both share a similar love for wayang, masks and the Javanese traditional wooden joglo and limasan houses.
Naturally, all the mask and wayang collections are now housed in five ancient traditional wooden houses, which Prayitno acquired from isolated villages in Java and transported in their entirety to Bali.
The southernmost and newest house features Setia Darma’s latest acquisitions, various Balinese barong (a mythical lion-like creature), barong plok of Blitar, East Java, and the Chinese barongsai.
Next to it is the largest wooden house, a combination of joglo and limasan style, which, Prayitno believes, is 100 years old and was transported from a tiny village in Demak, Central Java. The house displays dozens of wooden masks crafted by Wayan Tangguh. Characters from the Ramayana, including the heroic monkey warlord, Hanoman, and the tragic ogre warlord, Kumbakarna, majestically grace the teak-wood walls of the house.
“We have a beautiful collection here, but now we are desperately in need of assistance from experts or scholars to do research on the collection, providing more information about the origins and roles in their respective societies,” Prayitno said.
The establishment opens daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment. There is no entry fee, but donations are welcomed. To reach Setia Darma, those traveling from Ubud should head toward Goa Gajah. Around 200 meters from Goa Gajah, there is a tiny intersection with a wooden sign pointing the way to the house.
Photos: by I Wayan Juniartha