Lontar souvenirs from Tenganan
Writing on a lontar (palmyra leaf) might not be familiar for many people nowadays, but for the villagers of Tenganan Pegringsingan in Karangasem, it is a well-preserved and living tradition.
They not only write on the dried leaf, they also draw on it. Their works have even turned into interesting and unique souvenirs from the village, which is also popular for its pengringsingan double-woven traditional cloth.
Komang Sudarma, 39 years old, is one of the villagers who creates these lontar souvenirs to make a living. Every day, he exhibits his skill in writing and drawing on lontar on a little table at the entrance of the ecotourism village. Hundreds of package of his works are displayed on the table.
He draws a lot of pictures, such as Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge), barong characters and a map of Bali. He also designs lontar calendars.
Another unique thing about his works is that he writes in foreign languages on the leaf, including English, German and French. In the past, lontar writings always used old Javanese or Balinese language.
“We created the foreign-language lontar writings to attract foreigners. They don’t understand Balinese letters. Tourists from France usually buy the French lontar,” he said, adding that many tourists liked the Saraswati drawings and the calendar. His works are sold starting from Rp 400,000 (US$42.4) to millions of rupiah, depending on their difficulty. The father of two said that writing and drawing on lontar had been his job since 1997, when he decided to return to his village after working in a hotel in Nusa Dua for several years.
“I decided to come back here for good because of my obligation to carry out many customary activities, so I make a living by making lontar souvenirs,” said the man who learned these skills sitting with his parents when he was a child.
Every day he sells an average two lontar. It takes from one day to one week to create one piece, depending on how complicated the work is.
Besides Sudarma, there are also other lontar artists in the village.
— Photos by Agung Parameswara