Please Update your browser

Your browser is out of date, and may not be compatible with our website. A list of the most popular web browsers can be found below.
Just click on the icons to get to the download page.

Jakarta Post

Ondel Ondel Jakarta's cultural icon in transformation

Wed, September 12, 2018   /   04:30 pm
  • /

    Properly dressed: A craftsman dresses ondel-ondel figures in colorful costumes. JP/David Caessarre

  • /

    Bringing to life: Deny from the Al-Fathir ondel-ondel workshop works on a face of a traditional Betawi ondel-ondel fi gure in Kramat Pulo, Central Jakarta. JP/David Caessarre

  • /

    Good-looker: An ondel-ondel craftsman smoothens the edges of the face of one of his figures. JP/David Caessarre

  • /

    Fresh-faced: An orange-painted ondel-ondel face. Craftsmen at the Al-Fathir ondel-ondel workshop use paintbrushes to color their figures. JP/David Caessarre

  • /

    Framework: A craftsman works on the body of an ondel-ondel figure. JP/David Caessarre

  • /

    Having fun: A boy plays around completed ondel-ondel figures in Kramat Pulo, Central Jakarta. JP/David Caessarre

David Caessarre

Amid the advancement of digital technology, the culture of indigenous Jakartans, known as Betawi, is slowly fading away.
The ondel-ondel puppet dance as a Betawi cultural icon is entering a period of being wiped from the collective memory of contemporary Jakarta.

The pair of large puppets, which used to be called Barongan, ferocious mythological creatures, have now changed in appearance and are widely popular as ondel-ondel. The new name was adopted after the late Benyamin, arguably the greatest Betawi artist of all time, released his song titled “Ondel-ondel”.

So, the puppets were given a facelift to get with gentle expressions, in an attempt to preserve their cultural legacy in Jakarta society.

The ondel-ondel studio of Al-Fathir is one of the many workshops striving to keep the culture alive by producing at least a pair every three days. Body frames are made from bamboo, as it is flexible and light, while their faces are made from molded and painted fiberglass.

Finished faces are fitted above their draped body frames, with palm fibers fastened to the back of the heads to which stalks of coconut flowers are stuck as headgear adornments.

Ondel-ondel puppets primarily serve as part of Betawi traditional ceremonies. But today various studios are parading their pairs as far as the Jakarta outskirts for extra income. Ondel-ondel groups, each with five members, hire public vehicles to take them to their destinations for road shows.