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Jakarta Post

Recalling childhood memories of Doel Wahab

Wed, January 29, 2020   /   11:24 am
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    Finished products: A woman passes between two barongsai lion heads hung by Doel in front of his workshop. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Roomful of memories: Martinus Doel Wahab, 87, opens his front door. Inside his house, there are many photos and documentation of when he was still active as a pencak silat practitioner and barongsai dancer in Isaku Iki, the barongsai group he formed. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Curiosity: A passing boy watches the process of making barongsai equipment inside Doel’s workshop. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Work in process: Doel puts out barongsai lion heads to be dried in the sun. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Going places: A Hungarian visa stamp is seen on Doel’s old passport. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

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    Devotion: Doel prepares drink, food and medicine for his sick wife, Yustina Sumarni, 80. JP/Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

Anggertimur Lanang Tinarbuko

Martinus Doel Wahab is nearly 90 years old but the old man is still doing the one thing he has loved to do since his childhood days and that is crafting barongsai (lion dance) equipment.

In Doel’s workshop two yellow barongsai lion heads hang neatly and once in a while the wind moves them.

Doel Wahab combines his creativity with a collection of childhood memories to produce barongsai equipment from cardboard and used paper. The barongsai has been a large part of his life since his childhood.

From the age of seven Doel befriended many Chinese-Indonesians. He also watched and joined barongsai troupes around his home in the Kemetiran area, Yogyakarta.

The barongsai was not the only art form that Doel took an interest in as a young man. He joined various art groups before finally choosing pencak silat martial arts as his main way of life.

The choice was not wrong. In 1957, Doel became an Indonesian cultural ambassador to Eastern Europe and for three-and-a-half months he traveled to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, Hungary and Egypt to promote pencak silat.

Nevertheless, Doel still maintained his love of barongsai. He then established a barongsai group in Yogyakarta. The group was named Isaku Iki, which sounds like it is Mandarin, but it is in fact Javanese, meaning “this is what I can do”.

Given his age, Doel Wahab has retired, and the group is now led by his daughter and her husband.

These days, Doel is the go-to guy if people want to purchase barongsai equipment to celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year, known locally as Imlek.

He sells a mini barongsai for Rp 100,000 (US$7.35), which requires one week to make. He also supports himself and his wife by selling various household needs from his stall, which is located not far from Pasar Senen, Gedongtengen, Yogyakarta.