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Art-Pacific (Carolyn Leigh - Ron Perry): Guide to Artifacts

Lontar Boxes from the Sasak communities of Lombok Island, Indonesia

[Lontar box: 16k]

The lontar or palmyra palm is the tree of life on the mountainous, arid islands of Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara Province. Sasak communities on Lombok Island use for the lontar palm for making decorated household storage boxes.

Figure 1: Traditional lontar box used for household storage

Lontar boxes are made of light wood, bark and split bamboo with the lontar leaves and nassa shells added to the exterior for decoration. Dried palm leaves are strong and flexible with a natural pale yellow surface.

Craftspeople dye them in bold blacks, browns, purples, reds and dark greens and more recently with variegated patterns. These are cut and glued to the surface of the boxes in lively geometric patterns accented with stitched lines of white shells. The boxes are very light and easy to move around, yet they are strong enough to stand on.

They are often made in nested, matched sets which can be stacked in colorful pyramids or rows in the house. The traditional dowry for a bride consists of many hand-loomed textiles. These are stored and carried in the wedding ceremony in lontar boxes.

Different families and villages may specialize in different stagesof making lontar boxes. In central and east Lombok they are a cottage industry. Lontar boxes are a good example of a craft which continues to evolve and change while still retaining its original uses in the Sasak communities of Lombok.

The Sasaks have many other uses for the lontar palm: the juice of this hairy, black trunked palm with a fan of leaves at the top to make a nutritious palm sugar for both themselves and their animals. Local vendors sell a homemade palm wine in the lanes of the villages and towns. The smooth, waxy leaves are used for rain capes, folded into simple containers or dried and made into a papyrus-like writing paper. The Sasak communities are Islamic or Wektu Telu, a form of Islam combined with the earlier Hindu and Buddhist influences and many of these sacred teachings are recorded in lontar palm books.

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Melanesian art TOC | Map of art areas of Melanesia
Papua New Guinea: Highlands: body art - Bundi tapa - jewelry/dancers | Karawari and Blackwater Rivers: masks - carvings - map | Massim: artifacts- Trobriand Kula - map | Kula canoe | New Britain: Baining - Sulka - Tolai dukduk | New Ireland: Malagan | Ramu River: masks - carvings - map | Sepik River: masks - carvings - villages - map | Papuan Gulf: masks - carvings - map - Gogodala - Kukukuku
other areas: Asmat | Solomon Islands: crafts - jewelry - map
art and craft:
barkcloth (tapa) | body art | cane and fiber figures | canoes and prows | jewelry/dancers | masks - Middle Sepik | phallocrypts | pottery - Chambri | shields | story boards | suspension hooks | weapons | yam masks - fiber | yam masks - wood

Indonesian art TOC | Dyak baby carriers and masks | furniture | Java folk art | Lombok baskets | Lombok lontar boxes | masks from Bali and Java | puppets

China: Bai textiles/art TOC | baby carriers | baby hats | woodblock prints

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Artifacts on this site were collected in the field by my husband, Ron Perry. I take the photographs, do the html, text and maps. Background in Who We Are. Art-Pacific has been on the WWW since 1996. We hope you enjoy our New Guinea tribal art and Indonesian folk art as much as we do. by Carolyn Leigh is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0