Indigenous Sasak people had few cupboards in their village houses, instead they created baskets of all kinds. Many varieties are still made on Lombok today. There are baskets to store clothing and trinkets, plaited ones for everyday purposes such as coffee picking, as well as finely woven ones for ceremonies and gifts.
Extended family workshops produce baskets for sale in the island markets. Rattan (rotan), a wild palm vine, is often used for its durability. The tough, inner core of the vine is coiled to form the main superstructure, while the outer skin is peeled off in fine, flexible strips for weaving the coils of the basket together.
Men cut the ends to a sharp point, use a small awl to pierce the previous coil of the basket, then push the fiber through and draw it around the coil. Other types of baskets are constructed of stained split bamboo and bark. Sizes range from small, rounded baskets with lids to sets of larger, nested ones that can be stacked for display.
Many of the carved figures on the lids are the same as the ones used on the handles of traditional betel nut crushers. All kinds of animals, birds, fish and reptiles are carved; for example, the lizard represents agricultural fertility and the rooster symbolizes the renewal of life at dawn. Some of the ribald, humorous figures are from folktales.
Lombok carvers have a distinct, sinuous style. One animal merges into another or contains features from another creature. Human figures crouch like frogs. Monkeys play gongs and drums. A good carver can hold a block of wood with his feet and rough out a recognizable shape with his chisel and mallet in half an hour.
Lombok baskets are exceptional examples of an artistic and utilitarian tradition combined into an evolving, dynamic craft.
(right) Decorative, coiled basket with seed beads
Bowls are also used as ceremonial offering bowls. Some have lids and some don't. The foot is often much higher and the whole effect is more pedestal-like. They may be plain, painted or inlaid with geometric shell designs. Large, flat platters in the same styles are also produced.
More photographs and information on Lombok Island baskets and bowls
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