An ode to the Javan tiger and its cross-cultural narratives. Visual guidance to the flora and fauna of the mountain. A sanctuary for mythical dialogues through wearable memories, infographics and historical references.
What to learn from Sundanese cosmology and its readings of the mountain? The images above display Tangkuban Parahu. This active stratovolcano is located near the city of Lembang in West Java. The volcano last erupted on July 26, 2019. Before that, it erupted in 1983.
In the Sundanese dictionary by Jonathan Rigg, the English lexicographer quoted a Sundanese expression: "beunang autumnu ka gunung, beunang tatanya ka Guriang". This quote refers to the process of studying the mountain and asking Guriang for permission. Guriang is believed to be a gentleman, a demon, and a mountain spirit. This expression, according to Sundanese journalist Hawe Setiawan, shows that for the old Sundanese people, mountains and Guriang are sources of knowledge, wisdom, goodness, and beauty. “The old Sundanese people respected mountains and forests through mythological means, such as folklore and rhymes, ceremonies, and pamali,” he added.
After 36 years of silence and a swift decline of natural ecosystems, the volcano erupted again in 2019. As a warning to humanity, the volcano tries to re-ignite respect for nature and its cosmological importance.
Jonathan Rigg, A Dictionary of the Sunda Language of Java, 1862
Hawe Setiawan, Sunda: Interpretation of Junghuhn's Illustrations, 2019
Irfan Teguh, Letusan Tangkuban Parahu dan Mitos Gunung dalam Kosmologi Sunda, 2019
Gunungan (“Mountain” in Javanese) Research
The Gunungan symbolises the cosmos, the beginning and the end of everything. It is placed in the centre of the Wayang Kulit screen to begin and end shows, mark scene transitions, sanctuaries, natural elements and extreme events.
This mountain figure often displays a tiger and wild ox facing each other. The tiger symbolises power. The wild ox symbolises justice, as it is strong, brave and persistent. This face-off suggests that power should face justice, like a courageous ox fighting against a predatory tiger.
The bottom centre commonly features a door to illustrate the path between the human world and the mythical world of deities and spirits. The Gunungan is the border between both worlds — akin to Macan Mountain explorations.
The last slide shows the other side of the mountain: a destructive volcano that spews out flames and fire. The volcano watches over humans and their behaviour. Rare animals and mythical creatures are the guardian spirits of the volcano.
Sun Ra – On Mythocracies
Sun Ra motivates us to rethink our reality through myths, to imagine Macan Mountain as a place in space where vanished species roam free again, a sanctuary for harmonious interactions between nature and culture.
Video excerpts: Space is the Place (Sun Ra, 1974)
Audio: Sun Ra – A Joyful Noise (Robert Mugge, 1980)
(June 2021, personal archive)
Lilac Dyed Jawa Tee
Continuing our modest ode to a mythical island, we’ve dipped our beloved Jawa tee in a palette of purple dye. Explore the natural tones, washed-out hues and subtle speckles of this wearable memory. Learn how to read contour lines of Jawa's topographical map.
A hand-carved stone seal from our personal archives, received as a gift 25 years ago (China, 1996). This carved creature is a rare depiction of a Chinese zodiac tiger sitting upright. We use this stamp to seal the ends of our paracord weaved zippers on our mountain bags.
(May 2021, personal archive)
Macan Creatures in Wayang (Between 1900-2004)
Wayang theatre has a special place in Javanese culture. Shadow puppet performances evolve through time by juxtaposing ancient epics with contemporary societal concerns. Wayang performances date back to at least 930 A.D. but were likely part of communal life many generations before that date.
The tiger is a supporting actor within the frequently performed epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Tigers in Wayang are sentient beings and regarded as guardians of the forest. As visualised in this series the appearance of these mythical creatures vary widely — from white tigers to half-human creatures.
(May 2021, source: Tropenmuseum and Andreas Siagian)
Memorabilia: Postage Stamps
The collection of images above function as symbolic references for our Memorabilia series. How can historical memorabilia (such as coins and stamps) reimagine and re-evaluate flora and fauna taken for granted today? The Postage Stamp hoodie is our interpretation of historical postage stamps that circulate symbolic representations of endangered species.
Tigers have distinctive white circular spots on the backside of their ears. Supposedly these 'eye spots' or 'predator spots' discourage predators from attacking tigers from behind, making it seem like the tiger is larger and looking at the predator. The markings also help cubs keep a close eye on each other and their mother. Eye spots are also common among insects, especially butterflies, and known as ‘ocelli’.
Our next wearable memory questions ‘memorabilia’, which are objects that represent memorable phenomena. How can an object embody the presence of the vanished Javan tiger? And how do symbolic values of rare species often intertwine with monetary values? Creating objects that symbolise memorable flora and fauna helps to spread awareness, whilst the rarity and collectibility of such memorabilia transform them into forms of value. Memorabilia expose two sides of the same coin.
COIN sweater interprets a rupiah coin from Indonesia featuring a Javan tiger. This unique coin was launched around 1974 by the World Wildlife Fund to raise awareness for endangered species. We digitally translated this historical memorabilia to reimagine and re-evaluate flora and fauna taken for granted today.
Closer to nature, the caterpillar sweater arises from the other-worldly textures of flora and fauna — from forest floors covered with moss to fuzzy tiger manes. The so-called 'caterpillar' technique decorates this sweater with a rare plush embroidery, consisting of fuzzy white loops. By embroidering these two words on a garment, we aim to materialise the mythical place we hold dear: Macan Mountain.
On 35 mm, 120 mm and diafilm, shot by: Joost Bremmers
Model: Niels Reinders
Once, Macan roamed carefree on the island of Java. Their natural habitat spanned the area’s entire length, thriving on the Western shores and forests of Ujong Kulon up to Gunung Raung’s volcanically-sculpted surfaces in the East. Human encroachment and poaching quickly destructed Macan’s ability to move freely. As a last resort, the Striped One vanished into the remote and rugged mountains of Meru Betiri. Rumour has it that this subspecies has been spotted again several times. Where and when these tiger encounters took place (perhaps, luckily) remains a mystery.