blog

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 A sanctuary for mythical dialogues through wearable memories, infographics and historical references.

 
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.


(July 2021)


 

 

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.

 


(June 2021)

 
Tiger Stamp
 
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.

(April 2021)

 
False Eyes

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’.


(March 2021)


 

Memorabilia: Coin

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. 

(March 2021)

Caterpillar

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

(December 2020)

Vanishing Macan

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.

(December 2020)

Island Tigers

The Indonesian Islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali were once home to distinct tigers. These subspecies evolved differently from other tigers due to the unique and isolated habitat of each place. The narrower stripes of these island tigers provide the perfect camouflage to mimic light reflections on the forest floor. While their smaller bodies allow agility when moving through dense jungles and fast-changing terrains.

(November 2020)

Tiger Subspecies of the World


The science of classifying species into distinctive groups (taxonomy) is a questionable process. At times, differences between tigers tend to be marginal, while later on considered significantly unique.

Taxonomy is a human construct, rooted in colonial history, used to systematise and (ultimately) control nature. But figures and facts cannot fully account for the mythical and dynamic aspects of nature. In 2015, National Geographic reviewed that the extinct Caspian tiger became too closely related to Siberian tigers. Were previous examinations inaccurate or did these tigers evolve towards each other? Can one subspecies live on in another? Is “extinct” forever?

Note: the Caspian, Javan and Balinese tiger are currently labelled as extinct. Others are on the verge of extinction.

(November 2020)

Jawa Tee / Virtual Forester

A modest ode to a mythical island. Visualising Java’s natural contours of volcanic craters and mountainous forests. Worn by our virtual forester, the guide to mountain myths.

(September 2020)

Jawa's Natural Surface

Instead of frequently seen maps of streets and cities, this topographical map visualises some of Java’s natural contours — from volcanic craters to forested cliffs. What mythical species are taking shelter at the crooks and crannies of this island?

(September 2020)

Violet Macan

As the Javan tiger got lost out of sight, how does clothing continue to embody its mythical presence?  Macan Mountain’s first chapter introduces its namesake inhabitant: the mythical Macan. Traces of the tiger are translated into illustrations on garments, turning them into wearable memories of Javanese myths.

Photographer: Patrick Ravoo

Models: Giulia and Sanno

(July 2020)

The Introduction

Macan Mountain is a place haunted by afterimages of mythical creatures. Among them is the Javan tiger, also known as Harimau Jawa or Macan (pronounced as ma-chan).

The Macan got lost out of sight in 1976 after humans forced them to flee to mountainous forests, where it vanished into extinction. Until recently, when reports and rumours suggested a potential resurrection. Did the Javan tiger reappear? Or does tiger media merely reflect the haunting presence of species pushed to extinction?

Macan Mountain's first chapter introduces its namesake inhabitant through illustrations on garments. Creating wearable memories of Javanese myths.

(July 2020)