Bandit Island (Holt, 1936)

From sources mentioned below, it is clear that Claire Holt "(1901-1970) was multitalented, interested in both sculpture and dance, and she had also done some archaeology on Java and Bali."

holt dancer nias1938Image left: Claire Holt with dancer on Nias (1938?)

As far as the author Godi Dijkman is aware, no biography on her life is available. "Holt's first exposure to Indonesia, in 1930, left her with an overwhelming and enduring impression of a complete integration of art in the spiritual and the daily lives of its people. It was this persuasive interplay that held Holt there for ten years, brought her back twice, and kept her researching, advising, teaching, and writing about Indonesia for the remainder of her life. In the 1930s she formally studied Javanese dance at the Krida Beksa Wirama in Surakarta, and she also assisted Rolf de Maré in preserving on film the dance of Java, Bali, Sulawesi, Nias and Sumatra. She was a devoted friend of Mangkunagaran VII of Surakarta and welcome at his court. The result was first-hand experience observing and considering Indonesian dance, the production of visual and written records of the dance, and the gathering of additional source materials from colleagues and the Mangkunagaran archive". She's the author of a seminal body of work called Art in Indonesia: Continuities and Change (1967).

Below article is a lively description of a trip Claire made to Nusa Penida in 1935 - a probable date as the article was first published in 1936 - accompanied by Walter Spies and Jane Belo. The article is quoted in its full length to do justice to her talent. Square brackets indicate additional information by the author Godi Dijkman - as are the headings, in modern English/Indonesian/Balinese spelling - either because footnotes by Claire Holt are introduced in the text, or because certain words needed explanation. Spelling of English, Indonesian and Balinese words is according to the original article.

A Short Exploration Trip to Noesa Penida

From the south-eastern coast of Bali one may sight on a clear day, almost within reach, the greenish-violet mass of another island. It has no sharp peaks of high mountains, no spectacular curves in its formation. Just an evenly rising mass with fairly steep slopes toward the sea. One is told that this is Noesa Penida... and very little more.

It is natural that one should be curious about so close a neighbour of Bali. Looking up books, however, does not prove very helpful. Information about this island and its inhabitants seems very scanty indeed and among the known facts one finds the following: that originally the island's name was simply "Noesa", which is to be translated as 'the island"; that "Penida", later attached to it, means pamor - the white metheorite metal worked into krisses; that on early Dutch maps appeared under the name "Noesa Pandita" (pandita - wizard, recluse) and, finally, the English sea-fearers chose to designate it as "Bandit Island". This last name, aside from its phonetic relationship with "pandita", had its justification in the evil reputation of the island, for it was the place of banishment for all criminals and undesirable subjects in the kingdom of Kloengkoeng to which it belonged. Thus a small Siberia of Bali!

holt djawa coverAll these and similar questions, which could find no ready answer anywhere, prompted our small expedition. There were three of us [Jane Belo, W.Spies and the author] and our interests were divided: our "arts-and-crafts department" was mainly interested in the architecture and sculpture of the temples and also wanted to make special inquiries about the local weavings. Family customs were the chief interest of the other member of our party. And I myself was most anxious to see some dances of Noesa Penida as compared to those in Bali and Java.

By proa to Lembongan

So on a beautiful quiet morning, just before the rays of the sun burst into the drowsy skies, our two "djoekoengs", shaped like big narrow lightblue fish with upraised tails, and resting on the outriggers as on wings, were pushed off the shore at Koesamba, a small mohammedan settlement at the south-eastern coast of Bali. On the shore stood like little toys rows of grey square houslets which are in some way connected with the production of salt. As our djoekoengs were struggling away from shore, jerkily brought forward by the round paddles of their owners, the violet top of Goenoeng Agoeng appeared very high up above the clouds, as if benevolently surveying our departure. And below, on the shore, the rows of the tiny uniform grey houses seemed to be marching off in humble discipline. And then the sails were hoisted and we turned to Noesa Penida, our boatmen silently praying for favorable winds, which would save them all the rowing.

With favorable winds one could sail across to Lembongan, an oblong small island near the "noesa besar" (big island), in about four hours. Having to struggle with currents and adverse breezes however, we spent six hours in the djoekoeng before we could set foot on the beach at the village Djoengoetbatoe. There is another, still smaller, island, Tjeningan, between Lembongan and Noesa Penida and its legendary origin is an overturned prahoe.


There was once a man from Java who came to Bali in a prahoe, the legend relates. On his way back the Goenoeng Agoeng obstructed his way. So he ran against the mountain of the gods wanting to split it, with the unexpectedly natural result that his prahoe overturned and was thrown aside to the place where Tjeningan lies now, this name being derived from the name of the overbearing man from Java. The anchor of the ill-fated prahoe is still seen in the big rock across the straits near the coast of Bali. A scientific and philological explanation of Tjeningan would simply be 'Little island" and very little the island is indeed. After all these digressions let me say that we wanted to walk through Lembongan and Tjeningan first before entering Noesa Penida proper. What a different atmosphere from Bali! One senses it the moment one sets foot on Lembongan. In the first place the desa Djoengoetbatoe itself has an original appearance all its own with everything speaking about the sea. Wherever possible shaggy sea-stones are used for construction. The enclosures of the houses and the main streets are lines with low walls made these porous and irregular grey stones. In some of the yards, filled with the heavy odour of drying fish, lie extraordinarily large sea-shells. We were puzzled by quantities of oblong, flat snow-white bits of something hung in the yards on lines and obviously drying in the sun. They were slices of katella [singkong - cassava?] later to be stamped into flour, which, together with djagoeng [corn], constitutes the main food of the population, here as well as on Noesa.

holt jangkang

At the southern end of the main street the way leading across the island starts upwards in wide steps, almost in little terraces, hewn into the slope of the stony hill. The vegetation is that of a land poor with water. Big cactuses, low trees, sudden patches of green, small flowers. On the whole something as one would imagine Palestine to be or perhaps some rocky part of Spain. No abundance of little streams and pantjoerans [fountains] as in Bali. The villages, if fortunate, have deep wells, and if very fortunate, of sweet water, and near the well is the bath, which has as water vessel a large rectangular stone, hollowed out like a sarcophagus without cover and placed on the wall of the enclosure surrounding the bath. But for us these enclosures were by no means and assurance of privacy during our trip - they served as marvellous observation points for all children, of the various desas where we stopped, as might easily be imagined.

Leaving Djoengoetbatoe we came across a strange effigy put up near the entrance of the temple of the death-goddess, the Poera Dalem. It was a flat long figure cut out of the spine of a palmleaf, without arms or legs, and only with a round disk at the top on which human features were drawn by chalk. Little matted bags of withered palm-leaf (ketipats) were suspended at each side of the effigy and a multitude of offerings scattered nearby. This was something to be investigated and proved of special interest to our "family department". We were told that this effigy was a "tjemplongan" which is customarily put in front of the Poera Dalem when a newborn child reaches the age of one month and seven days. There is a similar custom in Bali, only there the shape of the effigy, its name, the placement and its point of time are different. As far as I know it is put near a river or at cross-roads, but this matter concerned our "family experts".

It does not take more than forty five minutes, perhaps, to cross the whole island of Lembongan. We lingered however on its highest ridge before descending to the south coast. Here, magnificently situated, lies the Poera Poeseh (temple of the ancestors) of the desa Lembongan. Standing at its gate one can overlook the sea from both sides, Bali appearing at the north-side and Noesa Penida to the south, preceded by little Tjeningan bathed in the brightest of blue-green edged by the snow-white of breakers.

The first gate of the Poera Poeseh Lembongan appeared of unexpectedly solid and beautiful architecture. Its crown-shaped top is flanked by four melon-shaped pieces which together are somehow reminiscent of the Prambanan temple in Java. In the niches of the gate, however, are several humorous looking figures of birds, apes and squatting men, the latter very similar to the figures on the gate of the former palace in Kloengkoeng.

As we found later Kloengkoeng is in general the centre of culture and fashion for Noesa Penida and its little brothers. A sort of Paris. Often would we hear a man say with pride: this comes form Kloengkoeng", or, "it was told to us by a man from Kloengkoeng". Everything is relative indeed. What an important bright place Kloengkoeng becomes when one is on Noesa Penida and what an immense country Bali!
Crossing to Ceningan

Had the tide been in low we could have walked over to the "little island". This not being the case a small djoekoeng brought us over to Tjeningan at Poera Bakoeng where a temple feast was in full swing. A cock fight was being held. There were offerings put up in the inner temple court not unlike those of Bali, but far poorer and smaller.

Our pitching the tents under the palms near the beach, proved an additional great diversion for the people who gathered to the temple feast. Somebody remarked that is would have been still better if we would have brought along a "wayang koeda" - a circus!

With the tide receding before sunset we wandered out to the coral reefs between the two small islands. In the transparent luminous pools left by the sea glimmered fantastic miniature landscapes of lightly agitated plants nestling in the multicolored coral rocks. More exquisite than the miniature Japanese rock-gardens and animated by small and large inhabitants of the Southern seas of the most varied shaped and colors. Here were crabs, and jelly-like heavy breathing creatures, and parasites like gay moss, and flower-like half-animals half-plants instantly vanishing into the sand at the slightest touch. Each pool a little world of wonders. And all over on the rocks and in the water were scattered the most originally decorated starfish - each a model in design and color combination for a juweler or fashion designer. There were mauve-colored stars with salmon-red protruding round points set like semi-precious stones; of beautifully shaded grey ones studded with lazuli-blue buttons; softly glowing starts of burnt sienna as if covered by a lizard skin, or of an even cobald blue. Within a few minutes we could build a one meter high pagoda out of the stars putting them one on top of the other.

As the evening fell we returned to our camp. The people gathered around our lamps and we sat there quietly chatting and transacting the necessary business. Throughout our voyage we could always find somebody speaking Malay, otherwise the Noesa language differs but lightly from that of Bali. While purchasing food we found that silver money was a source of great confusion and inconvenience, and here our "kepeng-period" began - from now on we were carrying along the heavy strings of kepengs, the Chinese pierced coins with the value of about one seventh of a cent on Noesa, and we transacted business in hundreds and thousands.

From the people we learned that there was no "triwangsa" on either of these islands thus no castes of brahmasa's, ksatira's, and weisha's, but that , nevertheless, just as in Bali, they burn their dead; that for important occasions a pedanda has to come over form Bali, there not being a single such Hinduistic priest either in Noesa Penida nor on any of the smaller islands.

Off to Nusa Gede

It was only the second morning of our voyage and already it seemed a long, long time since we left Bali. Now we were to start for Noesa Penida proper.

Embarkation on an ocean liner is child's play in comparison with a voyage in a djangolan - a large prahoe with a steeply sloping roof over its bunk, which is the regular passenger ship between the islands. The djangolan was booked to capacity. Men, women and children filled the bunk and crouched on the roof. We were also assigned "seats" on the roof, where after much sliding and battling with the ever menacing sail-boom, we found it at last most comfortable to sit astride on the ridge. This was real sea-faring! What excitement every time the wind became capricious and the sail had to be turned. How we shot across the waves only to stop again after a while with listlessly hanging sails, the rowers swearing under their breath. And when we finally arrived, Toja Pakeh was the name of the "port", all our numerous belongings, tents, cameras, provision baskets and empty gasoline-tins (fore water - we were warned!) and even ourselves had to be carried ashore held up high amid the breaking waves. It was a jolly sporting affair with much splashing and laughter till everything was assembled on the beach under the scorching sun. And we were parked.

It is easier to climb the Merbaboe, I suppose, than to persuade a Noesa-penidian to oblige you and to become temporarily a coolie even for fair pay. In Toja Pakeh it took us about four hours to hire five men willing to carry our luggage to Poera Ped, which lies in about one and a half hours walking distance and is one of the most important temples on the coast.

Most of the inhabitants of Toja Pakeh are Mohammedans, but in this respect the desa seemed to be an exception. Wherever we passed later we found no traces of Islam. The stately "perbekel" (desa head) in Arab turban was obliging enough to forward our message with a request for horses to Sampalan, the next large settlement on the coast whereto we were heading.

Cockatoos at Pura Ped

A smooth intimately pleasant avenue along the beach, lined intermittently by low roundish trees like the small oaks of California, cactuses and wild bushes, such was the way leading to Poera Ped. "What I would like to see", said one of us "is a tree full of white cockatoos"! And this was truly like magic. We were approaching the high branching masses of ancient trees usually found at holy sites, and there suddenly a swarm of white cockatoos started up from a magnificent old waringin and we could hear their shrill calls and chatterings till sunset when we had already set up our tents near the temple.

The cockatoo question is most puzzling. Why should multitudes of them swarm about Noesa Penida and not one live in Bali which is so near? A native tried to explain this by relating that once upon a time the cockatoos misbehaved most terribly in Bali, stealing and plundering, and therefore they were... banished to Noesa Penida! Bandit island, of course! We got a flavour of it too when the next morning a man with a pock-marked face presented himself as a coolie and cheerfully announced that he had been in jail in Tabanan for the murder of a woman. Why did he kill her? Oh, he believed she was a léak, a witch.

As for Poera Ped itself: aside from being a very beautiful complex in layout, it has an interesting addition very rarely found in Bali. It is the so-called "taman" (garden) which is a quadrangular pond in the midst of which a small shrine is installed like on a miniature island. A narrow bamboo bridge connects it with the grounds. With the exception of Batukaoeh we have never seen such as "taman" as part of a temple complex in Bali, though a shrine or even a larger structure, like a "balé kambang", surrounded by a quadrangular water basin is not uncommon there and may be found a.o. in Kloengkoeng, in Oeboed and in the poeri's (palaces)of Kesiman and Gianjar. Later we saw on Noesa another, even larger, taman also as part of a poera, namely that of Batoe Medaoe near Swana.

The klian [elder, headman, village/banjar chief} of the nearest desa was very kind and helpful and promised us coolies for the next morning. We would also send us a man who could sell us some eggs. Just about midnight, when we were deep in slumbers after a strenuous day, we were aroused by voices. The eggs had arrived!


It was a great joy and surprise to find that horses had actually come from Sampalan the next morning. So, again along the same pleasant avenue, off we went, the coolies trotting much faster than our little horses.

Sampalan is the big capital of Noesa Penida. One may even find there such a luxurious institution as a Chinese toko - the second and last one we saw on the island. Again a trial of patience and diplomacy. If two horse-owners agree to rent out their horses for fifty cents a day for the rest of our trip, why should the third insist on three guilders a day? We needed his horse. But three guilders a day... We sat on the porch of the school arguing with the man for hours. Our arguments were most ingenious, the question was approached, illuminated and discussed from every conceivable angle. The afternoon advanced.

We had a long trip ahead. The man kept playing with a knife belonging to our camping outfit. When we were ready to give up, exhausted by his incomprehensible obstinacy, he suddenly said: "Allright, you may have my horse for the rest of your trip free of charge, if you give me this knife". He wanted it for cock-spurs. The bargain was quickly closed. And with the setting sun we rode off to Swana.

From Sampalan to Swana

I do not know what the road from Sampalan to Swana looks like during the day time. It was incredibly beautiful in twilight and at night with only the stars illuminating the sky. Gradually rising, the way wound itself in deep curves higher and higher above the beach. Every time we came out of the darkness at the inner curve of the road, where the horses could just feel the their way, there was the magnificent expanse of the sea viewed from high above. As the evening advanced, bright moving flames, sometimes blinding the horses, flared up below in the water near the beach. These were torches of fishermen catching octopuses which are a delicacy much sought for. In the distance the flames of the torches gathered in rows and looked like lights of a big city. Very soon they all vanished and there was only the sky with blinking stars.

Late in the evening we arrived in Swana and now, by the light of the moon, we could distinguish a tremendous old waringin in the central square of the village, a kind of aloon-aloon, and around the base of its huge stem a square stone terrace for the people to sit on, like the one we have already noticed to the desa Lembongan. On the side toward the sea was a well and the baths with two "sarcophague"-pantjoerans; on the opposite side the balé-bandjar; to the right the desa school and to the left houses. We spent the third and fourth nights of our trip under the hospitable shade of the giant tree in the middle of Swana, for during the whole day between them there were many interesting things to be seen.

Goa Giri Putri

About one kilometer north of Swana there lies a tremendous cave, the Goa Karangsari [Goa Giri Putri]. Walter Spies descended into it through a small, trap-like opening and found himself in complete darkness. Walking downwards through a narrow passage he suddenly came into a larger cave and from there into still another one, till, finally, there were large vaulted halls with stalaktites hanging down and all the hollow uncanniness of deep caves. This seemed to be a hollow mountain. After a fair amount of wandering about the man accompanying Spies told him to stop. He was to go no further. Before them lay a small pool of brilliantly transparent water. "This is the bath of the dedari's" declared the guide (his name, by the way, was Kitjig, and a preciously helpful soul Kitjig proved afterwards!) So beyond the bath of the heavenly nymphs on one should pass.

It must be as peculiarly fascinating spectacle - the celebration held by the people of Swana at their "galoengan" feast in the Gora Karangsari. They enter there with torches and at the light of their flames offerings are brought and dances performed under the trembling shadows of the stalactites.

Cambodja tree

Our precious guide Kitjig brought us to two temples a short distance south of Swana. In the first, Poera Batoe Medaoe, containing two stately high meroes, we found a confirmation that the plain rectangular stone terrace, we have already seen previously in poeras, is not an accident but a typical construction in the temples of Noesa Penida. It is obviously an altar approximately ranging from three to five meters in length and two to four in width and with an elevation of about one meter from the ground. It looks like a simple base for a balé or a foundation of some other structure, has no roof, and offers a plain large surface for offerings. Another characteristic feature was the crown of the gate shaped like a flattened pedanda hat with an open small niche going through its middle. In Poera Batu Medaoe we also found two stone ancestor figures with rather long faces and of much finer work than the two withered small stone images we had previously seen in Lembongan. This long-faced stone couple was rather reminiscent of the Hinduistic figures on Goenoeng Panoelisan in Bali. There was also a large "taman" surrounded by glorious cambodja trees, whose miraculous branches , some fallen to the ground and just lying there as if doomed to waste away, continue to bring forth fresh flowers - the smooth ivory-colored "kembang djepoeng" with dazzling sweet smell. These solid simple blossoms play such an important role in all the rites of the people - one always finds these trees on cemeteries and in temples, and their blossoms tremble in the crowns of the dancers, arise heavenwards in the flower-ornaments crowning the offerings, and oftentimes they are dipped into holy water by officiating priests and then thrown through space by their nimble fingers plying themselves into the mysterious mudra's


Everybody knows, or can easily imagine, what a torturing thing thirst can be and this on a tropical midday near a sun-scorched beach. The only well of Swana furnished water richly slated. Therefore our morning coffee had been slated far beyond the limits prescribed by coffee-connoisseurs. No wonder then that while resting in the shade of a balé at Poera Batoe Koening, the next temple along the beach, and while delighting in the sight of the bright sea playing beneath its walls, we were also dreaming of ice-cooled drinks or at least of young sweet coconuts. There wasn't a soul in sight however who could have possibly provided even the more reasonable of the two blessings, the klapa's. But then Kitjig burst into cries of joy - a man was coming along the beach with two long bamboo-containers suspended from his shoulders - there was drink, drink, drink - even though it was toewak (palm-wine)!

Ill-fated twins

Kitjig was very communicative and so full of initiative and explosive outbursts of temperament that it was tremendously refreshing after our contact with so many phlegmatic tida-bisa-taoe-maoe-Noesapenidians. So we had to learn that for his wife he had paid 30.000 kepengs, which was a little more than the average price for a nice girl; that in matters of wooing difficulties goena-goena methods are usually applied, with lovepotions and quick-forget-medicines furnished by the balian (medicin-men), who, by the way, are all men on Noesa. We also had to discuss the "twin-problem". This lay within the special scope of interest of our "family-expert" who already in Bali had investigated many of the curious customs following the birth of twins in a village [A Study of customs pertaining to twins in Bali, by Jane Belo, 1935]. It is a big calamity indeed when twins of different sexes are born. In fact, before we left Bali, messengers had come to Oeboed from the desa Troenjan in the Batoer mountains with a warning that the next big feast, for which preparations were already being made, and which we had intended to witness, would not take place because a woman of Troenjan had the ill-luck to give birth to twins of both sexes. Poor mother of such twins! We visited such a mother in the heart of Noesa Penida... but this is another story.

It is the fifth day of our trip and we feel that only now we shall at last go to the real Noesa Penida, to the villages in the mountains.

Turning inland to Djoekoetan

Kitjig having attached himself to our retinue, and another horse with the indispensible "horse-man" hired as a valuable addition, and a double set of coolies - this time eight of them turned up instead of four, none of whom we could dismiss without injury to our reputation - our small caravan bids good bye to the sea and turns inland. Yet, the further we advance, steadily rising, all the broader and more magnificent becomes the outlook on the sea and for hours and hours yet we can contemplate it from the plateau above and even get a view of Lombok in the distance.

The way is stony and hard on the feet of the walking men. Everywhere, up to the highest plkaces, which are only about five to six hundred meters above sea level, one finds the coral rocks and the shaggy stones eaten out by the water. Sometimes one even finds sea-shells in the hills, which makes us wonder how short or long a time ago this island arose from the waters.

And now the country. No sawah's to be sighted anywhere. Only dry fields with young sprouts of djagoeng in curving terraces along the slopes of the round hills. There are few coconut palms and only here and there a small grove of slender pinangs arises in a corner of a valley. Along the road we are greeted by bright dark blue small butterfly-shaped flowers nestling near the ground, flaming bushes of small velvet red and orange blossoms, the gay plant said to have been introduced to the Indies by Marquis de Serrière; also tall blueish-white stiff flowers that look like giant-hiacynths made of porcelain and from which, I am told, belladonna is got. Before we know it, we have reached the first mountain-village, Djoekoetan.


As we enter one of the grey compounds with low stone walls, which seem to run around and between the courtyards like a labyrinth-puzzle, what a joy for our companion seeking information about the craft of weaving, to find two women at work at their looms. In fact we found that nearly every house had a loom or two, for the women of Noesa Penida all weave their own "tapihs" - gay multicolored striped cloths which they wear beneath the dark-blue or black upper kain {cloth], so that only a small piece of the striped "tapih" shows near the feet. Black and blue were also the short kains worn by the men. There was none of the suspicious reserve which one encounters in Madoera for instance. Long explanations, interrupted by many interjections from the gathered crowd and by violent disputes between the spokesmen and some older female-expert of weaving, poured forth. It took a long time before the technical details of the looms, the enumerations of materials used and the colors were noted down, with the necessary sketches. Yes, leaves of the "taoem" for black and blue, roots of the "soenti" for the yellows... How beautifully deep are these colors gained by primitive methods, how hard and empty look beside them our aniline dyes!

We were permitted to visit their temple. poera Goenoeng Anjar, situated, like all poeras inland, on a hill. Only the horses had to be left behind. Here, apart from several guardians in crudely executed Balinese style, but with childishly thin flat and unexpressive limbs, we found in the inner court installed on an alter what was termed by my companion "a natural stone of unnatural shape". It was a fairy large porous sea-stone, absolutely untouched by carvers hand, yet by the whim of elements rendering the shape similar to the head of a horse or of some other long-jawed quadruped. What the people of Djoekoetan saw in it we could not ascertain. But we remembered now that in almost all the other temples we had visited heretofore such "natural stones with unnatural shapes" were installed, either on three corners of the large plain stone altar mentioned before, or on a base of a shrine. They would recall the shape of a bird or an animal or evoke in the imagination the forms of some fantastic being.

After Djoekoetan the road became much steeper and we had to entrust ourselves completely to the horses, who displayed an astonishing energy when it came to climbing, the wisest discrimination at dangerous descents, but who were exasperatingly disinterested and slow on an even smooth path. The landscape now displayed enormous amphitheaters composed of evenly curving semi-circular terraces of djagoeng fields descending into valleys. And some of the round hills were like terraces running around the slopes looked like formidable spiral sea-shells.

Just before sunset we arrived in Tanglad and there we discovered that the finest place to camp in a native village is the balé bandjar. There are no pigs bumping against your tent at night - the pigs of Noesa are enormous beasts - no lamenting babies carried out at night to forget their tears at the sight of strange visitors hidden behind the klamboe of their funny little houses. And there is the enormous advantage of the spacious balé's covered with fresh mats, where all the "barangs" can be conveniently unpacked and where meals can be held at ease with endless conversations. What lovely and sociable institution, and what a blessing is a balé per se in a country where there are no hotels, no rest-houses and not even warongs.

Baris Djangkang

One of our reasons for coming to Tanglad, which is a large village with solid stone houses and steep roofs picturesquely sprawling on the different levels of the hills, was the perspective of seeing the "baris djangkang". We had heard about this peculiarly interesting dance performed by the mewn of the desa Pelilit which lies near the coast south-east of Tanglad.

So in anticipation of the nest morning, which promised to be exceptionally strenuous, the way to Pelilit being so steep that the use of horses was out of the question, we indulged in a "babi goeling" feast, which costs us 750 kepengs and the preparations for which called for a multitude of "assistants". It was grand feast for ourselves and the boys and their assistants, a roasted pig probably seldom enjoying such appreciation. Following this we descended to a lower-situated part of the desa, banjar Djoelingan, and there, late in the evening, "gandroengs" (special boy-dancers) were showing us their art.


In the dark court of the balé bandjar with only one oil lam illuminating with reddish light a circle in the middle, two boys in tightly fitting with skirts, bright silk cloth around their hips and with green "hair" made of some fine grass streaming out of their head-dresses similar to the Balinese dance-crowns, danced side by side subtly moving their undulating bodies. Later they were gliding past each other, meeting and separating, and coming together again, all the while manipulating in one hand a flat object substituting a fan. Their formations were not unlike those of Western folk-dances, while their stately fine steps and inclinations of the body would be vaguely reminiscent of the Russian dance of the "boyaryshny", the young court-ladies entertaining their princesses in the gay wooden palaces of ancient Russia.

So very strange are the affinities of gestures! - One could discover the same spirit in the old Chinese dances performed by the inimitable May Lang Fang - yet little direct similarity is there between the dance movements of the great Chinese artist and the gandroengs of bandjar Djoelingan of the desa Tanglad in Noesa Penida.

The road to Pelilit certainly exceeded our expectations. When, having started out early the next morning, we finally arrived, after descending what might be called the wall of the hill closing off this little world, my knees and ankles shook like after the first skating party following several seasons' rest. But this and the breath-robbing ascent back again was worth while indeed

In about one hour's time the djangkang dancers were assembled. Most of them were old men, some of them of that marvellous dignity one finds among the elders of "primitive" tribes. Two or three out of the nine dancers were young. They started dressing, putting on first close fitting long pants with red and black striped and triangles not unlike those of the American Indians. Over the pants they wrapped a multicolored or white kain not quite reaching the knees and hanging down in long ends in front. Then a large wooden kriss was stuck into the belt. Covering the kriss again, and therefore protruding to the side, a bright piece of silk was put and tied over the breast. 'On the head they each tied a handkerchief in most individual fashion, but always so that the glistening black hair would be seen. Then they all took up long poles and accompanied by music, which was rather a rhythmical clatter of differently manipulated small gongs called there deng-deng, kempoel and petjoek, two small drums (kendangs) played on by sticks, and three "tjentjengs", which gave strongly syncopated accents, the dancers came on to the open place in front of the balé, spreading themselves evenly into rows of three.

They were to show us three different "djangkang" dances: the "goak" (crow), the tjelatik (rice-bird) and the "elo" (a word whose meaning they could not explain but which seems to be the same as the Javanese "ngigel" - prancing, as a peacock). And was there a story to these dancers? Oh, yes, there was a small story. All right, so what about the crow? The crows were stealing offerings - And then? Well, that's all. And how the tjelatiks? - The tjelatiks, oh, they are making "plesir-plesir sadja" (just enjoying themselves). The "elo" remained as mysterious as in the beginning.

During the dance the performers stayed on the places they had occupied in their original formation, keeping their symmetrical rows and lines of three. Only, having completed a certain dance-period, they would sometimes make a quarter-turn and dance facing in the new direction. It seemed to me that I could distinguish in their movements, especially when they could all crouch down with one arm outstretched, wing-like, and their heads moving obliquely from side to side bird-like, a stylized imitation of a bird's movement.

Yet there entered so much of manly grace combined with a peculiar softness, when they would gradually lower themselves, balancing in one hand the horizontally laying pole. Then again some attitudes would appear for a passing instant which made one think of the fat Pharaos holding their inclined staff in an outstretched arm on the reliefs of ancient Egypt. And when they jumped over their poles in light, springy, tapping steps with their elastic bodies bent forward, American-Indian dances flashed to our mind again. It is futile to make comparisons. But how can one convey otherwise impressions about so elusive a thing as a dance which cannot be fixed by a few words?

There was a slight variation in the second "tjelatik", dance and the mysterious "elo" was in essence almost the same. Yet we rejoiced, because all the better the beauty of these movements could be fixed in our memories, and, not least, in the moving picture camera.

Twins at Tanglad

But in Tanglad we visited a mother of twins. The boy had "fortunately" died on the fourth day after his birth while in the Poera Dalem. It is namely the custom, when such twins are born, that the parents with babies stay for a month in the temple of the death-goddess and there they are taken care of in turns by some old women of the desa. It seems to be a purification procedure. And we were also told that in way of a test (but most likely for another forgotten reason connected with ancient beliefs) the parents have to sit down for a moment on the lap of their children! In Bali, if the twins survive, they may not stay together in the parents' house and one of them is sent away as far as possible and is being brought up away from his twin brother or sister. But when they grow up the two may marry. Since the old people, who seemed to know everything that the present generation knows no more, are all dead ("orang toewa samoea mati" - is the usual reply to a question no explanation can be given), it is difficult to get at the root of this old superstition traces of which are still alive in Java too.

As for the parents of the twins - the mother feels most ashamed and depressed to have given forth such ill-luck bringing omens to the desa. This one, a bewildered poor looking woman with scurvy-eaten skin showed us her remaining little daughter with the expression of a tigress shieling her cubs. Otherwise she was speechless and obviously disturbed by the publicity of her unfortunate case. There seem to be many tragedies of a kind entirely unknown to us - among them that of a mother of twins in a society haunted by ancient superstitions.

Pura Meranting Batukandik

Now, the seventh morning of our voyage, we are crossing Noesa Penida from east to west, riding all the while along the plateaus of its central hills. After about two hours' ride we reach the desa Batoekandik and it is here that we make what we consider the most interesting discovery of our trip in the sphere of temples.

As usual we went to the most important temple of the des, and in this one, named Poera Meranting, we found a "sanggar" (a highly elevated stone throne for the sun-god Soerja, found also in every temple in Bali) of most striking form and of a style quite different from anything in Bali and, perhaps, due to the pyramidical form of its stone mass, slightly reminiscent in style of tjandi Soekoeh {Candi Sukuh] on the western slope of the Lawoe in Java.

Instead of the usual architectural base supporting the seat of the sungod, this one was resting on the head and the uplifted hands of a huge stone woman, standing on widely spread legs half hidden in the pyramidical mass of steps and profilated stones as if pouring out of her lap. Her face has a peculiar grin due to the small fangs protruding at each corner of her mouth. And behind her head, fixed to the back-wall of the sanggar and quite invisible for the front, there is a wonderfully carved head of a cow or bull, with similar fangs and also as if grinning.

There were many interesting details on and around this unique figure too numerous to be described here, but the knowledge of which might prove perhaps of some value to special students of Indonesian antiquities {published since by W.F.Stutterheim in Bijdragen 92:206]

Our tin gazoline-can had developed a leak and no water could be carried along in it. So from Batoekandik we had to take along a youngster, who just happened to come along with two big calabashes filled with water brought from a long distance away. The youngster was willing to sell us his water, but for no money would he part with calabash-vessels and would rather trot along with our coolies till the water was used.

Sahab jungle

After a while we came to the only piece of jungle left on Noesa. It was so refreshing to enter its humid shad, to see the larger plants, big ferns, and the heavy trunks of trees overgrown by creepers after the comparatively bare expanse of the hills. This was the holy forest of Sahab hiding an important temple. The squat heavy figure of the luck-bringing elephant-god Ganeça is kept there, which is used for "making rain", the image being dipped into water when supernatural help is sought for the coming rain.

Perhaps Sahab is the place whereto runs the legendary tunnel connecting Bali with Noes Penida and which is said to start from a hole in Poera Puser ing Djagat of Pedjeng? There is by the way a resemblance between the numerous Hinduistic figures, about thirty in all, arrayed on the shelves of different balé's in Poera Sahab, and the antiquities of Pedjeng. I don't know anyone who has actually seen the remarkable hole, the entrance to the said tunnel in Pedjeng. But since its existence and significance is insistently perpetuated in the folklore, why dispute its reality?

Thus Sahab remained in our memory as the place where the close connection with old Bali seemed to have left its deepest traces, the many images representing departed kings or nobles, almost all holding up in each hand a fruit (or perhaps it is a closed flower?), linggas held in the grip of naga's, the beautiful tjatoermoeka whose four heads have still preserved the fine features - all of them being of the same kind as the images that once were worshipped in the temples of the old kingdom of Pedjeng.

Listening to a prèrèd at Batumadeg

With the evening we reached the desa Batoemadeg and, according to already established custom, invaded the balé bandjar. In no time all the balés and the space on the ground was occupied by an eager public contemplating the unique spectacle we offered. Our clothing was at this stage of the voyage in deplorable condition. For a minimum of luggage naturally also demands for a minimum of dresses and suits. My tattered riding breeches had to be substituted by wide green pyjama trousers. So if the people of Noesa Penida should henceforth have some quaint notions about the clothing of white women - they saw these peculiar beings for the first time in their life, - we are responsible for it.

Having eaten our chicken and rice - rice is a rare luxury in the hills of Noesa and we were wise enough to have brought some along - we had for after-dinner music a short "prèrèd" concert. This prered is a kind of trumpet, blown almost without gasping pauses by some skillfull manipulation of the outgoing and indrawn breath. And its sounds are remarkably well rendered in the phonetics of its name - a prèrèd "praeraeae-ae'ds" in broad, lamenting, crackling, brassy tones. The concert did not last too long.

A view to the sea

It is our last day on Noesa Penida and we are going down to the south-coast via the desa Salak, where our horses can al last still their thirst, drinking water being so scarce in Batoemadeg.It is still early in the morning hours when we reach the coast. We rush to the edge of the high shore; a vertical wall of yellowish rock, and more than two hundred meters down below - the bright turquoise of the gently agitated sea! For a long time we lie on our bellies looking down into the dazzling turquoise green. In some places the water is quite transparent. Of what tremendous size must be this almost triangular fish with slowly flapping fins, which appears to us the size of a dog? No we can also discern turtles that look no larger than coconuts. And there is a strange rock in the water with a large opening in the middle and looking just like a gate. We look at the marvellous shades ranging from almost white to deep blue-green and think that the same waters continuing the vast distance southward also carry the swaying icebergs at the South Pole.

The same day we managed to cross the whole island from Salak to Koetampi, a village near Sampalan. And the next morning we boarded a djoekoeng which was again a large fish with upraised tail and resting on the outriggers like on wings. The wind god was benevolent to us that day. Goenoeng Agoeng was beckoning from a distance and in four hours we reached the south-coast of Bali, at Sanoer.


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