I bought this beautiful bust of a Balinese Janger dancer from the daughter of a Dutch marine. Her father was stationed in the Dutch East Indies from 1946 to 1949. His last station was Surabaya, where there was fierce fighting at the time. But according to the daughter, her father never spoke at home about what he had experienced during the independence war in Indonesia.
After the transfer of sovereignty on December 27, 1949, the Dutch soldiers did not return all at once. First, power had to be transferred in the areas under Dutch control. And there were simply not enough ships to bring all the soldiers back quickly. The military retreat lasted from the end of 1949 to 1951. During this period the Dutch soldier probably bought the statue and brought it to the Netherlands as a reminder of his time in Indonesia. According to his daughter, he also had a bust of an old Balinese man. After his death the statues disappeared to the attic and eventually the statue of the Janger dancer ended up on Marktplaats, where I bought it. The daughter of the marine was happy that it ended up with a collector who would appreciate and cherish it.
Made after WWII
This history makes it fairly easy to determine when the wood carving was made. It must have been carved shortly after WWII between approximately 1946 and 1951, when the woodcarvers resumed their work to sell statues to first the British and then the Dutch soldiers. At that time, high-quality busts were still being made. The height (38,5 cm), openwork crown and ‘topless pose’ are also typical of this period. Pre-war busts from the 1930s have a closed crown and are smaller in size, showing only the shoulders without the breasts. Post-50s Janger busts often have more elaborately decorated headdresses, but lack the refined facial expression of the early busts.
Flirtatious group dance
Janger is a flirtatious youth group dance that was very popular in the 1930s. The dance begins with a tableau vivant and a welcoming song. This is followed by twelve male dancers (kecak) who perform an elaborate routine; when finished, they sit in two rows of six facing each other, and a female group (janger) enters and sings a traditional folk song and perform a slower dance with an emphasis on fluid, undulating, arm movements. When finished they form two lines of six, with the male dancers forming a boundary around the playing area. This opening is followed by a drama, which usually concerns some sort of domestic theme. See below the original footage of Janger dance from 1933.