Menu card with court dancers

Menu card for m.s. Bantam, January 1st, 1940. Published by the Rotterdam Lloyd.

This beautiful menu card was published around 1940 by the Rotterdam Lloyd shipping company. The cover design shows two Javanese court dancers performing a wireng dance. In these battle dances, fights with traditional weapons such as kris and bow and arrow are depicted. They are often duets that can be performed by both male and female dancers. The characters are mostly taken from the Ramayana and Mahabharata stories, such as Rama, Arjuna and Srikandi. The unknown designer has depicted the bow and arrow very small, which puts more emphasis on the graceful hand movements of the dancers.

Mondrorini dance
One of the most popular wireng dances is the Tari Mondrorini. This dance involves a battle between two princesses who compete for the hand of a prince. First they circle around each other to test each other’s fighting skills. Then the fighting begins, first with kris, later with bow and arrow. The battle ends undecided and in mutual harmony they conclude the dance.

Srikandi en Mustakaweni
Another dance is about the fight between Srikandi, Arjuna’s youngest wife who is a great warrior, and Mustakaweni, a princess who disguises herself as Ghatotkacha, the son of Bhima, to steal a magic amulet from the Pandavas. But Srikandi sees through her disguise and there is a fight between her and Mustakaweni, which is re-enacted during the dance. At first, the movements of the dancers seem the same, but often they are done by Mustakaweni just a little later or a little faster. In the end, Srikandi wins by injuring Mustakaweni with her arrow.

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