Silver Malay keris
Malay Peninsula (Terengganu), Indonesia – 19th century
Materials: Steel, Iron, Silver, Wood (Kemuning)
A fine silver clad keris from the Malay Peninsula. The keris is considered Indonesia’s national weapon and is traditionally passed on as sacred heirloom. The keris is believed to possess secret powers which are imbedded during the forging rituals by the bladesmith called ‘Empu‘. Keris are traditionally forged with a mixture of iron and sometimes nickel to create a visible pattern called ‘pamor’. This pamper tradition is mostly seen on Java and Bali. Blades from other islands are well forged, but are not typically categorized within the common ‘pamor’ atlases. Not every keris was made suitable for every man. The ‘Empu’ forged the blade to identify its future owner. Aspects such as leadership, wealth, luck or capability of consorting with bad spirits are a few of the numerous types.
The Ukiran (hilt):
This type of ‘Ukiran‘ is commonly found in the North Eastern parts of Indonesia on Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. The local name for this abstract anthropomorphic figure is ‘Jawa Demam‘ and represents a half-human half-bird figure. The word ‘Demam‘ means fever in Bahasa and is often associated with the form pretending the humanoid is suffering from cold.
The hilt is made of wood, clad in hammered silver and decorated with floral patterns and stylistic arms. The hilt is covered with a silver ferrule, called ‘mendak‘ and protects the lower part of the hilt towards the ‘ganja‘ (guard). The obvious protrusion on the back of the head points us towards the Malay Peninsula and is in some tradition associated with a snake attached to the head or as a hood covering its neck.
The Wilah (blade):
The blade is traditionally forged and seems to have more age then the dress. It probably dates from the 18th or even 17th century and shows a traditional pamor. The blade has five ‘luk‘ (curves) and has a separately forged ‘ganja‘. It shows a long tradition of washing and cleaning and is worn and pitted at several places. The blade structure is still well visible and has its original ‘Dapur‘ (shape).
The scabbard is made in three sections; the ‘waranga’ (scabbard mouth), the ‘pendok’ (scabbard) and the ‘buntut’ (scabbard’s end). The ‘waranga‘ is made of precious ‘kemuning‘ wood and shows a fine grain which fascinatingly reflects when held in sunlight. The scabbard is made of two slabs of wood which are clad in fine repoussed silver. The front is depicting a wild variety of flowers embedded in scroll work. The back is decorated in a scale-like background surrounded by a border of leaves. The ‘buntut‘ shows a diamond shaped pattern ending in a flattened base.
Condition: Good original condition, the blade is somewhat worn, but all elements are original and in general good condition. The blade fits well in its scabbard.
Provenance: UK art market
Ukiran (hilt): 9cm
Wilah (blade): 31cm
Total length: 44.4cm
Weight: 563 gr.
Sources: ‘Keris and other Malay weapons‘, Gerald B. Gardner
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