“‘Knowledge increases by sharing it, not by saving it.’ My name is Sujiman. I was born in a remote village east of Yogyakarta, near the ancient mountain Nglanggeran Geopark. The rural character of my village stands strong. I am really impressed that our village and villagers still maintain a very strong system of mutual cooperation, mutual respect, and courtesy, as well as a simple lifestyle and social norms. My village has a lot of cultural uniqueness and wisdom, such as making traditional wooden masks for dances, which is very rare in Indonesia today.
“My parents were farmers when I was born, but they were also traditional dancers. They used wooden masks made by my grandparents. After a while, traditional dances became less popular, and have remained obscure for quite some time. When I was 13, I saw the wooden masks that my grandparents and my parents used to wear while they performed traditional dances; they were neglected in the back room of my house. I was attracted by these masks, and wanted to learn how to make them.
“There was no record, story, or training from my grandparents or parents on how to make the masks; traditionally, the masks were made in secret in order to prevent others from copying them. So, I decided to learn how to make them on my own. At first, it was very difficult, but eventually I found a technique that would result in a quality mask. But, the wooden mask business was difficult at that time, since the dances that used them were no longer popular. After a year, I decided to make a living on another island. I missed my family very much, so after two years of being far away, I went back home and decided to make a living in my own village.
“In restarting my wooden mask business, I changed my target consumer; I no longer made masks for dancing, but for decorative purposes. My craft was very successful. A lot of students came to my house after school to learn how to make wooden masks. Because of this, one of my goals has become to share my knowledge and skill with the people in my village, preserving this art for the future.
“But, there is a sad story about the students that came to my house. One day, some parents in my village came to my house and complained, because their children would rather make wooden masks than help them in the rice fields. They distanced themselves from me because they thought I was a bad influence on their children. It wasn’t clear to them that what I did was not only for me and family, but for the whole village.
“My workshop now has many workers, and all them are my neighbors. I have my son and nephew who help me run the workshop and sales while I focus on making traditional mask dances well-known outside of my village. My mask dancing troupe is often invited to perform outside of Yogyakarta. My dream is to preserve the art of wooden masks for dancing. I wish that I could have a museum to keep all the wooden masks I make for the sake of sharing this art with future generations.”