Pasar Rawabening literally means Clear Swamp Market but there's definitely nothing swamp-like about this place. Pasar Rawabening is a market that specialises in gems, precious and semi precious stones and the mystical Indonesian keris (dagger).
Years ago, when I visited it for the very first time with my Aunt, it was a traditional market. The shops were not so modern, and the wares sold on wooden ratty tables. Now, it is a modernised market place. There are shops with glittering gems in glass encased display tables, strands of beads and semi-precious stones hanging tidily off the walls and overall, a more organised feel to the whole place.
Amongst of all the nice shops, there is a section in the middle with small stalls/kiosks that reminds me of the old version of the market. Here, the displays are more modest but I don't think that deterred the customers from buying (I noticed these stalls/kiosks were actually more busy than some of the proper shops).
I then stumbled upon a shop that is called Toko Keris Sakti, or the magic keris shop. I cheekily asked the owner, Hj Rosida, if the keris really have magic. She explained to me that the keris in her shop really do have special powers. In the olden days, keris was used as weapons in warfare. So a magical keris would help the wielder to win fights.
Magical keris are made by experienced craftsmen who would fast before they begin the making process. Magical keris also require special treatments, including oiling them at certain times in the Javanese calendar.
Nowadays, keris are more used for decorational purposes. Collecting keris is often done by high ranking government officials (or pejabat). Some of her clients would adorn the keris they purchased from her with gold or precious stones, to add to the value of the keris.
Speaking of value, these keris are not cheap. Prices start at 2.5 million Rupiah (about $250 AUD) for new keris without magic and only for decorational purposes. Original, antique keris with magic cost an upward of 10 million Rupiah (about $1000 AUD).
The next shop I visited was a beads shop, also selling semi-precious stones and the tools to making jewellery.
I took the opportunity to purchase some freshwater pearls and then have them made into a necklace. While waiting for that to happen, my Mum and I started chatting the the shop owner (an older lady in her 60s) about what I was doing in Jakarta. Why I was taking photos and asking so many questions!
Funny enough, the main conversation topic turned to the fact that even though I have been married for a while, I don't have kids. The shop owner kept on stressing the importance of having children (e.g. to take care of you when you are old and to continue the family line, etc., etc., etc.). I took it all on board but it tickles me that despite of all of my achievements (great job, good education, happy marriage, good health and the rest), the main focus of the shop owner was that I don't have children.
On the way out, we walked pass a shop that specialises in jade. The shop keeper told me that all the jade comes from China and a lot of the other gems in the market usually comes from China too.
If you would like more information about these shops (e.g. contact number or exact address in the market), drop me a line via the Contact page.
Also just warning you that most of my blogs in the next few weeks will be very visual based with lots of photos. So apologies for spamming your email inbox.
PS: I've started on my ceramic learning journey with the artist F. Widayanto at his beautiful home studio in the hills of Tapos, Bogor. I am so thrilled and excited, just like a kid in a candy shop!
Irine is a recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts' Artstart Grant (June 2014-2015).
This website has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts
funding and advisory body.