Masks and Shadows and Character Flaws

            I’m guilty. I did it again.

            When Ketut invited me to a gamelan competition in Kintamani six years ago, I pictured a few groups of men with their instruments sitting around jamming. I love gamelan, can’t get enough. But when he told me it was an all-day event I stifled a yawn.

            That gamelan competition (read the story here) turned out to be one of the most elaborate spectacles I’d ever attended anywhere in the world. I told myself I would never again pass judgment sight unseen.

            There’s a mask museum in Mas village about fifteen minutes by motorbike from where I live. Friends were going and invited me along. I like hanging out with friends so I agreed, but in the musty recesses of my subconscious, I pictured a dingy warehouse packed to the rafters with old masks. It’s an impression I conjured when I first learned of the museum’s existence. I’d harbored that image for years, unaware I was doing the very thing I’d promised never to do.

            The day of our outing dawned breezy and beautiful. We walked the short distance from my friend’s house to the site. When she turned off the main road to a broad drive that looked like the entrance to a palace, a niggle of possibility poked through my low expectations. We topped a rise and I stopped, overwhelmed. Immaculate lawns, meticulous gardens, and a row of fan palms with rice fields beyond created a breathtaking panorama. I swallowed hard and fished for my camera.

From that point on my jaws hung open. There were six Javanese style buildings, joglos, housing masks and puppets of exquisite quality.

The rooms were spacious, artistically arranged and light-filled. Professionally displayed masks had descriptions telling the origins of each one and it’s meaning. Many came from different islands in Indonesia, but stunning samples from Africa, Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia created an intriguing mix.

I’d encountered a pair of splendid, twice-human-size puppets on the streets of Ubud during Galungan ceremonies one year and had never seen them again until now. I’d wondered how the person wearing the towering figure managed to manipulate it. One friend caught me peeking under the sarong of the tall fellow on the far end and made a cheeky remark. But I’d satisfied my curiosity. A metal rod ran vertically inside the body for the puppeteer to hold. At approximately navel height, a hole allowed just enough visibility to avoid a collision.

Above is a tiny sampling of the 1300 masks and 5700 puppets on display at Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets. Mr. Hadi Sunyoto, a businessman and cultural enthusiast, wanted to preserve this traditional art form. He built the museum in 2006 for his collection. As I entered the sixth building, look who was there.

Later that afternoon I sat at home revisiting the photos I’d taken, one-hundred per cent disgusted with myself. There was no justification for my arrogant failure to expect magnificence instead of mediocrity. Why did I fall into that trap even when I was aware of the tendency and had set an intention not to?

I noticed a significant shift in energy as January rolled in and proclaimed 2019 the year of the shadow. The time felt right to go more deeply into the dark side of my psyche. The trip to the mask museum shed light on judgment and superiority, two traits I would never have claimed as part of my M.O. But there they were and when I acknowledged their presence I saw how they’d impacted other areas of my life.

It appears the Universe is an eager partner in this quest and is taking every opportunity to smack me with evidence of my least attractive qualities. There’s a growing list. I remind myself I asked for it, but more often than not these toxic tendencies are the last things I would have expected to be true of me.

But I’m owning my shadows, dear ones, so take heart! It’s only February. By 2020 I should be a much nicer person!

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Feb 06, 2019 @ 18:54:13

    Excellent!

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  2. Karin Grouf
    Feb 06, 2019 @ 22:04:56

    amazing what a big part nature plays in patterns and colors. Green and yellow predominately with black and brow for shadow.

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  3. Karin Grouf
    Feb 06, 2019 @ 22:10:31

    don’t be so hard on yourself. it is all personal taste and first impressions permit it. I don’t like as I find them very aggressive and that the culture , I don’t see a balance of calm, they are protective but Africa and Japan seem to have a bit more balance. Personal taste.

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Feb 15, 2019 @ 09:44:07

      I’m not being hard on myself. This is what I do! I love to dig around in my psyche and excavate hidden tendencies – the benign ones are there, but the darker traits are often the ones I’ve ignored and haven’t wanted to see. They get denied a presence and so often when that happens they come out sideways. If I acknowledge what I find there, I can work with it and often the shadows become my greatest strengths. The shadows are what really get me going!

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  4. Nanci Froemming
    Feb 07, 2019 @ 02:56:17

    So happy you finally made it to the mask museum, Sherry! I’ve visited twice and was in awe of the beautifully landscapped grounds, the joglos housing the masks and puppets and the knowledge of the museum guide. A true hidden gem,

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