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The Women Carver of Jepara, Self-taught Carving Learning Process

Carved City, nickname for Jepara Regency, Central Java. 2000 women were carved in the village of Petekeyan, including Rofiatun and Maghfiroh.

Carved City, that is the nickname for Jepara Regency, Central Java. It seems that the slogan is not excessive, because carving activities are ingrained for its citizens. No exception for women. In this city, carving skills are not only monopolized by men, women are also capable. Like the women in Petekeyan Village, Annual District. Around 2000 women in this village have been engaged in carving activities. Not only as laborers, but there are also those who become design experts.

To prove it, please visit the village located on the south side, approximately 5.8 kilometers from downtown Jepara. As a marker, there is a gate that reads "Petekeyan Sembada Carved Village".

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At first glance, carving is indeed not visible. However, once entered deeper, many carvers who bowed were busy carving an instrument on a wood.

As performed by Rofiatun, 45 years and her husband Dasim, 52 years. This married couple, shoulder to shoulder carved a wooden board for the back of a chair. Sunflower motif.

Face-to-face, both of them seem busy. However, both were friendly when Tagar on Friday, August 2, 2019, asked questions related to the activities being carried out by them.

Rofiatun said, he was finishing carving orders for the back of a chair. For a set of chairs, he was paid Rp. 90 thousand.

"One set consists of three chairs, one bench and one table," he said while continuing to focus on his work.

When asked, about the origins of why women in Petekeyan Village are good at carving, Rofiatun claimed not to know. But certainly, since childhood he had often witnessed and involved in the process of carving by his parents first.

It also declined in his son Uliya, 24 years old, who is now married.

"My son can also carve. Nobody teaches, only from childhood he often saw us carved (carved). So he got used to it," he said.

Within a day, she and her husband could complete two sets of carvings.

In addition to carving, Rofiatun also opened a grocery store in front of his house. He said, by carving at home, he could help the family finances by not ignoring his attention to his two children.

The same thing was admitted by Maghfiroh, 36 years old. He said, carving skills had indeed been handed down since childhood. For him, the carving learning process is self-taught.

"Yes, just by looking at it, parents carved out to become accustomed and able," he said.

Now, he only carves occasionally. Because, concentrate on the affairs of designing furniture. In addition, she also trains carvers, especially women, who work in her place and her husband Bambang Widodo.

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"There are 10 motives that I created," he said.

However, in the midst of modernization and the entry of industry in Jepara, apparently helped erode the existence of women who are carvers. Because, women who have just graduated from school, prefer to work as laborers rather than carvers.

"Many young people now choose to work as garment workers. Especially those who have just graduated. But if they are able to carve, it's better to carve," said Maghfiroh.

Bambang Widodo, Maghfiroh's husband also agreed to this. He said, in 1996, there were still many female engravers who worked.

"In 1996 at most, if now, there are five engravers (Bambang's employees), of which four are women," Bambang said.

Chairman of Sembada Ukir Petekeyan Village, Marsodiq, revealed the same thing. With the presence of garment factories, many young people have been sucked into it.

"The number is indeed still like that. The sculptors around 3000 more than 60 percent of the total sculptors in Petekeyan Village are women. But with the factory, the run (chose to work) went there," he said.

Regeneration of the female engraver, according to Marsodiq, began to jam since the last three years.

The History of Women's Carvers

Marsodiq revealed, the culture of carving women was actually a common thing in Jepara Regency, since 1970. In that era, the cottage industry involved family members themselves.

"So that year it was common to find a small home industry. His father became a carpenter, his mother became an engraver assisted by his children. The picture in Jepara was like that, including in Petekeyan Village," said Marsodiq.

Carving in Jepara itself has developed since the era of the Sultanate of Demak. Sourced by Hadi Priyanto's book, Jepara Carving Art Mosaic, carving artists who used to serve King Majapahit, are expected to exodus to the Demak Sultanate, when the Majapahit era collapsed.

Then in the 16th century, carving in Jepara entered its golden age. Because as a port city, Jepara received many influences from foreign cultures, namely China and Europe.

This was also proven by one of them, the carving panel at the Mantingan Mosque. In the mosque which was built around 1559, found carvings in the form of medallions attached to the walls of the mosque, carved motifs of flora stylization.

Still according to Jepara's Mosaic Art Carving book, the development of carving was also supported by the emancipation figure, Raden Ajeng Kartini. He, who was still young at the time, dared to send the works of craftsmen from Jepara to The Hague in 1898.

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"At that time he was only 16 years old, together with his younger siblings Rukmini and Kardinah he had sent his work in the National Exhibition of Women's Work or the Nationale Tentoonstelling voor Vrouwnarbied in The Hague in 1898," as written in the book page 32.

Submitted works include carved-framed paintings, tulip wall hangings, wall hangings depicting daei satin fabric in bamboo frames, glass paintings, paintings in still-rococo wooden frames and so on.

Kartini took technical steps by empowering craftsmen in Dukuh Belakang Gunung. With the guidance of Singowiryo, the craftsmen make various kinds of handicrafts such as cigarette crates, small tables, stitching places.

The works were then promoted to Kartini's friends from the Netherlands. That's what then catapulted Jepara carvings.

Until now, the furniture sector is still a superior district of Jepara. Note from Jepara Industry and Trade Office, the export of wood furniture ranks first out of 14 types of commodity trading abroad.

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