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Ngasri as a Craftsman Who is Still Working on Jepara Carving

Jepara Regency, Central Java, is an area that is thick with the name carving city. Various wood carved furniture products from Jepara are well known throughout the country. Unfortunately, Jepara carving products are increasingly rarely glimpsed by the younger generation to continue to be preserved.

It emerged from one of the older generation of carving craftsmen who used to often work on Jepara carving products to be placed at the Merdeka Palace in the mid-1970s or during the Soeharto era.

Namely Ngasri (73), as a craftsman who is still working on Jepara carving.

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It can be seen that Ngasri's left hand is still holding a chisel or metal carving tool that is plugged into a piece of wood at the production site in Langon Village, Tahunan District, Jepara, Tuesday (11/23/2021) afternoon.

While his right hand swings and hits the chisel hammer on the chisel. His eyes are sharp, focused on work. Ngasri, from Tahunan Village, is one of the carvers who experienced the golden age of Jepara carving firsthand.

He is also one of the few older generations of Jepara carvers who worked on a project for Jepara carving products to be placed at the Merdeka Palace in the mid-1970s or under President Suharto.

Quoted from the website of the State Secretariat, the President's living room on the west side of the Merdeka Palace is named the Jepara Room because it uses massively decorated Jepara carvings.

All chairs and sofas are made with a Jepara carved teak wood frame. On the walls hung several large wooden reliefs. Ngasri can't remember exactly when he took part in the project. However, what is clear is that it almost coincides with the project for a grand joglo-style pavilion at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah.

They work on carving products, including the four pillars of the guru. The TMII was inaugurated and opened in 1975.

"At that time, right, there was a boss who bought it. Worked on it in Randublatung (Blora) for several months. Apart from Jepara, there are also carvers from Solo and Bali. But, the most from Jepara, about 75 people. During the setup, I was also invited to Taman Mini," he recalled.

For a long time, Jepara has been known for the reliability of its carvers. Not surprisingly, many human resources from Jepara were drawn to other areas to do the carving.

The title "The World Carving Center" is also attached to Jepara. However, starting in the 2000s, young people's interest in carving slowly declined.

As for Ngasri, his seven children can still carve. "Because in the past, it was like everyone was carving. In every house must be carved. Now, it's different, it's rare for people to carve. It's a different era, but I hope this Jepara carving will continue to survive," he said.

About 7 kilometers (km) north of Langon Village, Wariso Aris (69) is still carving in his old age.

In front of the terrace of his house in Mulyoharjo Village, Jepara District, he is working on a relief carving measuring 220 cm x 54 cm, with a rural theme.

It took three months to do it. The relief will be valued at around Rp. 14 million.

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Wariso, born in Sukoharjo, is an alumnus of STM Jepara Carving Decoration (later became SMIK and now SMKN 2 Jepara).

Apart from working on relief, he was also a junior high school teacher in the 1980s, until retiring in 2013. Of his five children (three of whom are boys), only one son can carve.

He also realized, with the development of the times and technology, being an engraver is no longer the main choice for young people in Jepara.

Moreover, pursuing carving must be accompanied by patience, as well as a strong will from oneself.

Considering the heyday of Jepara carving, especially before the 2000s, Wariso seems unwilling if Jepara's identity as a carving city continues to erode.

“This engraving regeneration must exist. Not easy, indeed. However, do not let hope stay hope. Everyone plays a role in making Jepara carving a success again," he said.

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