A jawa demam style kris hilt




Indonesia, Kalimantan (Banjarmasin)


18th century


Casting, forging, soldering, gilding, gem-setting, filigree


Bronze, topazes, glass


Length 62 mm

COMMENT. Jawa demam is the most common form of kris hilts on the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Sulawesi. The name, literally meaning "the fever-stricken Javanese", seems to have an ironic meaning. Typically, the hilt is a stylized figure of a bird-like deity or man squatting and hugging himself, as if in a fever. The large angular or rounded head with a protruding beak or nose is always tilted forward, so that the hilt has the pistol-grip shape that is comfortable for the hand. Actually, there are many variations of the jawa demam style between the restrained stylization of the form and the extreme degree of its simplification. Interpretations of the image also vary widely depending on the degree of stylization and the predominance of certain portrait traits. In most cases, the jawa demam hilts are regarded as abstract depictions of Garuda, the mythical king of birds, which has a mix of eagle and human features. Judging by the materials used and the characteristic decoration, the presented hilt comes from the city of Banjarmasin on the island of Kalimantan (Borneo). Banjarmasin was founded in 1526 and soon became a major trading centre. At different times, the city was controlled by the Dutch and British, and it is currently the capital of the province of South Kalimantan of Indonesia. Thanks to extensive trade connections, local craftsmen were familiar with the various types of kris hilts, but they preferred to make hilts of metal (bronze, brass, copper), covering them with gold and decorating with filigree and bands with inlaid stones. The most commonly used rough-cut diamonds that are locally called "intan mentah".