Address : Pedukuhan Kajen, Bangunjiwo, Kecamatan Kasihan, Kabupaten Bantul, Provinsi Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta
Kasongan is one of tourism villages in Special Region of Yogyakarta. This village is a center for pottery industry in the region. There are much clay in the area, making it possible for the local people to produce different earthenware products. In the past, Kasongan people only made household equipment such as kendi (earthenware water carafe), kendil (earthenware pan for keeping liquid such as jamu), gentong (big water container), anglo (clay stove with a combustion space in its lower part), and so on. However, as the earthenware’s economic and aesthetic value increased, Kasongan people started to produce other earthenware handicrafts. Nowadays, the handicrafts have been made in mass production.
The beginning of Kasongan being a center for pottery industry started in Dutch colonial era. At that time, there was a surprising occurrence in the area. A horse of a Dutch detective was found dead in one of the villagers’ rice field. This made the people terribly frightened. Afraid of punishment, the people decided to get their hands off the rights of the land ownership. The land was then claimed by the people from a neighboring village. The scared Kasongan people all stayed around their houses. No longer having rice fields to sustain their life, they tried to make use everything available around them to earn a living. One of the things they could do was making pottery of the clay, which turned out to be solid if compacted. They began to shape the clay into various kitchen utensils or toys and thus the custom of making pottery began.
Basically, there are two methods for making pottery: hand-made and using cast. The hand-made process in the making of cylindric ceramics (vase, pot, jug) is done by adding clay little by little on a potter’s wheel with one of the potter’s hands on the inner side and the other on the outer side. As the wheel is turning round, the clay will be forming a cylinder with the diameter and thickness depending on the pressure and shaping technique of the craftsman’s hands. The whole process from hulling, shaping the material using tools, until drying out usually takes 2-4 days. After dried out, the pottery is then burnt and then colored using wall or tile paint. Handicrafts galleries in Kasongan are usually run by a family for generations . They employ craftsmen to work collectively.
These days, a gallery owner usually hires his neighbors, but his family still takes charge in choosing the material and supervision of the process. At start, Kasongan pottery does not have any signature pattern of design. But the death of the horse has inspired craftsmen to feature horse motifs in their products. Over the time, there came out other motifs such as frog, rooster, and elephant. The advance of time, marked by the influence of modernity and foreign culture through media on the local culture, has changed Kasongan. After Sapto Hudoyo introduced the village for the first time around 1971-1972 with a touch of art and commerce, and later Sahid Keramik boosted the promotion in a bigger commercial scale around the 1980s, now tourists can find various motifs on Kasongan ceramics. Even now customers can order pottery with their own motifs, for example, peacock, dragon, rose, and so on.
There are various kinds of pottery sold in Kasongan, from small items such as souvenirs (usually for wedding), ornaments, plant pots, interior furnishings (lamps, statue, furniture, and so on), tables, chairs, and many others. Moreover, there are other products such as artificial flowers made of banana leaves, bamboo furnishings, and masks.
There is a wide array of Kasongan pottery products other than kitchen utensils and toys. In the area, ceramic galleries line up along the streets, selling decorative items and souvenirs, from ashtray to pot or flower vase as tall as adult’s shoulder. As for the decorative items, there are furnishings and wedding souvenirs.
One of the most famous Kasongan pottery products is the figures of Javanese bride and bridegroom sitting side by side. The figures, known as Loro Bonyo, are adopted from statues in the Royal Palace. In Javanese, loro means two or a couple, while blonyo means being adorned with washing and makeup process. Nevertheless, the true meaning of Loro Bonyo remains a question for Kasongan craftsmen. The figure themselves are believed to have the power to bring luck and blessings for household if put inside house. This belief has a positive effect on the selling of the ceramic figures.
Many foreign tourists who like Loro Bonyo also order clay figures in various other forms such as dancer, guitar player, and model. The figures do not always wear Javanese clothes but also those of different countries. The favorite motifs are of Bali and Thailand. Beside these motifs, there are also soldier clay figures.
Recently, visitors can also find non-clay handicrafts. The existence of galleries owned by latecomers play a big role in the development of handicraft business in the area. Other items sold here are still categorized as traditional handicrafts as they are made of palm wood, plants, and shells. This business has developed with time, adjusting to the market demand and opportunity. However, it is still the primary occupation of most local people. Pottery industry has been the attraction of Kasongan up to now. The village has turned into an interesting tourism destination along with the people’s craftsmanship.
Kasongan is located in the limestone lowland in Pedukuhan Kajen, Bangunjiwo, Kasihan District, Bantul Regency, Yogyakarta.
To get to Kasongan, tourists can take public transports. From Yogyakarta, Kasongan is 8 km southwest or about 15-20 minutes trip from downtown. Public transports available are bus and taxi.
Kasongan Tourism Village does not apply entrance charge. Everyone can visit Kasongan for free.
F. Accommodations and Other Facilities
In the tourism village, tourists can stay in the local lodgings then shop at the handicraft shops along the street or watch the pottery making process in the workshops. The handicrafts prices vary, depending on the kind, model, and size, ranging from Rp 500.000,00 to Rp 2.000.000,00 per item (February 2008). Therefore, to reach their customers, many banks provide ATM in many spots in Kasongan.
For tourists who want to learn to make pottery, there are short courses run in some houses and galleries. The fare is usually Rp 50.000,00 (February 2008) a person for one pottery item.
Text: Adi Tri Pramono
Photo: Collection of Jogjatrip.com
Translation: Reza Daffi (trans/08/06-10)