Last Saturday of every month
If you visit the Museum Nasional’s room of traditional house models, you will notice that most share several common features: they are built on stilts, they have dramatic roof lines, and they have decorative elements based on animal motifs.
The first characteristic, being built on stilts, is common throughout Southeast Asia, and probably is a simple, practical precaution against flooding and invasion by snakes and other animals.
The second design element—the rooflines—may also have some practical benefit, such as air circulation or providing safe, dry storage. However the rooflines and designs, probably refer more to the place the buffalo holds in these societies, and to deeply held views about the cosmos and the gods.
For example, the Toba Batak of North Sumatra used the area below the house for their animals, the central level was for people, and the roof was considered the abode of the gods. Typically a house would accommodate several families, with the interior space used primarily for sleeping and storage and divided up to reflect degrees of kinship among the inhabitants.
The ornamentation of the Toba Batak houses is on the exterior and was intended primarily to drive away evil influences. Only three colors were used—red, white and black. Each color represented a sphere of the cosmos—red for humans, white for good spirits and black for the underworld.
By Joyce Richardson
Published in The Indonesian Heritage Society Newsletter, October 2005
Source: Aspects of Indonesian Culture, The Indonesian Heritage Society
Visit the Museum Nasional's website for more details of their collections.