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Making Jaran Kepang, Deliviring The History Behind



Some people are lining up to make a formation. They stamp their feet to the ground while riding the horses. Those soldiers tightly hold their horses whipping the ground aggressively as if telling that they are ready to attack the enemy. However, instead of real horses, these men are actually riding horses made from burlap sack. They are dancing Jathilan, a number of Javanese traditional dances, using jaran kepang (literally means braided horse; a traditional Javanese flat horse) as their horse. Jaran kepang is a symbol of kuda sembrani (a resilient and strong winged horse from Javanese mythology) that is told to be existed in ancient war.

The story about cavalry soldiers are told from one generation to another. As the war horses’ symbol, jaran kepang has always been sustained.  Suparno is one of jaran kepang makers in Solo and has been making jaran kepang even today. In addition for traditional dance’s property, jaran kepang can be used as house decoration or children’s toy. The head and the tail are shaped in such way so they look like a real horse and will spark kid’s interest to play with.
Located inside the outer side of Surakarta’s Royal Palace’s compound that usually called as njeron beteng (literally means inside the fortress), Suparno has been making jaran kepang since 1970s. As an artist, he admitted that he wants to sustain the existence of jaran kepang. Exactly in Mangkuyudan Village, Suparno produces jaran kepang that has been sold for decades in Prambanan Temple’s market, Yogyakarta, and toy shops in Sriwedari Park.
“In addition of Solo and Yogyakarta, my jaran kepang had taken orders from various cities around Indonesia. I even have participated in exhibitions held abroad. Today I just came back from Ponorogo. I was there to talk in a seminar,” Suparno explained. According to Suparno, he’s the pioneer of jaran kepang business in Solo.
To make jaran kepang is not very complicated but it takes some special skill to make one. The first process is to cut the cardboard in jaran kepang shape. Although it definitely looks simple enough, creating a neat arch of the horse’s forehead needs expertise.  “This very part will determine the shape of jaran kepang,” Suparno said.

After the cardboard cut neatly, the next process is to overlay the burlap sack over it. The burlap sack will be glued to the horse-shaped cardboard. The third stage is to put decoration from colorful threads and to attach the horse’s mane and tail that were made from pineapple fibers.
Suparno has his reason to use pineapple fibers for his jaran kepang. Since his jaran kepang are often sold for children, he chooses soft materials to make them. “Pineapple fibers are soft and are safe for kids. It won’t hurt them,” he said. For the cardboard, Suparno only use new cardboards. The burlap sacks, too, are new.
For him, even though it is just a toy, it should not be made carelessly. Suparno is very concern about the security, hygiene, and strength aspects of his product. “It is undeniable that jaran kepang is loved by children. Therefore, I make them as comfortable as it can for children,” he said.
In conducting his business, this father of five does not have any employee. All of the production process is done by Suparno alone. In a day, he can make one kodi (a score; 20 pieces) of jaran kepang with various sizes. The smallest size is 40 cm in length. “Taking about size, it depends with how big is the cardboard. I can make jaran kepang ini any size,” Suparno said.

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