Catalogue, with essay by Liza Markus
After visiting my family’s kampung [village] near Sragen, I am sent back to Jogja with cardboard boxes full of oleh-oleh [souvenirs], secured with plastic raffia:
- fruit picked fresh from the tree
- cakes and biscuits
- peyek kacang and cumi-cumi (savoury snacks made by an uncle and aunty)
- homemade batik
- salted duck eggs (laid by my aunty’s ducks, salted by my aunty’s daughter).
As I farewell each household, family members load me up with more and more oleh-oleh, like it’s a competition, nearly. There is only so much one can carry back to Jogja on the back of a motorbike (without falling off) and then on the crowded 2 hour bus ride (without having ones circulation cut off by snacks). At the last house my bag is already bursting, boxes are stuffed to their corrugated capacity, my arms are full.
While my uncle is not looking, I hide some oleh-oleh gifted by another relative a couple of hours earlier (leaving is a process) under the coffee table, in order to graciously accept this final batch.
Gifts for my family in Java (oleh-oleh fails):
- packets of kangaroo jerky (everyone was horrified!)
- cakes from Bali (individually wrapped in plastic, sweating themselves prematurely past their use-by-date)
- melted chocolate remains (more sculpturally impressive than anything)
- fruit & plants from Jogja (turns out my relatives have the same trees in their yards)
- a roughly printed ‘batik’ sarong (for my grandmother who herself makes batik tulis, the most laborious and intricate kind)
- hand-knitted baby booties and beanies from my grandmother’s town in rural NSW (completely impractical in a tropical climate)
- silver and gold coins decorated with a funny-looking woman’s face on one side (to receive the rupiah equivalent instead would probably be more exciting)
- calendars with images of marsupials and wildflowers (that begin on the wrong day of the week and do not include any of the relevant holidays)
- pens, tea towels, shirts + key rings imprinted with ‘Australia’ in bold lettering (and ‘Made in China’ in small lettering).