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Finding Mr. L in Jakarta

Finding Mr. L in Jakarta

Puppy play time - then business

His shop is closed. His phones and email are disconnected. Are the rumors true? Could it be Mr. L no longer lives in Jakarta? Did he return to his home in Sumatra? The outcome looks bleak. Refusing to give up my search, I hire a car to take us to his former warehouse and workshop. Asep and his friend, Joni, remember how to get there. We drive for more than two hours before arriving - somewhere. Nothing looks familiar.

A closed simple sliding metal gate prevents us from entering. I see a large padlock securing the gate from the inside. Dogs bark and a man comes to see who is peeking through the gate. Asep says something and the man calmly nods. Another man approaches from the direction of the home. Recognizing Licon, I am wide-eyed in amazement. My search is successful!

We reconnect far away from his original shop in Ciputat. My persistence serves me well. And, yes, I owe a huge thank you to both Asep and Joni. Not only do they navigate us well, they are also patient with my unrelenting search.

Before entering his home, puppy time is a priority: play first - business second. Licon has not changed. 

Directing me to the chair next to his we catch up. Has it really been ten years? Unfortunately, yes. There is so much to see both inside and outside and I am eager to see his collection of porcelains, bronzes, primitive art and so much more. He, however, is eager to go outside. I follow as he heads towards his dogs and many puppies.

Knowing my time is limited, my attention shifts towards his land and gardens. I leave Licon, Asep, and Joni to play with the dogs and I wander off to search for treasures.

Primitive sculptures lurk behind foliage

It is my preference to walk the grounds alone photographing and taking notes without distractions. The pieces are scattered throughout the property, rather than carefully placed in the gardens. This is expected. Strolling from one piece to the next, I am careful not to miss one item - stone, wood, and terra cotta fragments lay on the ground almost completely hidden by nature's overgrowth. 

Each piece has an interesting story

Licon is an expert in antiquities, and when not distracted, generously shares his knowledge. I am eager to learn the details pertaining to the ceremonial pieces, the guardian figures, the temple fragments, and so much more. 

Not only is nightfall approaching, so is another downpour. My time outside is quickly coming to a close. I continue to explore the property until I am summoned back to the home. Licon is anxious to show me his latest acquisition from Nias.

The beauty of nature merging with art

As I return to join Licon, I see a stone ceremonial dance pedestal from Nias hiding underneath lush moss and damp leaves. I do not pass without bending down to carefully feel the carving underneath. I see the beauty with my fingertips.

Adu Zatua - wooden ancestor figure from Nias

Licon is eager to show me his purchase from a private museum in Nias - an Adu Zatua more than 150 years old with its original finish - a prize acquisition since most spirit sculptures were destroyed during a religious movement in 1916. He places the papers authenticating the piece on the table. His excitement is contagious.

No one wants the visit to end, but it is late and we have a long commute in the infamous Jakarta traffic. Licon walks us to our car. Yes, another opportunity for him to play with his puppies before saying goodbye.

Although I leave with unanswered questions, I am thrilled to begin a new life chapter with Licon - one filled with laughter and fun! And, of course, great pieces of art. 

  • Post author
    Debra Levine

Comments on this post (1)

  • Aug 30, 2018

    Hello Debra, my name is Fady Kamar and I am a serious tribal art collector living in Amsterdam. I have a strong liking for Indonesian tribal art including Nias, Korwars, etc. and the photo of the Adu Zatua on your site attracted my attention. Apologies if I am asking this intrusive question, but would the owner potentially entertain the idea of selling this figure?
    Best regards,

    — Fady Kamar

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