Barongsai Makers: Bogor, West Java

The month before Chinese New Year is always the busiest time of the year for Lily Hambaly and her team as they work to finish dozens of barongsai (lion dance) masks and costumes. In their workshop on Jl. Roda in Bogor, Lily’s team made 20 costumes for the traditional Chinese lion dance in December.

“We usually only make a couple of masks each month, but from December to February we receive dozens of orders,” she said.

Chinese New Year, or Imlek, will fall on Thursday.

Lily, the co-founder of the Bogor Arts Troupe (GSB), also supervises three barongsai dance groups and three liong (dragon) dance groups as Theresia Sufa explains.

“I started the business (making costumes) in 2000 when I tried to fix a broken mask that belonged to a GSB member,” said Lily, who now regularly makes barongsai costumes and masks for several groups in Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra, Lampung and Papua.

Importing most of the materials she uses from China, Lily sells each barongsai costume for Rp 3 million.

“I use imported wool and rabbit fur to decorate the masks,” she said.

Dragon masks with glass chu balls on top are priced at between Rp 6 million and Rp 7 million each, she said.

Lily said her GSB dance groups would be busy from Imlek until Cap Go Meh, which is celebrated 15 days after Imlek.

“We have been forced to decline some requests to perform as we already have to perform at three different locations most days,” she said.

Lily said despite the fact her groups performed throughout the year, Imlek was by far their busiest time.