About Dietrich Drescher
Dietrich Drescher, internationally well-known for decades as one of the most eminent authorities for Indonesian keris, recently agreed to give his personal collection of keris to IFICAH. This group of carefully designed and crafted keris by the most famous makers of post-war Java is of special historic significance, representing the revival of the Javanese keris culture after World War II.
Dietrich Drescher started traveling through Indonesia in the year 1962. He started as a mariner, then captain, for several trade companies, and discovered the keris as a cultural item and work of art during stays in Indonesia. Being cautious about the origin of the “strange bright lines” on old blades he saw on antiquity markets, he began studying the forge techniques of pattern welding, which at that time was nearly forgotten.
He got in contact with Manfred Sachse in Germany, also one of the pre-war pioneers of pattern-welding, and started experimenting in Indonesia with the blacksmith Ki Josopangarso, uncle of Ki Jeno, near Yogyakarta. At that time, only agricultural tools were made in central-Javanese smithies. After several unsuccessful attempts, and the making of two golok (knife) blades, which involved laminating techniques, during a longer stay in Ki Josos house they finally managed to make a keris in the year 1974.
Drescher took the finished blade, the first surely confirmed and documented keris made after the war, and showed it to Hardjonagoro, who, together with Haryono Haryoruritno, was the greatest connoisseur and collector at that time. That turned out to be the starting point for making new keris and inspired an “avalanche” of motivation and inspiration, finally resulting in the nomination of the keris as “UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind” (2005). In 1997, Drescher further succeeded in melting pamor and steel in a traditional way in Java, using clay furnaces and traditional ububan (blowers).
Drescher’s efforts were definitely the starting point of keris kamardikan, keris made in the era of the Indonesian republic. Shortly after Drescher, Garrett Solyom, also known as an important figure in that field, started similar projects on a lesser scale.
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