Storage Box (written by Kai Chan)

In the 1980s, I was very interested in basket making. Through an introduction by Dr. Stephen Inglis I was given access to the collection of Philippine baskets in the Royal Ontario Museum. In the collection there are containers, household items, fishing traps, and hats. They are all woven with bamboo, rattan and other plant materials. I learned a lot about basketry from examining these objects. It was around this time I bought this Indonesian storage box.

I was very excited in getting this box, because it is not woven but constructed like a house. This box is roughly a 16 inch cube, made entirely of plant material. The vertical and horizontal supports are made of bamboo and palm petiole.The walls, top and bottom of the box are filled with leaves with various geometric patterns. The interior of the box is lined with palm leaves. Some of these materials are in their natural light and dark brown colours, a fair amount of them have been dyed in purple and red. At the The front of the box is embedded with tiny cowrie shells in traditional symbolic patterns. There is a light beige horizontal bar at the front that indicating where the the lid ended.

A hundred years ago, a box like this, in an Indonesian village, could be a significant piece of furniture for the family. The care and dedication in the making is evident in the piece. Nowadays we have all the modern materials and technology to produce any type of boxes, a box like this would be futile. However it has enhanced my daily life and I still use it to keep all my woollen socks.