Gita Aria group, Ciamis
Wawan Darmawan used to have trouble remembering his grandchildren’s names. Not anymore, since he named his handicraft business after them both. Gita Aria is a combination of the names of his male and female grandchildren, born to his daughters Lilies Hermawati and Elin Herlina. Currently, Wawan lives with his wife, Titin Rahmatin, and daughters Ari Arya Setiadi and Ayu Sri Harjani in the sub-district of Cijeunjing. This comes as no surprise, however, as Gita Aria has always been a family affair.
Wawan learnt his skills from his grandfather, an angklung producers and Sundanesse art performer, during junior high school, and through reading biology books about bamboo. Displaying an obvious interest in the business, Wawan was given simple jobs such as washing and bunching bamboo primarily used for handicraft production in his family. As Wawan got older, he was put in charge of cooking the bamboo and cleaning it with rice dust to remove the burns. The bamboo was put out to dry, cut with a jigsaw and bunched, treated, hollowed with a bore and coated with water-based propane. Writing and decorations were done with a lit coconut shell.
This process has remained largely unchanged since 1989, when Gita Aria began working with Pekerti upon approaching Wawan during a community development project for victims of the Galunggung mountain eruption. The difference is, Gita Aria is now proud to practice the fair trade principles including transparency and improved occupational health and safety measures. The traditional focus remains on bamboo and palm leaf products, particularly traditional Sundanesse musical instruments including angklung, ‘calung’ and ‘gambang’ xylophones, and wind chimes. And Wawan, now age 58, is still cultivating a love of working with his family in producing bamboo handicrafts.