My happy dance – let me show you it:
The Tarot Nusantara has been heretofore impossible to find or buy, as it is not sold outside of Indonesia. Howver, thanks to a member of the AT Forum who purchased a lot of them, some of us are lucky enough to call this most wondrous of Rider Waite clones “ours” now! Acquiring this deck is such an achievement for me that I have let my subscription to the forums expire, thereby denying myself access to any further trading options. I feel sated (for now).
I don’t know the nationality of the artist, but I suspect he is Javanese based on the artwork and choice of name. “Nusantara” is an Old Javanese word meaning “archipelago”, thus this deck is quite literally the “Tarot of Indonesia”. I’d love to know more about the origins and creation of the deck.
Though it’s a clone by definition, the style of this deck is so uniquely distinctive that it stands on its own. The figures remind me most of the exquisitely intricate shadow puppets of the Wayang Kulit. Between watching the films of Lotte Reiniger and learning how to batik from my grandmother, I have a deep love of Indonesian art and the important part that textiles play especially. Slim, elongated figures with hips swathed in multiple draped layers of heavily patterned, brightly coloured fabric; long, expressive fingers and exaggerated profiles; every pose looks like a dance.
The colours… the colours… oh. Mostly they are the rich, earthy hues achieved from using natural dyes. Lots of variations on yellow, orange, red, brown and grey-greens. Spicy. Against this palette, the use of blue as a complement is especially vibrant. And then there are the “modern” additions of shocking pink, purples and lime, bringing the traditional art into the 21st century. Despite the earth colours, there is nothing muddy or dull here; even the creams and beiges have light and depth. The browns are nutty, not poopy. And even with the use of multiple bright colours and patterns in every card, the scenes aren’t crowded or overwhelming. There is a wonderfully subtle balance between the simple, clean lines and the life happening inside them. I’m really enjoying all the people in different shades of pink and brown and yellow too and the swirls and curls add a much-needed dynamism to the images. Things are happening in these cards.
I could go on for hours, but I’ll restrain myself.
The cards are small by regular tarot standards, probably around playing card size though I think they might be slightly taller. They have glossy fronts but it isn’t a slick gloss, having a slight texture that is very pleasant to handle. The backs are matte (unlaminated?) The stock is somewhat light on first inspection and I was worried about shuffling, but they shuffle like a dream, probably as a combination of the card size and lamination.
Fans of borderless decks will be pleased to know that, while not completely borderless, the scenes run almost right to the edge of the card. The borders are subtly coloured and vary between the Arcana. Majors are light, greyed pistaschio, Wands a greyed yellow, Cups a pale seafoam, Swords pale mint and Coins are chocolate ice cream :) Majors and Courts are unobtrusively titled in a simple scroll and their “new” names feel great to say (even though I am probably murdering the language!) Majors and Minors have Roman numerals at the top of the card, again small and unobtrusive.
The card backs are a reversible filigree in chocolate ice cream and hazelnut browns and the fronts are treated with a “patina”, giving the cards an aged feel. The only tiny niggly “defect” that would matter to the most picky of tarot enthusiast is that there are tiny paper nubbins left at the top and bottom of the cards that haven’t been buffed completely smooth. Nothing a bit of fine-grit sandpaper (or nail file) wouldn’t solve.
I’ll be reading with these soon enough, but for now I’ll be sitting in a corner, whispering sweet nothings and stroking my new precioussssss.
(I freakin’ dreamed about this deck all night!)