Masters of the Sacred Masks

In Malang, East Java, Indonesia, a sacred tradition hangs precariously, threatening to disappear under the onslaught of modern life. There remain just a handful of people in the region with the skills to create the holy Malangan masks, which are used in traditional dance performances that tell the folk tale of Panji Asmoro Bangun and Dewi Sekartaji.
Many people in Malang refer to the masks as Mbah Mun - the nickname of Karimun, a revered mask master. He crafted his first mask when he was just 15, but now, bedridden in his old age, he can only whisper some of the lyrics from the songs that tell the stories.
One of the few people still making the masks is Handoyo, the foster grandson of Karimun. These days orders for masks to be used in performances are rare, with most masks being bought for decorative purposes. A decorative mask can be finished in a week, but a sacred mask requires the maker to complete a dawn-to-dusk monthlong fast.