I have been remiss in keeping up with the blog over the last three weeks. First there was my two week trip to Cirebon, when I had only irregular access to the internet and intense days with much travelling. Since coming back to Yogya on 24 March I have been involved in a huge variety of activities. I'll try to summarize, though inevitably there will be omissions.
There were four main reasons behind my trip to Cirebon. One was to prepare a grant application on wayang golek cepak - to be submitted later this month. The second was social - it had been 5 years since my last visit and I found myself missing old friends and colleagues. The third was practical - I hoped to perform some wayang awan (matinee wayang shows). The fourth was that I hoped to see some shows and catch up on the progress of Cirebonese performing arts (a book on the arts of Cirebon is still something I am thinking about). I managed to accomplish all four goals in the end.
I met with a variety of people about the grant - puppeteers, cultural experts, EOs (event organisers - a new category of cultural worker here in Indonesia that has rapidly taken centre stage), potential co-sponsors etc - and eventually secured two letters of support and a number of verbal promises. The grant looks to be on firm ground now, though you never know with UK funders.
I saw quite a number of my closest friends in Cirebon and Indramayu. Among the people I met with were: glass painter Opan, batik artist Katura, shadow puppeteer Purjadi, carver and all-round artist Sujana [Gegesik Kidul], shadow puppeteer Udaya, shadow puppeteer Bahani, glass painter Bahendi, shadow puppeteer Mansyur, shadow puppeteer Herman Basari, shadow puppeteer and dancer Wangi Indriya, shadow puppeteer Taham, tarling artist Kang Ato [Sunarto MA], tarling artist Kang Fendi, shadow puppeteer H Rusdi, shadow puppeteer Sudarso, topeng manager Edi Rasinah, all-round arts expert Elang Tomi, musician Jaja, shadow puppeteer Nono Suryono, music teacher Waryo, rod puppeteer Akmadi, rod puppeteer Sukata, pesinden H Iwi, pesinden H Samii, drummer Warsadi, drummer Jaya. I also visited the house of sandiwara actor Wartaka and learned that he passed away 3 or 4 years ago. A sad shock. I went to the house of shadow puppeteer Grami in Gunungsari and learned he was sick, and I was unable to meet him sadly. I spent quite a bit of time with some new colleagues - an EO named Arief, a school teacher named Anna Schatz and her drummer husband [who plays sometimes with Samba Sunda], It was a great joy seeing all these people for the most part - and catching up on local gossip. My friends and colleagues in Cirebon have a special place in my heart, and I was delighted to learn that Herman named his third child Tri Hannah Sita (after my own daughter) and that Kraton Kacirebonan will be bestowing a title on me shortly.
I managed to perform 2 wayang awan shows of Mapag Sri in Kab Indramayu. I had forgotten to bring a copy of this lakon with me and Nono (the dalang bengi) quickly narrated the play to me before the first show. Both shows flowed pretty well - though suluk were a problem and I sometimes struggled to recall wayang formulae.
I find much has changed in the last years in Cirebon. Number of performances is about half of what it was in the 1990s. Some artists such as Kang Fendi are in sad shape. Others have found other avenues of income. Herman is a practicing dukun. Tejda (who I didn't meet) is running for office as a caleg. Sujana [Gegesik] is thriving from giving condensed topeng shows and working with sanggar, the government and in education. Bahani suffered a stroke or such and is no longer able to perform wayang - instead he is teaching gamlean in a school in Cirebon. Purjadi wrote a book on wayang (based in large part on materials we collected together in 1994-5) and is working on developing wayang organ. Opan has taken a leading role in cultural management in the various kraton - and invited me to speak at STAIN and also instigated the idea of getting me a royal title.
Since returning to Yoyga on 24 March I have attended a lecture by St Sunardi on French postmodernism in Indonesia at LIP (surprisingly well attended), been to a performance by Enthus Susmono in Gamping (remarkable - needs further comments), delivered a lecture on Devi Dja at UGM (written up in KR, unfortunately with some major technical problems), went to an evening of student and professional shows at ISI (a monthly event, very lovely atmosphere - though quality uneven), attended a showing of 4 solo dance pieces by emerging Javanese choreographer/dancers at Padepokan Seni (again a lovely atmosphere, though the work was just so-so) and went to a fantastic event - a biweekly performance lab in a little pendopo in Limasan in which a solo actor named Ari improvised a Javanese language dialogue about a suicidal ketoprak actor who accidentally kills his son. The performance had some problems -but the post-performance dialogue was intense and open and sensitive. On 1 April I attended another wayang golek performance by Sukarno at the kraton, and found (again) that I had a hard time following because of the very poor accoustics.
I have also been helping out to establish a UNIMA Indonesia - again something for another blog entry.