Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Karo-begrafenismuziek, Louis Couperus Museum, Den Haag

Juara Ginting's Karo Leiden-based Karo group of musicians and dancers, joined by guest artist Pulumun Ginting from Medan (part of a contingent of PhD students from Indonesia currently working on PhD proposals in Leiden, backed by the Kajian Tradisi Lisan and the KITLV) offered a suite of pieces from Karo death rituals at the Louis Couperus Museum in The Hague on 17 December 2011 in conjunction with an exhibition on death and funerals (http://www.couperusmuseum.org/press_d.html).

What started off as a piece of sandiwara, with very theatrical declamations from Juara backed by mannequins of Dutch mourners in the museum exhibition (on loan from the National Theatre), transformed over the course of the event into a heartfelt expression of grief. This was perhaps due to the utter conviction of Nelly, the principal female singer and dancer of the group, who runs the Sumatra House eatery in Leiden. Nelly's niece, Tari (who has taken time out of her studies in Medan to work at the eatery for a few months, returning at the end of the month), said she felt a bit 'grogi' in this unusual setting.

I spoke to Juara afterwards and he admitted to being very moved by the experience. He noticed that I did not really clap after each of the pieces - which involved surrogation (a piece of cloth for a dead child?), confession, crying, ecstasy, maybe even possession. Indeed I admitted it was hard to know how to react to this performance, I told him, but I felt very moved. This made it a 'sukses' as a piece of art (seni) he said.

The museum is very small, and the performance was full to capacity. A glass of wine was available afterwards.

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