Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dress Rehearsal for the Festival Kraton Nusantara

Yesterday afternoon (8 August) I attended the Gladhi Resik or Dress Rehearsal for West Java's delegation to the Kraton Festival Nusantara. This is a biennial celebration of Indonesia's courtly cultures - pomp and circumstance, humourless speeches on the greatness of tradition, occasionally interesting art works. This year's festival is being hosted by the small court of Buton in Sulawesi and falls on 1-4 September. West Java's tourism department, which is sponsoring the 5 'kraton' of West Java (some of which are not proper kraton though are referred to as such), arranged to hold the Dress Rehearsal 3 weeks prior to departure to fit their schedule and work around the long holiday of Idul Fitri. I thus got to see a long procession made up of these 5 'kraton' (Kasepuhan, Kanoman, Kacirebonan, Keprabonan, Sumedang Larang) from the the outer gate of the Kraton Kasepuhan up to the kraton itself, followed by representative dances from each of the royal houses at Kasepuhan's Pagelaran (a large pendopo which was built for the festival kraton held in Cirebon in the 1990s).

The quality varied considerably. We saw 3 versions of topeng Klana (talk about a lack of imagination) and sendratari-like dances from Kacirebonan and Sumedang. Gamelan playing ranged from spirited to lackadaisical. Some of the dancers were highly trained professionals (Sujana Arja's son Inu was one of the topeng dancers), others rank beginners. The sultans themselves were all in attendance dressed in their formal kraton garb. There were formal speeches - a rep from the tourism office spoke about how putting together the 5 royal houses as one 'packet' would show West Java in a more spectacular way.

The afternoon concluded with the handing out of charity baskets to the poor (who also attended the dances and procession) and a buka bersama meal.

A reporter from RRI interviewed me about my thoughts about Indonesia culture today and specifically the role the kraton plays in contemporary society.I tried to be as diplomatic in my responses.

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