Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sanggar Mimi Rasinah

I went today by car to Indramayu in the company of my friends Pak Katura and Mas Opan to visit the sanggar of the late Mimi Rasinah, a topeng "maestro" who was "discovered" by Endo Suanda and friends around 1995 and promoted nationally and internationally until her death in 2010 at at the age of 80. At the head of the sanggar is Rasinah's grand-daughter Aerli who Rasinah selected to be her heir and Aerli's husband who graduated from the dance department of STSI Bandung and is originally from Arjawinangun. The sanggar has been well supported by grants from both local and international sources and appears to be very active with daily topeng dance classes for children of various ages, a gamelan group that practices regularly and a number of carvers who are kept busy carving souvenir keychains with topeng and sobra (retailing at 5000/keychain- these were displayed near the entrance to the sanggar).

We attended the Sunday morning dance class under Aerli's direction which was accompanied today by live gamelan. Students (all girls) ranged in age from 3 to late teens and executed en masse two topeng dances without masks or costumes. There were about 25 or so students - almost of all whom were accompanied by their mothers who ringed the walls of the studio. The studio had a high bamboo roof, new floor tiles and a big mirror on one wall. Posters of performances by Aerli and Rasinah were prominently displayed. Also present were a group of 6 or 8 KKN students from UPI Bandung who were on their second to last day of the work experience scheme. They had been active in trying to establish Pekandangan as a desa budaya, working with both the sanggar and also berokan groups. Their major achievement was planting 100 mahogany trees in a nearby graveyard- which they told me was a symbol of natural beauty and also endurance. The students cam from different departments - none of them related to the arts. This was the first UPI group to do KKN in Pekandangan, and they are working on a blog to present their findings and accomplishments. A rep from the KKN group said a few words and both Opan and I were also asked to say something. The sanngar is looking to reproduce the costume that Rasinah wore in performances (now rare) and Pak Katura volunteered to assist in reproducing both the beautiful blue-and-white batik skirt and a slendang juwana.

The visit had a very reverent atmosphere - Opan and I both spoke with great respect for Rasinah, the children kissed our hands when they exited, the UPI students made slight bows to acknowledge us etc. Still, it is good to see that there is an interest in topeng - in contrast, when asked, none of the children or mothers admitted to have ever seen a wayang performance.

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