At first it looked like it might rain. But then the mood lightened and it was a bright and crisp day. As I walked down the path to Cristina’s house, it hit me. I will never walk this path again. I entered the archway where her helpers, Ibu Ketut and Pak Made had decorated with coconut fronds. Two big “offerings” of fruit and flowers flanked her doorway.
Rio had printed up a lovely photo of Cristina by a river holding her favorite mask, Dalem the king and hung it on the outside door. She was looking up at us. I walked into her living space and there was another photo of her looking out to the actual river and the view outside, in profile with the mask side by side with her, in profile As well.
The kitchen was filled with coffee, tea and Balinese cakes that Asri had organized. I started Working on a “buku kenangan” or memorial book (thank you, Tom Hunter for that idea!), filling it with photos from Cristina’s albums. Everyone who came signed it, saying good bye to Cristina for The last time.
The Gambuh troupe filtered in, we could see them coming down the path carrying their instruments, all the Men in long blue t-shirts and kain (sarongs). They set up the instruments and were given coffee and cakes.
Other artists arrived, such a Ibu Nyoman Candri, Pak Wayan Dibia, Ibu Made Wiratini, Pak Made and Ibu Intan Wianta, scholars and friends. People sat everywhere: on the porch, inside, on mats on the grounds looking out to the river. It was a poignant atmosphere. Not somber, but celebratory.
The Pura Desa Gambuh group began playing. The scent of heady incense permeated the house. All of us with our own thoughts about Cristina, remembering the last time we had seen her.
The “committee”, if you will (Rio Helmi, Asri Kerthyasa, Pino Confessa, Antonella de Santis and Rucina Ballinger), after making sure everyone had been fed a little bit (thanks to Ketut, Made and Nyoman Kejut of Asri’s household and a number of other friends who pitched in) began the “talking bits”.
We started with reading an email from Alberta, Cristina’s younger Sister. Pino read it in Italian; Rucina the translation in English and Rio translated it into Indonesian
Desidero dire poche parole su Cristina, mia sorella che ho amato e che continuerÃ² ad amare. La sua lealtÃ , la sua purezza, la sua integritÃ l’hanno accompagnata sempre, non potrÃ² mai dimenticare i suoi occhi nei quali leggevo tutto l’amore, l’entusiasmo, la fatica, la serietÃ per la danza la sua compagna piÃ¹ fedele, perchÃ¨ questa era la sua vita; ed Ã¨ per questo che vorrei che anche attraverso le sue maschere e i suoi costumi lei continuasse a danzare per noi.
Non dimenticatela, lei non vi ha dimenticato!
I want to say a few words about Cristina, my sister that I love and continue to love. Her loyalty, pureness/purity and integrity will stay with us always, I will never forget her eyes in which you could read love, enthusiasm ,hard work and seriousness for dance, her faithful companion, because this was her life and for this and through it’s masks and costumes she continues to dance for us. Don’t forget her as she will not forget you.
Cokorda Raka Kerthyasa, the owner of Cristina’s house, spoke about Cristina and when she first came to Bali and stayed at Tjetjak Inn (the former very humble incarnation of Ibah Hotel), how she built her first.
And then second houses, and how the hotel guests would complain about the loud singing coming from the back of The hotel (Cristina practicing). He applauded her dancing abilities as well as the fact that she had written a two volume book on Gambuh. He led us in a moment of silence to remember her.
Pak Made Suamba, the head of the Pura Desa Gambuh troupe then spoke — calling Cristina a real maestro and a fanatic about tradition.
Rucina then talked about how Cristina had started an all women’s Topeng troupe: Topeng Shakti and how much she had learned herself from Cristina.
Ni Nyoman Candri, dancer and singer supreme, spoke about Topeng Shakti as she was the main performer (along with Cristina) and how they gave workshops in Paris.
Rhoda Grauer reminded us that Cristina was an eminent scholar as well, not only performing Gambuh but researching it as well.
The Gambuh dancers then did a full story so that all the major characters were represented. At the end, there was a scene where food was brought out for them to eat. The main dancer of that group looked at the food and his eyes lit up and he said “Ah, vegetarian” (Cristina was a well known non meat eater) and then he and the others offered up the food and said “for you, Cristina” and held it up to her portrait that hund behind them.
Then Ibu Candri led the troupe in a Balinese children’s song (Putri Cening Ayu) and the piece de resistance was the whole troupe singing “Brindiam” from La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi in Italian that Cristina had taught them.
And afterwards, we all ate our vegetarian “nasi bungkus” (rice in a banana leaf). The performers hoisted up their instruments and went down the path once again, leaving only the strains of their beautiful music lingering in the air for Cristina to hear.
July 31, 2008