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Home » Arts & Culture, People & Community

Wayang Skateboard  

by on Sunday, 24 February 2008No Comment | 3,155 views

When the bomb went off in Kuta last October, the reactions were mainly those of grief, horror and surprise. After the first few weeks of emergency care, it was time to try and figure out how to help those affected heal–on all levels: emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and economically. The Bali Relief efforts have been enormous–an outpouring of medications (80 percent of them outdated, I’m told), medical support, and money came onto this tiny island. After all the fanfare, and the extravanga free concerts with the big name stars, a number of us wondered what else could be done.

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Cody Schwaiko of YKIP (Yayasan Kemanusian Ibu Pertiwi, which was initially established to assist the bomb victims) asked me if I knew a dalang (shadow puppeteer) who could create a story about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that could be taken into the villages, particularly in and around Kuta.

Via the Wayang, information about PTSD is discussed in a down-to-earth and easy to understand way. A half hour video of this Wayang (called Dasa Nama Kerta or the Ten Names of Peace) has been aired on both TVRI (in an interactive call-in show with psychiatrist dr. Robert Reverger and Sidia) and Bali TV. This month the video is being taken into all four high schools in Kuta, again with a psychiatrist who distributes questionaires and brochures about PTSD to assess who may be experiencing symptoms. Free counseling is available with funding from YKIP and IMC (International Medical Corps).

The first live show in Kuta on December 12th was very warmly received (and this from people who aren’t that interested in traditional arts). There have been performances in Ubud and Bona as well and on January22 a performance will be done in Kepaon, Denpasar where a number of taxi drivers who were killed in the bombing are from. Again, a psychiatrist will introduce the wayang and disseminate information about PTSD and then the audience is invited to stay after, meet the dalang and see how the computer and the skateboards work as well as to speak with the doctors if they want to.

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Additional free psychiatric and psychological counseling is available for the Balinese and Indonesian community at the International Medical Corps (IMC) . If you know of anyone who could benefit from counseling, they can contact dr. Nyoman Sura Oka at IMC to set up appointments: (+62-361) 229092.

I contacted I Made Sidia of Bona village as Sidia has done numerous collaborations (Wayang Listrik ; The Theft of Sita) and has a politically savvy edge to his work. It was the perfect choice. He threw himself into the production (he had two weeks to get it together) with gusto, gathering together a team of very creative people. He decided to use his father’s (Made Sija, a well-known dalang and topeng dancer) group of musicians and supplement it with two 16-keyed gender (played by Made Subandi and Gusti Putu Sudarta)a number of flutes and percussive instruments and a keyboard (played by Ary Wijaya). But the kicker was that instead of using the traditional blancong oil lamp that illuminates the screen and the puppets, he called on his colleague, Dewa Made Darmawan, to create power point images. Therefore the only light source comes from the attached projector. The screen was extended to three meters and Sidia had to figure out a way to get the dalang from one end of the screen to the other when marching the puppets across. So he made skateboards.

There are five other dalang (plus two little kids who hold puppets and light firecrackers) besides Sidia, although the only speaking voice is his. Sidia sits a few meters back from the screen, manipulating the puppets which he wants to appear large on the screen. It’s quite a feat for him to improvise and make sure the other dalang are opening the puppets mouths at the correct time. Often, Sidia would use the puppet he was about to bring onto the screen to whack one of the dalangs to let him know when his cue was on.

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Nyoman Sira, Sidia’s brother has made a number of new puppets for this show out of plastic. They move beautifully and are quite flexible. He’s made some very creative three dimentional puppets, which transform with the flick of a wrist into another being–like an old woman who turns into a witch. An audience favorite is the man on a giant bicycle being chased by a monkey (the wheels actually spin around).

The computer images are both stills and video clips. It’s quite elementary but still knocks the socks off of people who are used to traditional wayang.

The story he decided upon is Dasa Nama Kerta or better known as Siwa Tattwa. Sanghyang Siwa has banished his wife to earth to live in a graveyard as a demon. But he misses her and leaves heaven to find her, as his desires overcome him. On earth, he transforms into the demon Kala Ludra. He meets up with lesser demons and they begin to destroy the world. Seeing this destruction, the four other main deities decide to go down to earth to find him and entice him back to their domain. The god Wisnu becomes a Telek mask dancer, the god Brahma a red masked dancer (Topeng Bang), the God Iswara a puppeteer and Sanghyang Bayu, a Barong (four legged mythological beast akin to a Chinese lion dancer). As they perform, the demons (including Siwa as Kala Ludra) are struck by the beauty of the art form and forget to torment each other. Kala Ludra remembers his real role as protector of the heavens and returns there. Before his departure, he reminds the humans that they must give offerings to the bhuta kala (spirits of chaos) so their ceremonies will not be disturbed. Every ritual must have an element of art in it, be it gamelan music, dance, wayang, kidung (sacred songs) or simply the ringing of the priest’s bell.

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In this Wayang, we are reminded that demons live within each and every one of us and we must confront and conquer them. We meet people who have lost loved ones in the bomb blast of October 12, 2002. A mother who has lost her only child who was her only source of income, a pre-schooler whose mother was killed, a macho security guard who has lost his lust for his wife and his life, a man who is constantly sick with headaches and stomach upsets. Merdah and Twalen (two clown-servant puppets) listen to these people’s tales of woes and comfort them. By lending a concerned ear, we can help restore people’s faith, give them back their will to live.

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At the end of the wayang, Twalen and Merdah talk about the ten elements of peace, which are earth, water, fire, wind, plants, animals, fish, birds, humans and God. The message is that each of these forces or entities must be cherished, nurtured and controlled: If one only loves and nurtures, without control, then things can get out of hand, such as a flood or a forest fire. Or a bomb.

We are planning on expanding this project into elementary schools and doing an English language version of the video as well.

For more information about this project, contact Rucina Ballinger (rucina @ indo.net.id).

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