Culture |

A Story of Melanesians,  A Lamentation to Mother Nature

Culture | 30 January 2020
The debut of Garin Nugroho’s Contemporary Performance Planet - Sebuah Lament at Teater Jakarta shows the rare voice and the body of work from Melanesians, rendering an environmental awakening that resonates to the global meditation about the hope for humanity and nature. Photo by Raditya Fadilla/NOW!JAKARTA

Appearing behind the plastic curtain that covers the entire stage, Septina Layan, a Maluku-native, sang Yamaindo in a melancholic voice, resonating the feeling of sorrow from a Papuan mother who mourns the death of the love of her life. Layan’s splendid rendition was chanted in pentatonic melodies performed by Kupang-based Mazmur Chorale Choir, dramatising the tears of men who witness their homeland hit by the tsunami.

The profound opening number has echoed to the contemplative spectacle of Planet — Sebuah Lament (Planet — A Lament), a latest original contemporary performance directed by the man behind notable work of Satan Jawa and Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku, Garin Nugroho himself. The 90-minute performance impressed spectators that filled up the audience seat during the two-day show in January at Teater Jakarta, Taman Ismail Marzuki.

Inspired by the local lament tradition expressed during Easter in Larantuka, East Nusa Tenggara, Planet narrates the story of a lone man and an egg as survivors in the aftermath of the natural disaster. The live performance illustrates the journey of seeking food and energy, portrayed the paradox of human greed and survival to continue the civilisation in the midst of despair towards the future, noting penance to find the balance to nature.

Planet narrates the story of a lone man and an egg as survivors in the aftermath of the natural disaster.
Nugroho and Tregloan used Noken, a traditional Papuan bag made of wood fibre, as a symbol of a mother’s womb, the manifestation of fertility and hope that build a close connection of motherhood and nature.   

“Lamentation is a ritual to find the path of love and awakening. It must be manifested when the world is harsh and vulgar, and we lose ourselves to experience humanity and to tell it. Nusa Tenggara and Papua are incredibly diverse in history, art and culture, and they deserve to be heard,” Garin Nugroho commented.

The portrayal of Melanesians was intellectually shown from the meticulous details of art direction by Australian scenographer Anna Tregloan. Aside from using dozens of stitched thrift clothes to create sky and ocean, Nugroho and Tregloan used Noken, a traditional Papuan bag made of wood fibre, as a symbol of a mother’s womb, the manifestation of fertility and hope that build a close connection of motherhood and nature.   

Acting as a lone man, Boogie Papeda who also works as choreographer along with Otniel Tasman and Joy Alpuerto Ritter — collectively creates contemporary tableau performance through body language influenced by Melanesian’s indigenous dancing tradition and endemic Eastern Indonesian faunas, such as Cendrawasih and Cassowary. Profound performance by other dancers including Douglas D’Krumpers, Pricillia EM Rumbiak, Bekham Dwaa, and Galaby Thahira has shown the public about the greedy characterisation when the egg — a daily good which probably one take it for granted — is symbolised as the only-thing valuable.

It took 2.5 years for Lament to be ready to be premiered in front of Indonesian audience. It’s been on Nughroho’s mind in the last seven years and he felt that 2020 is the right time to show it to the public as the global climate strike has been rising in the last few years.

In the dry land such as in Nusa Tenggara and Papua, an egg itself is fundamentally perceived as a luxury meal and nutrition. While award-winning dancer Rianto beautifully appeared in a figurative bird that wants to hatch the egg for the new birth, the new life. 

Septina Layan, who dedicates herself to pursue research on lament songs works with composer Taufik Adam and Nursalim Yadi Anugerah to excogitate intrinsic plot based the vocal and the music, featuring 5 indigenous languages from Nusa Tenggara, Maluku, and Papua.

“Lament is the greatest orchestra of humanity. It accepts losses and also the way of salvation. It lived by within and is lives every human. I’d love to introduce the Papuan laments to every ear,” Layan said.

At the end of the day, Garin Nugroho’s seven years of research is worth applause for introducing rare talents of Melanesians and carrying a discourse of urgent matters on current climate issues by only seeing how indigenous community is clearly better at it.

Planet is scheduled for the international tours, slated to be the opening act of Asia TOPA in Melbourne in February, following shows abroad in Germany and Netherlands.

Produced under the Garin Workshop, Planet —  Sebuah Lament is supported by Bakti Budaya Djarum Foundation, Art Centre Melbourne and Asia TOPA (Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts). Planet is scheduled for the international tours, slated to be the opening act of Asia TOPA in Melbourne in February, following shows abroad in Germany and Netherlands.