I meant to post this earlier, but there was a power outage (the 6th or 7th since we’ve been in Jogja) which prevented me from connecting to the internet.
The past 3 days have been remarkably busy and full of new experiences (most of them wonderful). After class on Friday we met up with Samuel Indratma, a local artist famous for his murals and street art. He visited Haverford in 2004 or 2005 and his work is still hanging outside the CPGC café (the identity cards with the interesting faces). We met Sam Indramata at Taman Budaya, where his work is on exhibit along with other local artists and artisans. A major focus of Sam’s work is bringing the disabled (difabel in Bahasa Indonesia) into the public’s consciousness. In Indonesia, he explained, people with developmental and physical disabilities are marginalized to the point of segregation: they go to special schools and are kept out of the public eye almost entirely. Sam’s work focuses on reintegrating the disabled, as well as those who work with the disabled, back into mainstream society.
After exploring Taman Budaya, we piled into the car and drove to a small shop called Toko Ledgar, owned by the famous Indonesian shower puppeteer of the same surname. When Obama was supposed to visit Indonesia last year, his Jawanese family sent pictures of his family (including the dog), which were made into puppets.
Regardless of his fame, Ledgar’s shop is quite humble: it is comprised of 3 rooms: the foyer, a storage room, and the bedroom/ workshop/ kitchen. The shop was literally bursting with art: Ledgar spent about 2 hours showing up his favorite puppets, as well as news articles and dissertations written about him. Although he’s never stopped moving while we were there. By the time we left, we were all exhausted, while Ledgar seemed as energetic as ever.
Our next stop was Nasirun’s compound (house, studio, storage rooms, and his personal museum). I have never seen so much art in one day, or so up- close. Nasirun was incredibly down-to-earth and modest, always laughing when we expressed our amazement at beauty, detail, and sheer volume of art covering every possible space. His works actually stretched from floor to ceiling: he carved the floors by hand with intricate designs and the sunlights were painted as well. Gigantic 9 Meter canvases adorned the walls. And this was only his “house.”
We followed Nasirun outside, to the patio area, all designed by him. Complete with exotic birds, trees imported from the Amazon, and a mosaic pool. More art lined the patio and filled various storage rooms nestled throughout the property. And then we got to Nasirun’s personal museum, in which he showcased his less- advantaged artist friends. (Some of Nasirun’s paintings sell for millions of dollars, so he wanted to create a space to both financially and artistically support his commercially less successful friends.)
Before we left, we were introduced to his daughter and were each given a beautiful hardcover book of his work. We traded emails with the daughter upon Nasirun’s request, since our English is “very delicious.”
We left to meet up with Maddie Krieder-Karlson ’10, who’s finishing up her Watson fellowship. We went back to the park per Sam’s suggestion. A band was setting up, and Termana (our program coordinator) joked about us singing a duet. I laughed along with everyone else, but we were taken seriously. Suddenly, Termana and I found ourselves onstage, singing with the band. (PICTURES) I was nervous at first, but as is the Indonesian way, everyone was really supportive and we had a great time messing up the words to 5 songs.
The next day, we had class (Yes! On a Saturday!) and then drove to Ngawi, East Jawa, to a village called Seker Aras where Aisha will be doing her field research. (See Maddie’s previous post for more details about the trip there and back.)
We went to bed early in anticipation of another long day. We awoke at 7 am and visited the rice paddies, cemetery, and cow shed. The past 2 harvests have failed, and the virus causing the drought in the rice fields was highly visible. In spite of the recent economic hardships, though, everyone was friendly and welcoming. As we walked, children giggled and followed, so that by the time we got back to the house, there were at least 10 children in tow. Sari (Bram’s wife and our other host) explained that the kids came over every day (when they’re not in school) to play, learn to use the computer, and eat. After 2 failed harvests, their parents are migrant laborers, so the kids go to Sari and Bram’s instead of sitting home alone.
The kids were really cute and tried to help us with our Bahasa Indonesia. We played mancala and checkers with them and did puzzles while lunch was prepared. Some of Sari’s older students arrived and we talked about school, learning English, and boys. The girls both hope to continue onto college, if they get scholarships.
Even though we were still in Jawa, Ngawi felt as if it were worlds away from Jogja. Although the food was very similar, and the people were equally friendly, the landscape and the different markers of economic hardship really illuminated Indonesia’s diversity. Jogja isn’t a wealthy city (a big lunch here is usually between $1 and $2 USD), but it’s a city in some ways reminiscent of Philly or Newark. Although poverty is visible, it is somehow downplayed by virtue of the urban setting. The trip definitely put things into perspective, and left us all with a lot to think about.
Today, back in Jogja, some kids walked past and pointed, screaming “bule!” at us. Bule means white person in Bahasa Indonesia, and although we’ve been told it isn’t pejorative, it’s still always a surprise to hear yourself addressed as such. Most everyone recognizes that we’re not here as tourists, but students, but I still feel othered by it. I’ll write more about this later, but wanted to introduce the idea here, in conjunction with our weekend in Ngawi.