A healing lament in the wake of a natural disaster
A man is the sole survivor of a destructive tsunami. He carries an egg that he’s trying to find a way to hatch. With his new piece The Planet – A Lament, the Indonesian director Garin Nugroho (previously at the festival with Setan Jawa, 2017) tells an affecting story about creation, based on a Papuan myth, against the background of a natural disaster. For this project, which features a 15-voice choir, dancers and film, Nugroho has teamed up with a cast from Indonesian Papua and Nusa Tenggara Timur, and an artistic team from across the Indonesian archipelago and Australia. The Planet – A Lament is a healing ritual that mourns a lost world while also offering hope for those left behind.
“Mungkin bencana alam selama ini, karena mereka kehilangan alam bermain?”
“Maybe natural disasters happen because the elements have lost their place in the world?”
- Lyrics from The Planet - A Lament
For The Planet – A Lament, director Garin Nugroho has drawn from the vastly diverse cultural frames that are found across the Indonesian archipelago – the hip hop street dance of Jayapura in Papua, the choral singing of northern Sumatra, the laments and religious services of the island of Flores, the exquisite detail of Javanese dance, the songs of lament that are sung in the small villages that populate the Papuan hinterlands, and the zeitgeist intellectual charm of one of Australia’s leading stage designers. From each he has drawn unique political statements, brave offers and complex personal impressions, blending them to create a work that is intentionally naive, simple and universal, and at the same time an act of cultural healing.
This story begins after a huge natural disaster, where humans are exposed to the fury of the sea, wind and fire – even the plague. The story is told by a woman – a singer from Papua – through lament songs that contemplate loss and hope in the changing natural landscape. She is joined by ‘the people’, a choir, singing of their communal suffering and asking God for help.
From the ocean emerges a stranded sole survivor, a man. He collapses on the shore, close to death. The woman gives the man an egg, the only thing left on earth when the whole universe is damaged. This egg is a symbol of food, energy and a new planet – the only chance nature has to start again and forge a new future. She asks the man to protect and hatch the egg, to give birth to new life in the future.
The sea spews up terrible monsters made of the refuse of humanity’s greed, non-biodegradable man-made objects. The monsters hear of an egg that will give them energy. Starving, they hunt for the egg the man carries. The man’s journey to carry and protect the egg takes place in the middle of a great migration of humans seeking safety, food, and new energy. The man’s journey to save the egg is tiring, but the prayers and singing of the mothers in the villages he passes through give him the strength to continue – to journey towards salvation.
The woman sees the weary man at the end of his energy, and she sings a song to invite a savior. With her song arrives a bird, who brings the man to the last forest on a parched earth. The bird leads the man to a nest shaped like a crown of dried stems. The bird invites all humans and nature to sing prayers, to hatch the egg and give birth to new life on earth. The hungry monsters, though, have discovered them, and the man chooses to sacrifice himself to protect the bird, the egg and its new life. The people and the woman lament the man’s death and look with hope to the egg and the potential for a new beginning.
Nugroho on The Planet – A Lament
‘I have been interested in lament songs for the past seven years. Lamentations live in all the corners of the archipelago and also represent the ancient history of the world – the loss of cities and the destruction of civilisation due to war or natural disasters. Our planet’s journey is filled with unexpected events that laid the template for this work, The Planet – A Lament.
The chain of events throughout my career that contributed to this work includes witnessing the aftermath of the Aceh tsunami, working there in the week immediately after it hit. I experienced first-hand the trauma, despair and hope for new beginnings whilst leading a recovery and empowerment program established under NGOs (SET: Science, Aesthetics and Technology) in collaboration with John Hopkins University and UNICEF. Throughout my career I have been in the midst of the forest fires in Riau and bloody conflicts in several corners of the country that lead to great refugee migrations.
I’ve traveled to many corners of the archipelago, listening to the lament songs in villages and experiencing the ceremonial phenomenon of lament during Easter celebrations on the island of Procida, Italy and in Larantuka, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). Easter always involves a story of lament and a tableau of the Way of the Cross. In Larantuka on the East Indonesian island of Flores, the Way of the Cross is held in a Larantuka football stadium, a soccer field – a living theatre with a youth choir. This is essentially the core inspiration for The Planet – A Lament. The last but most important element for this project was the unexpected meeting with Septina Layan, a composer, researcher and singer of lament in Jayapura, Papua.
For me, the combination of all these events is the journey of lament. Lamentation is a story; through experiencing the pain of humanity a path is forged towards love and awakening. Personally, I feel lamentation must be manifested when the world is harsh and vulgar; when we lose our connection to the raw experience of humanity we must find a way to recall the experience through storytelling.
As a closing note, Melanesia is powerful in its body language and vocals. I first traveled around NTT in 1986 and Papua in 1991, creating a variety of film works and travel records. Lament is sung in ceremonies and rituals of the dead in all corners of the archipelago and throughout the world. It is sung to mourn the destruction of cities by natural disaster and violent conflict.’
The work of the Indonesian director Garin Nugroho (1961, Yogyakarta) is characterised by a multitude of styles and genres. Among other things, Nugroho has made short films, documentaries, feature films, film essays, and children’s films, but his work also encompasses musical theatre, installation art, and painting. His visual art was shown at exhibitions for the Louis Vuitton Gallery in Paris, the Haus der Kunst in Munich, and the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta. He also writes columns and reviews for the Indonesian newspaper Kompas and has published books on Indonesian art, television, and cinema.
Nugroho’s films are praised internationally and were featured, among others, at film festivals from Cannes to Berlin. The Tropenmuseum Amsterdam commissioned him to adapt his film Opera Jawa (shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2007) into a musical theatre piece. His recent film Memories of My Body premiered at the Venice film festival in 2018 and received various awards, including those for best film at the Festival des 3 Continents (Nantes) and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Nugroho made his debut at the Holland Festival with Setan Jawa in 2017.
Nugroho has received various awards, such as the Cultural Ambassador Award bestowed on him by the Sultan of Yogyakarta. He furthermore won the Indonesian President Habibie Culture Award and the Italian Stella d’Atelerie Cavalerie award. In 2016, the French minister of culture appointed him Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Septina Rosalina Layan is a musician, pianist and composer based in Papua. Septina was born in Merauke, Papua, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts at Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta (Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta) in 2014. The cultural value of laments and critiques of social and environmental issues and natural resources in Papua form the core of her work. She received the 2017 scholarship from Yayasan Kelola and in 2018 was chosen, along with the Voice of Papua, to participate in the Europalia Festival in Brussels, Belgium. In the same year, Septina completed her research on the traditional Eb composition of the Yaghai Mappi tribe, south Papua, with the support of Hibah Cipta Media Ekspresi grant awarded by Wikimedia Indonesia and the Ford Foundation.
Mazmur Chorale, based in Kupang, West Timor, Indonesia, is a highly respected choir in the region. Founded in 2001, the choir was initially formed by a group of university students to fill their spare time between lectures. Mazmur Chorale has performed in Indonesia for various religious and community events and won several titles across the region. The choir won at the Asian Choir Games in Jakarta 2008 and in 2014 travelled to the World Choir Games in Latvia, where they were awarded first place in the Gospel category.
Rianto trained in classical Javanese dance and Javanese folk dance from a young age, specialising in the cross-gender form of Lengger. He has worked with a spectrum of international choreographers, performance makers and companies, while remaining dedicated to his own training and voice in contemporary Indonesian performing arts. In 2017 Rianto joined the Akram Khan Company, taking over Akram’s role in Until the Lions while continuing to tour solo work SoftMachine: Rianto. He stars in the award-winning film Memories of My Body directed by Garin Nugroho and based on Rianto’s biography, the film with which the online Holland Festival 2.0-2.0 opened. Medium, Rianto’s first full-length choreographic work, has toured extensively throughout the Asia Pacific and Europe.
Serraimere Boogie was born in Sorong, West Papua, and studied at the Jakarta Art Institute (IKJ), completing his Masters in 2017. Boogie is a contemporary dancer, performing at festivals including the World Travel Market, UK in 2014, Singapore Art Festival in 2016, and the Solo International Performing Arts festival in 2018. Boogie was Assistant Choreographer for the Opening Ceremony of the Asian Games in 2018.
Heinbertho J. B. D. Koirewoa (Douglas), born in Sorong, West Papua, is a hip hop mentor and teacher in Papua and West Papua. He founded the Anker Dance School Jayapura, Sentani, and is committed to promoting Papuan culture, performing in Singapore, Malaysia, London and the Netherlands. A supporting actor in the SCTV series Diam-Diam Suka, he was the champion in several battle dance competitions.
Pricillia Elisabeth Monica (Eliz) is based in Jayapura and is actively involved in the local dance and hip hop scene as a member of the Anker Dance community. Eliz is also a dance teacher and often participates in dance competitions at regional and national levels. In 2017, Eliz participated in the Europalia Festival, and the following year performed at the Galeri Indonesia Kaya in the Ruang Kreatif program.
Beckham Dwaa was born in 1995 and raised in Jayapura, Papua. Before moving to his current base in Jakarta, Dwaa started a dance community called Potred Dance with Jacko Siompo of the Animal Pop Dance community. He is now active in the Hustlermvmnt community and has joined dance events including Eat D’ Beat in Bandung and Jakarta Dance Meet Up.
Taufik Adam is a West Sumatran musician and composer who conceptualises music as an interaction between art, humanity and place. He has composed many works across genres including projects with Ensemble Modern, such as Ruang Suara in Holland Festival, 2017. He is currently exploring electronic music – linking tradition with modernity through the flow of global-local-isation.
Nursalim Yadi Anugerah is a composer and DIY ethnomusicologist who has collaborated extensively with indigenous musicians to preserve and reinterpret their music through new compositions. His 2017 chamber opera Hnnung was inspired by the cosmology, sonology and culture of indigenous people from West Kalimantan (Borneo), and was awarded the Hibah Seni Karya Inovatif (Innovative Art Grant) 2017 by Kelola Foundation. Its 2018 album release was awarded Best Indonesian Album of 2018 by The Jakarta Post. He is also the composer for Ine Aya’ that will also be part of Holland Festival this year.
Michael Kantor is a celebrated theatre and opera director from Melbourne. He was Artistic Director of the Malthouse Theatre from 2004 to 2010 and directed 20 productions for the company. Before Malthouse, Kantor devised and directed shows for Adelaide Festival, Melbourne Festival, Perth Festival, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir, Chunky Move, Edinburgh International Festival and the Lincoln Centre in New York. In 2013, Kantor directed his first feature film The Boy Castaways, premiering at Adelaide Film Festival. He also directed The Shadow King, an Indigenous version of King Lear that premiered as part of Melbourne Festival and toured to Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane Festival, as well as to the Barbican in London. Kantor received the Helpmann Award for best direction for The Shadow King. Recently, he directed Meow Meow’s Little Mermaid for Malthouse and Edinburgh International Festival, and the Australian premiere of the David Bowie penned musical, Lazarus.
Anna Tregloan is a multi-award-winning designer, artist and creative producer who collaborates on and creates work for major performing arts companies, major Australian festivals and an array of smaller and independent companies, galleries and artists. She has an extensive history in contemporary theatre and dance, physical theatre, opera, live-art and immersive installations. She has a Masters in Animateuring from VCA, University of Melbourne.
Iskander K Loedin has been actively involved in designing various Indonesian theatre/dance performances since 1996 and has worked with many Indonesian and international directors and choreographers including Garin Nugroho, Robert Wilson (USA), Eko Supriyanto (Indonesia), Robert Draffin (Australia) Sophiline Shapiro (Cambodia) and Pichet Klunchun (Thailand), working across both scenography and lighting design. While working with many leading Indonesian artists and touring extensively, Iskandar also actively supports emerging artists, cross disciplinary and experimental productions, and upcoming lighting and production designers. Iskandar was professionally trained by Jennifer Tipton at the Design Department, Yale School of Drama, Yale University, USA.
Joy Alpuerto Ritter was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Germany. As a child she was trained in ballet, jazz, and Philippine folk dance. A graduate from Palucca Dance School (Dresden), she later dedicated herself to the hip hop scene, becoming an award-winning participant of major international dance battles while also working as a freelance dancer with choreographers like Christoph Winkler, Anja Kozik, Heike Hennig and Constanza Macras. In 2011 she was invited to join the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, an arena show by Cirque du Soleil, which toured through the USA, Canada and Europe. Since 2012 she has been working and touring internationally with Company Wang Ramirez and Akram Khan Company (iTMOi, Until the Lions). She was nominated for the Outstanding Female Dancer (Contemporary) award at the UK National Dance Awards in 2016 for her performance in Until the Lions (Holland Festival 2016).
Otniel Tasman is an emerging choreographer whose work is based in the training and practices of his hometown’s Banyumas culture. For his projects, Otniel explores ideas inspired by contemporary choreography and the gender-fluid identity of traditional Lengger Lanang dance. A graduate of Institut Seni Indonesia Surakarta (Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Surakarta) in 2014, he established Otniel Dance Community in 2012. He actively collaborates with Indonesian and international artists including Ming Wong (Germany), Daniel Kok (Singapore), Arco Renz (Germany), Maxine Happner (Canada), Yo-fen Shu (Taiwan), Hanafi Muhammad (Indonesia) and Garin Nugroho (Indonesia). Otniel is currently working on a collaboration with Bekraf in Tomohon, North Sulawesi.
Reny Suci joined Garin Nugroho’s SET Film as a Programmer Assistant in 2011 working on LA Indie Movie (2011-2014). In 2013, she joined Nugroho's stage work Selendang Merah as a production assistant. In 2015 she returned to her hometown, Sumbawa to create Sumbawa Cinema Society, a film community focused on productions, workshops, screenings and discussion. In 2018, she created Sumbawa Collective, an organization for local young artist in Sumbawa and developed a multi-discipline performance Rungan Do about migrant workers, in collaboration with Garasi Performance Institute. The same year, she received the Hibah Cipta Perdamaian (Peacemaking Art Grant) from Yayasan Kelola and the Danish Embassy, a grant specific to Central and Eastern Indonesia to support artistic and creative activities that are supporting peace and reconciliation in their regions.
Rina Damayanti joined Garin’s production house SET Films as a producer in 2001 and has handled many of Garin Nugroho’s performance productions and feature films including Opera Jawa (2006), Under The Tree (2008), Blue Generation (2009), The Mirror Never Lies (2011), Blindfold (2012), Setan Jawa (2016), Tusuk Konde (2010) and Selendang Merah (2013). She also works on various film programs such as ACFFEST (Anti-Corruption Film Festival) held by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and USAID, LA Indie Movie, and Creative Space for Indonesia Performing Arts held by Djarum Bakti Budaya. In 2008 she became one of the finalists in the International Young Creative Entrepreneur (IYCE) Award from the British Council. Damayanti is currently CEO of PadiPadi Creative, a production house and event management company, actively producing various audio-visual works such as documentaries, short movies, TV programs, web series, etc., in collaboration with various national and international institutions.
- music, direction
- Garin Nugroho
- music, solo vocals
- Septina Rosalina Layan
- Michael Kantor
- set, costume
- Anna Tregloan
- Iskandar K. Loedin
- Mazmur Chorale, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara
- dance, creation
- Serraimere Boogie, Rianto, Heinbertho J. B. D. Koirewoa (Douglas), Pricillia EM Rumbiak (Elis), Paul Amandus Dwaa (Becham)
- choreography dance
- Joy Alpuerto Ritter
- assistant director
- Otniel Tasman
- Taufik Adam, Nursalim Yadi Anugerah
- This performance was made possible with support by