Under the Horizon: between desperation and hope


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foto. dok. Ratu Selvi Agnesia

Under the Horizon: Between hope and desperation 

The torrent rain has finally stopped in the salt farmer’s village, leaving nothing but despair to the villagers. Most of their houses are ruined and the processed organic salt is in disarray. Pei, one of the salt farmers, and his wife Elisenda look shocked.

The organic salt, which is slowly replaced by the iodized salt in the market, causes lower income for Pei and other families in the villages, let alone heavy rain that wiped what’s left of the farmers.

After the disaster, Pei and his wife find a very old man hurt severely. The man has broken enormous white and light wings at his back. Despite desperation on the family’s future economic condition, the couple decides to help the stranger by calling the local female shaman. The man with the broken wings, fortunately, is healed.

Then, miracle starts to take place. The couple’s sick child is getting well. Many people come to their house to ask help from the man due to curiosity, making the couple earns a lot of money. A lost hope is suddenly replaced by a wave of belief that things will be better for the couple. It is because the presence of the very old man with the enormous wings.

This is part of the story of ‘Under the Horizon’ performed by theatrical group the Migrating Troop in Goethe Institute Jakarta on last Friday.  The story ‘Under the Horizon’ tells about traditional salt farmer’s life in coastal areas in Indonesia. The performance is directed by Citra Pratiwi.

Citra said during an interview that she was interested to make a theatrical performance on people living in the coastal area after reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, which also highlights the same issue.

“I have thought on adapting Marquez’ story into Indonesian version and focused on the life of traditional salt farmers here,” she said.

She added that she decided to observe directly the life of traditional salt farmers in Kusamba village under Empowering Women Artist (EWA) program of the non-profit Kelola Foundation. During the creation process, Citra was assisted by Juju Prabowo from Teater Gandrik. Kusamba, which is located in Klungkung, Bali, is famous as the village of traditional salt farmers.

Citra spent almost one month at thevillage to explore the life of salt farmers there. She said that the farmers produced salt traditionally by drying seawater under the sun until it became crystal salt. 

 She also found that although the organic Kusamba salt was favorable and expensive in Japan, the product was not highly profitable.  The local market preferred the iodized and imported salt more, she added.

 The shifting from organic to iodized salt has threatened life of Kusamba traditional salt farmers, she said. Citra portrays the situation by showing the farmers gather in the seashore and complain on how difficult for them to sell traditional salt in the local market. One of the farmers also said that the most wanted salt was the one with color as bright as women’s skin. 

To add more to the distress, the performance also shows the gender problem caused by poverty as several women are pushed to become prostitutes to make a living. Here, Citra pinpoints that prostitution is an impact of structural inequity problem.

In an attempt to bring the local culture of people living in coastal area into the stage, Citra presents the activity of ‘cockfighting’, ‘gambling’, ‘Dangdut music and dance’ as well as ‘strong mysticism belief’, which is represented by the presence of shaman and the very old man with the enormous wings as people who can give them hope.

“The opportunity to stay a month in Kusamba village really helps me explore and gather facts on the topic that I want to bring on the stage,” she said.

She added that there was a similarity found between people in Marquez story and people she met in Kusamba village: due to the economic crisis and difficulties, these people rely their strong hope in mystical things.

Director of Kelola Foundation, Amna S. Kusumo said that the Empowering Women Artist (EWA) program was created to provide financial support and assistance to potential young female artists. Under the program, the chosen artists will receive fund to do direct observation on local culture. They will also obtain technical assistance and involve in theatre workshops on various topics, including theatre management.

“We want to encourage female artists to explore and dig deeper on our local culture and present it into the stage,” she said.

2013 EWA program have chosen several talented artists, such as Andara Firman Moeis, Gema Swara Tyagita and Dwi Windara, to resident in remote places in Indonesia, such as Waerebo village in East Nusa Tenggara. 

The program’s name would be changed into ‘Hibah Cinta Perempuan’ in the following years due to fifty percent fund reduction from the sponsorships partners as Amna said. (utami diah kusumawati)

 

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