Dienstag, 4. September 2012

a report from The  Jakarta Post.

 link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/10/05/%E2%80%98wayang-rajakaya%E2%80%99-creator.html

Herlambang Bayu Aji: ‘Wayang Rajakaya’ creator

It all began when Herlambang Bayu Aji was assigned to create artistic pieces at the end of his studies in the fine arts department at Sebelas Maret State University (UNS) in Surakarta in 2005.

He chose to paint wayang (shadow puppet) patterns.

Instead of wayang purwa – with characters based on the Hindu epics the Ramayana and Mahabharata – his pictures were figurative representations of animals and cattle known in old Javanese as rajakaya, hence the name of his creations: wayang rajakaya.

Said to be a creative combination of wayang kancil (with human and animal characters) and wayang purwa, the works he created to graduate from college were later extended further in theatrical pursuits.

Bayu turned his pictures into a medium of expression in motion by applying the basic construction of shadow puppets.

“As wayang kulit [leather puppets] became the concept of my paintings, I created animal puppets along with their stories and started playing them as a dalang,” said the young man.

According to Bayu, unlike wayang kancil’s very realistic forms of humans, animals and trees with fixed parts, his rajakaya animal figures
are symbolic and decorative, with loosely tied joints and thus movable limbs, like wayang purwa leather puppets.

“A cow can have two legs, with the other two serving as arms. Instead of realistically walking with four legs, I make it walk upright and so do the rest of the animals,” said Bayu, who was born in Surakarta on May 21, 1982.

Rajakaya refers to four-legged animals such as cows, goats, buffalos and horses, which have been raised by the Javanese community since ancient times and are considered an investment as well as a socioeconomic status symbol by their owners, particularly in rural areas. “As the name suggests, my wayang rajakaya performances present fables, especially about domestic animals,” said Bayu, also known as Gundul.

As a student, he built up his career by joining fine arts exhibits with his fellow artists in Surakarta. For three years from 2002 to 2005, he was actively involved in the International Youth Conference (IYC) through its seminars, workshops and exhibitions. This forum enabled Bayu to establish networks with peers from overseas arts institutions, notably Europe.

After his activities with the IYC in 2005, Bayu was invited by several artists in Germany to make a presentation in a workshop on wayang-making and a puppet-playing.

“In Germany in 2006 I was again invited to do a show at the opening of a friend’s studio. At the time I was eager to present an Indonesian feature of the arts by performing wayang rajakaya,” he said.

Collaborating with German musician Dorothea Ferber, he toured a number of European cities for three months. From 2007 to 2010, Bayu traveled back and forth between Indonesia and Germany for displays and shows. His rajakaya performances appealed to the European public and his wayang creations were seen as comparable to the works of Asian, European and African artists.

“The stories and figures I present are different from those of traditional wayang so as not to alienate my audiences,” said the man, who now lives in Berlin and is married to a German woman, Camilla Kussl.

Bayu performs wayang rajakaya in a free and dynamic way because wayang is considered an artistic achievement that should always be renewed rather than left in a traditional rut.

In fact, his performances are nearly the same as conventional wayang, with a dalang, a lamp and a screen producing shadows. The difference lies in rajakaya’s fable-based stories and music, which is not always gamelan but is more collaborative by combining various musicians from ethnic to contemporary stylists.

“Usually I adopt local fables or folk tales, which I blend with prevailing social conditions. The language can be Javanese or Indonesian,” he said.

Traditional arts, particularly wayang, have been part of his life since childhood, although his interest has grown out of a family remote from the arts world. His father was a bus driver at night and his mother sold food at a makeshift stall.

Bayu used to leave home quietly to watch horse and mask dances, pop music shows and wayang orang (performances with people instead of puppets) at the Sriwedari Amusement Park in Surakarta, though for the wayang orang performances he had to peep in through a window because he didn’t have money to buy his own ticket. He also liked watching his neighbors creating batiks while carefully observing the motifs, which amazed him.

“When I chose the arts department, my mother disagreed as she didn’t want to see me working as an artist. For her consent I had to lie to her, saying that I wanted to be an art teacher,” recalled the youngest of 10 children.

Bayu’s strong determination has made him a successful and popular artist. His family, with barely enough income to make ends meet, faced further difficulties when his father passed away when Bayu was 14. To continue his studies, Bayu worked as a sidewalk vendor and peddled batiks at the Klewer Market when he was in junior high school.

“The rest of my family also had to eke out their livelihoods, which forced me to earn my own living for my tuition. I felt it was a miracle that I graduated from college,” he said.

Now, after five years with his wayang rajakaya, he has staged many large shows at home and abroad. On Aug. 3, he collaborated with 17 Hippies (a Berlin band) and Aris Daryono at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. In July he appeared with Solo poet Sosiawan Leak in Treptow, Berlin. And from June to July he worked with storyteller PM Toh at the Jakarta — Berlin Arts Festival in Berlin.

From 2006 to 2010, before deciding to settle in Germany, Bayu organized many performances in Surakarta, Magelang, Yogyakarta and Jakarta. His perseverance with wayang promotion earned him a best artist title that was sponsored by the Culture and Tourism Ministry.                                            

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