7.2 - Ki Tristuti Rachmadi, “My Life as a Shadow Master...

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Unformatted text preview: Ki Tristuti Rachmadi, “My Life as a Shadow Master Under Suharto’ in Beginning to Remember: The Past in the Indonesian Present, edited by Mary S. Zurbuchen, Singapore: Singapore University Press, 38—46. COMMQNWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA Copyright Regulations 1 969 Warning This material has been reproduced and communicated to you by or on behalf of the University of Melbourne pursuant to Part VB of the Copyright Act 1958 (the Act). The material in this communication may be subject to copyright under the Act. Any further copying or communication of this material by you may be the subject of copyright protection under the Act, Do not remove this notice (REM Hag luiLI‘L/Ul/w @C )Mnilmfl a )‘ln‘i‘be Jaadéaflllq“ My Life as a Shadow Master under Suharto KI TRISTUTI RACHMADI Honourable audience and conference participants: I am Tristut'i Rachmadi from Solo, Indonesia. Today is Saturday, 7 April 2001, and I am here at the invitation of the committee for the conference “History and Memory in Contemporary Indonesia”, of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. I feel happy to have this wonderful opportunity, and wish to extend copious thanks to all who have kindly invited me here, to join in contributing to this conference on the history of Indonesia —- on the basis, of course, of my own capacity and experiences. Honoured listeners: I was born in a small village called 'Sugibmanik in the area of Grobogan district, Central Java, Indonesia, on Wednesday, the. 3rd of January 1939. It was no doubt divinely ordained that I be born into a family of shadow theatre artists. My father, the late Suryatman- Yososudarso, was a dalang in the shadow theatre. My mother was the child of a dalang during the Dutch colonial era. Beginning in my mother’s womb, the soul—stuff of a dalang was poured into me. For that reason, even though I did sample some formal education (elementary and secondary, and a tWo—year mathematics course), my life’s journey eventually took me in the direction of the shadow master’s world. I I began to perform all—night shows from the age of 15 (in my third year of middle school) in about 19534. My career progressed gradually in accord with the times. Essentially, as a professional dalang I have ' _ passed through three eras, namely the Old Order, the New Order, and finally theReform (Reformasi) period from about 1998 until today. As for the world of shadow theatre during the Old Order, I can still recall its simplicity. The dalang still functioned as the sole artist leading 38 4Q hmgw'm Peat". I'- My Life as a Shadow Master under Suharto 39 ";_ the entire eight—hour shadow play performance. At that time there was : noinfluence from cassette recordings or television, not to mention VCDs.' .' Shadow theatre still dominated the tastes of the public, especially on Java. 7' And waya-ng performances had not yet sharpened into a medium for pulitical propaganda, or religion, or‘anything else. If they were, it was _ done in a skillful and pleasing way. Beginning in the 19605, the influence of external ideologiesstarted a gtoappear noticeably in the shadow theatre — such as in the stories Janalaa '7 Banteng, Udawa Waris, Wahya Lintang Rembulan, among others. This happened because the political climate in Indonesia was heating up. At therend of the Old Order was the 1965 incident, which led to the change -to..the.New Order. I do not wish to talk about matters of politics, so I I vii-ll- just tell the story of my own life, particularly mygareer asa shadow hi'a'ster. - ' i ' ' t: From 5 November 1965 (a Friday) until 10 October 1979 -— 14 years ' 4+1 lived from one prison to another: BetengAmbarawa prison, Purwodadi prison, Nusakambangan, and finally discarded to Burn Island. I asked myself: what did I do wrong? What is my sinPrIt appears there is no other answer: I was a victim of Indonesia’s political upheaval. It has always been true that whenever there’s an uproar, the little people become the hapless victims. I was just a dalang in the shadow theatre, making a living I) E'means of my skill with wayang stories. I was not a functionary in a jlitical'party, I was not a government official, or a big capitalist controlling eat-gears of the Indonesian eCOnomy. Again, Tristuti Rachmadi here is ins-tone of the ordinary people, but at that time Itoo was caught up in einational tragedy that has wounded the heart for so many years, with new the due process of law and justice. Suddenly arrested, then driven tbs-tilt: pen for 14 years, and no right to ask about any of it, it had to accepted, full stop. 7 ' Honoured listeners: Yet beyond all of that, I eventually became aware that only through thatslong and dark journey was I empowered by God to become the one ' alang in the world to perform in the midst of suffering, jailed, for many , 'ars.'.-I was not hired to play in the ordinary way, but rather was part oft-the prison itself. Under the government of the Suharto regime I underwent more than enough physical and mental pressure. In prison I lalong with thousands of companions who shared my fate) was treated '_lI1"'Eln extremely inhumane manner. We had only obligations, with no 40 . Ki Tristuti Rachmadi rights at all. What was provided for food, health, shelter, and other basic i needs was entirely insufficient. We only had sufficient rules —- don’t do this, don‘t do that, this is forbidden, that 'is forbidden - In the year 1968 my beloved wife could no longer stand the pressures of her life, and I was abandoned to languish in suffering. She and the children lived with another man, and later went far away out of the country. Life’s bitterness was complete; I had lost everything — wife and children, possessions, respect, the right to life, and all, all, was forcibly seized by the regime that ruled in the New Order era. Honoured listeners: . ThouSands of people suffered physically and spiritually inside that iron cage for .14 years, including myself. Yet I recalled the long—ago advice ofmy teacher — a good dalang is one who can bring pleasure to people in hardship, even though that dalang himself also suffers. If_,a.da1ang performs with fine gamelan instruments, puppets, and sound equipment, accompanied by accomplished musicians and singers, with a large cash payment, in a grand performance space, and the dalang plays with spirit and has success, there is no special achievement in all of that, it’s-simply ordinary!!! As we say in javanese, it’s lumrah. _ But if there is a dalang who plays without a single rupiala in payment, with simple instruments, accompanied by 50—50 musicians and singers, and the play takes place in an atmosphere of sadness, yet the. dalang fulfills his duties as a performer energetically, responsibly, and is successful such that those in hardship find joy, and the hopeless gain new spirit, I only then can be be called a TRUE DALANG. Such was the teaching of my gum in the time before I went to prison. A dalang is a dalang. You can make a living; go ahead and seek public acclaim, but the identity of a dalang must be clear: namely, he is an artist who serves the public around him. ' Remembering that lesson from my teacher was enough to completely change my way of thinking at the time. My vengefulness Was transformed into insight. Sad, heartsick and dejected, I changed to become positive and optimistic. I altered my daydreams about “what if...” to become a flaming new energy, in accord with the qualities of my dalang’s art. In the first years, 1965 to 1970, I started to perform in the cells of the political prisoners without any accompaniment whatsoever. I played in the style of telling folktales, without gamelan or vocal music. This usually took place after the evening meal, before sleeping, when my friends would My Life as a Shadow Master under Suharto ‘ 41 ask me to tell wayang tales. For about an hour I would tell of Bima, Arjuna, Gatotkaca, and so forth. It was just storytelling, and not yet a - performance. Once in a while I would spice it up with important dialogue I-“assages, or add humour to lighten the atmosphere, and sometimes I Twould sing short poems and verse fragments. . 'I During those years my friends had the idea that this storytelling‘could fibeaaceompanied by basic instruments made from eating and bathing ' ' 'mplements, such as 'tin plates, aluminum cups, bowls, pails, and scoops; :_All..of these were tuned to resemble the scale of the gamelan. All of this ‘icould look very funny, but for me there was an indelible meaning. I felt }:'p_roud that amidst such misery I could still entertai‘h my fellow sufferers without any notion of self—interest. Do you suppose that in this world ‘H-there is another dalang besides myself who has played to the accom— -:p'animent of dinner plates? No way!!! ' i How true are the words of the elders long ago, that if you want to I be2aided, first give help to others. If you want to be healed, treat your ellows. If you want to have pleasure, entertain your friends. I practiced lithis advice with positive effects. Despite the many stresses in prison, my :ihh'eart was gladdened because I often brought joy to my friends. Occasionally :' the'warden would allow me to tell stories using a “hand—speaker”, a "loudspeaker device, so my voice could be heard in the cells where-other risoners Were held. Even the guards listened to my stories. Strange, isn’t tEthat free men could enjoy listening to the stories of someone oppressed? , *hat is what took place in the years 1965-70. Honoured listeners: ' In August 1970, along with thousands of companions I wasmoved lifter-n Nusakambangan prison and taken on a ship of the Indonesian Navy :to-be discarded on Buru Island. It had a fancy name -— “Buru Island “Rehabilitation Installation” — but in practice it was nothing more than :jaizplace of exile. In the beginning, I was downhearted to set foot in that place of mangrove swamps and sago marshes. But later on, my optimism fired up again. I carried on with my noble duties as a dalang, entertaining my fellows. 7 " On Buru prisoners could move around more freely because the place _ was a kind of agricultural project. During our free time, after clearing the 'i‘btush, digging drainage ditches, and so forth, from about five until six :in‘ the evening, we made a sort of gamelan from metal salvaged from insecticide cans, asphalt containers, and so forth. So we had a gamelan 42 Ki Tristuti Rachmadi My Life as a Shadow Master under Suharto 43 ensemble with slendro and pelog tunings. In the woods there were many wild animals, including deer. We would eat the meat, and the' skin was dried to make shadow puppets: those were the deer—hide puppets of Burn Island. Among the 12,5 00 or so political prisoners, there were some who.‘ had experience playing gamelan, and they became our musicians. Since there were no women on hand, the singers were chosen from among the A men who had performed ludrulz theatre in the East Java style, as they- could emulate the voice of the pesinden. Thus we had a group, with a dalang, musicians, singers, a shadow theatre gamelan, uniquely found in exile on Buru. What about our costumes, then? Well, We made do. We borrowed from some buddies who had brought a piece or two of batik cloth, albeit faded, a surjan jacket, and a head—scarf. Hilarious, right? No” It was touching. _ . And what about my spirit? It never faded” I always performed with enthusiasm, and all the friends responded to my spirit. They Watched, fascinated, from beginning to end, as scene by scene they enjoyed the show without moving from where they sat. Where were the commander and his guards? They were watching, too. And if the senior officer . happened to be a Javanese, then I was commanded to perform even more often. Incredible, right? A man who is suffering is ordered to entertain a free man. ‘ _ That is a quick overview of how I carried out professional obligations as a dalang while in exile under the New Order. I was there1 from 1970 until October 1979; in the evenings I performed, and during the day I still had to labour — hoeing, harvesting, guarding the water, carrying building materials, etc. It was truly bitter, like swallowing a quinine pill, but whether I wanted or not I had to walk those dark paths until 1979. Esteemed audience: On October 10, 1979 I was expelled from the hell of Buru Island, and “freed”. I decided to return to Semarang to be with family, because there was nothing left for me in my native place, Purwodadi. From Semarang I sought a livelihood in Yogyakarta, then in Pati, and finally in the city of 3010. Although the word used was “freed’.’, that was merely a political expression. I still had no right to live like other citizens. I was not allowed to perform, and to get work anywhere one had to have a letter showing one was “clean”, which was not possible for me to obtain. Meanwhile even my Identity Card (KTP) was given the symbol ET, meaning ex—prisoner. My life from 1979 to. 1999, eXactly gflv-‘years, was like someone suffering from leprosy, a communicable disease for which there is no treatment, and from which all distance hefnselves. Suharto was amazing; officially he was full of humanitarian feeling, so that prisoners became “freed”. But in practice this was no ore than a slow kind of murder. Really extraordinaryl! To whom could omplain about this injustice? Before being freed on Burn, I and'all the other political prisoners were ordered to sign a DECLARATION stating rWILLINGNESS not to bring formal complaints or charges about any matter concerning our imprisonment. Thus I was like a speechless person .7 ho has eaten a jimson fruit — so very bitter its taste, making one unable - flutter a single word. That’s how it was for me and my companions at that time. ' Esteemed audience: L1,; I To get back to the soul of the dalang: for 20 years I had to struggle! togstay alive, seeking an income here and there amidst great difficulty. Yet inthe midst of that shadOWed journey, my dalang’s soul still burned bright. It did not dull, but became sharper still. I didn’t pine, but filled eaehmoment with positive activity, and among other things, _I wrote. I I rotejavanese literature, specifically texts for the shadow theatre. God blessed me in this. My writings were popular and were purchased by ofeSsional dalangs. I wrote short shadow plays, semi-complete ones, dwelaborate ones. I also wrote fantamn, Silsz'lab, Bantab, Tembang, ‘ Bunyolanz, and so forth. These were of interest and were used and read hymen-known dalangs such as Ki Anom Suroto, Ki'Manteb Sudarsono, i-zaP'urbo Asmoro —-— in short, almost all the dalangs in the Solo region fired. my creations. The prices for the scripts varied; some sold for 25,000, others for Rp. 50,000, and for very complete. scripts I was paid Rp. 500,000. Even though those prices were actually very cheap " hen compared with some of their performance fees in the millions of piah, for a person afflicted with misfortune such as myself, all that couldbe said was “thank you”. I felt fortunate to be able to earn money resistain meals. Odd, isn’t it? 5111 addition to writing, I would sometimes go along with the troupes Ofspopular performers as the dalang’s personal assistant (penyimping). For each performance I was paid Rp. 50,000 —' not bad for buying a bit-20f kitchen salt. It’s just unfortunate that none of my written works mentioned the name of the writer, and as time passed. more dalangs copied from other dalangs without my knowledge, so that I was never 44 Ki Tristuti Rachmadi My Life as a Shadow Master under Suharto _ I 45 paid even a cent. Well, it makes no difference, figure it as an inVestrnent in good deeds. Once in a while I happened to perform myself during that period, but the risks were great indeed. After performances, many anonymous letters arrived filled with threats and insults. I was also often summoned by the government and rewarded with groundless hostility." Funny, isn’t it? They get angry with a person who brings enjoyment to the public. Such is their power!! ' was not up to par. I was short of breath, so that my voice Was no longer 'tlodious, with a slackbody that could not manipulate the puppets well. In addition, times had changed: the World of shadow theatre has rently become quite different from what it was in my youth. The adow theatre left by the New Order is far removed from its former venerable quality. Wayang performances now are brightened up] with input sari, meaning other kinds of music mixed with garnelan, with i 7 singers and comedians who are allOwed to stand up, dancing on the V‘ge. Wayang stories are overwhelmed by the audience request numbers, iicomedy and dance, so that the plot line is obscured or disappears it together. I don’t have it in me to perform in that way, but what can ne=say if that’s what has happened? I ask myself: Why is it only now fhat I have the. chance to perform, and not yesterday, or 20 years ago? Well, that’s OVer; it doesn’t matter, as long‘asi‘I hold fast to my identity , iii? a true dalang. ' 3? 'Esteemed audience: .. With a sincere heart I offer many thanksto the colleagues inthe United Stateslspecifical'ly at UCLA, UC. Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, _ But the most important thing was that my dalang’s spirit was not, extinguished, it still burned. Both in practicing the dalang’s art before the 1 screen, and in my writing, I have always been a true dalang. Many .j students. at the Advanced School of Indonesian Arts in Solo (STSI) drew ' their knowledge of shadow puppetry from me. Many of the advanced. students from the shadow theatre department sought me out. This meant that from 1979 to 1999 my mind was always filled with the particulars of shadow theatre. Not' too badil Esteemed listeners: In May 1998 came the moment the Suharto regime collapsed, to be followed by the Reform era. The period of “yellowing” everything ended, and the fangs of the New Order were pushed aside by the student movement progressing toward democracy. The hinges of daily life seemed . to begin moving a little more freely, even though here and there the remnants of the New Order Were still perceptible. With this'new' wind of Reform, I began to go out and appear on the shadow theatre stage; though I wasn’t as popular as other dalangs right away. Inlthe Solo area I performed without an “Artist’s License” from the national education department, and there was no problem. But in Pati district, in Grobogan, _ and a few other districts I needed to have the license to complete the permit requirements for the police (this was actually an old regulation from the Suharto era). Only in December 2.000 did I successfully Obtain _ the Artist’s License. I started performing from step one, hired by my. relatives (without payment), later on in the venues of fellow dalangs (at Anom Suroto’s on the day Reba Legen3, at Manteb’s on Selasa Wegen, ‘ Warseno Slenk’s on Sara: Legen, etc.). Of course this involved a modest fee. Eventually I began performing in government venues, including the : campus of STSI and the Central Java Cultural Center in Solo, for a reasonable honorarium. It’s regrettable that when I finally came back to the shadow theatre performance arena I was so old — 62 years -— that my physical stamina is truly medicine for a heartache that has gone unhealed for the past 35'1years. At the same time, this shows the world ~— especially the ' shadow theatre community ~— that a dried—up leaf considered useless-can onet‘heless be sought after here in the United States. And because I 113% the blood and soul of the dalang, it’s no surprise that my train of ought is often_shaped by wayang philosophy, which talks about the law of karma, er the results of past actions. As you sow, so shall you reap. For those who have sown the 35 years of my suffering, sooner or later even they will reap their own harvest of pain. Moreover, from ' planting a single corn kernel, you can reap a hundred seeds. That is why _ believe that until that harvest is collected, calm will not be restored in Indonesia. Honoured listeners: r This story of mine is just a small portion of all that actually happened. -‘.May it benefit efforts to establish truth and justice for all. For all my hertors and deficiencies, I humbly beg your forgiveness. Thank you. TRISTUTI RACHMADI SURYOSAPUTRO 46 Ki Tristutz' Rackmadi Notes 1 2 3 In the detention camps on Buru island in Indonesia’s Maluku Province. Descriptive narration, genealogy, debate, sung poetry, clowning. ' Days cited are named according to the five—day week of the Javanese market calendar, combined with the seven-day week. ' Kali: Libretto GOENAWAN MOHAMAD Was barely six years old when I learned that my father died with three ._: bullets in his head. I did not see the body. My sisters preyented me, the youngest, from seeing the gruesome sight, but stories filtered in _'t_hrough'the mouth of our terrified homemaid. That was my first encounter with- the Violence of Indonesian modern history. ' 7 . In mid-1947, the Dutch troops who entered our town came to arrest Father, and about'five days later Mother was told thafi‘tithey executed-him. 7 Afiring squad took his life on a soccer field near the military barracks, " after five days of interrogation. ‘ _ - ' ' p . Mother sent my eldest brother-in-law to bring the body home. Off he-went, on a horse cart to a place I never knew; it could have been'the - Dutch ‘gar'rison’s post, or the town’s hospital, or the soccer field. The rest 'ioff the family stayed at home, waiting. I I ' Gloom and dread shrouded our house like a foul dusk; almost ' everyone was in tears, not quite believing that We would see Father come I : home dead, and wondering how he would look and how much pain he "endured after the shooting. ‘ _ ' “At 5:00 pm. my brother-in-law returned. It took four solid hours for .him to collect the body and carry it in the hired horse cart back to the family house. In' the evening, after a hurried funeral, I saw him still in 1a: state of shock. Even as a child I understood his pain. He was the first _' to see the three open wounds in my father’s head and touch the smelly halfjdried blood on his face. I remember seeing Mother, weeping silently, - embrace him. , Somehow she, a strong woman who joined Father during his exile in West Papua in the late 19205, managed to preside over the mourning 'in-ta dignified manner. Years later she told me that she knew the killing would take place; a couple of nights before the arrest, she said, Father told her about his strange dream. In the dream an old man kindly . offered him three imngka fruits, with the seeds that look like bullets, - and he took them all, gladly. They tasted wonderful. “Your father knew 47 ...
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7.2 - Ki Tristuti Rachmadi, “My Life as a Shadow Master...

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