Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Pilgrimage to the west: When spirit of Earth, sky is awakened

By Wawan S. Husin

BANDUNG (JP): Suprapto Suryosudarmo had traveled to Bandung, Ciamis and Padang in his journey to the west from Padepokan Lemah Putih in Surakarta, Central Java. After his rituals in Samuan Tiga Ritual Besalen in Bali last February, he continued his journey to Bandung where he performed rituals at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Rumah Nusantara, Gallery 66, Gallery Pohaci, Sendratasik-UPI Bandung and Astana Gede in Kawali, Ciamis.

In Padang, West Sumatra, he performed rituals in Taman Budaya Padang and Pariaman.

In Bandung, the trio of Suprapto cs. (Suprapto, Mamiek -- a lecturer at the Surakarta Arts Institute (STSI) and Jean-Paul Dandin, an African drum artist) performed with local artists, such as Inne "Ronggeng Gunung" Arini, Toni Kanwa, Tisna Sanjaya, Jamal cs., Dedi, Tohari, Aming and Harry Pocang (a musician).

The themes of the performances (Suprapto calls them rituals) are: Candra Semi (Welcoming the Moon) at ITB, Ruwatan-Rawatan Bhumi (Vanishing the Bad Aura and Taking Care of the Earth), Welcoming the Mother Sky in Gallery 66, Energizing the Venues, Harmonizing the Power in Gallery Pohaci and Lembur Bitung UPI- Bandung and in Astana Gede Candra Surya (From the Moon to the Sun) or Welcoming the Dawn, Jean-Paul called the rituals From The Dark of The Night to The Bright Sunny Day.

The rituals

In Gallery 66, (Welcoming Mother Sky), Suprapto included the tradition of Sunan Ambu (the Mother Sky) as a goddess in an old Sundanese folk story as a point of departure. The earth is then made a symbol of Man. He stated that with womanhood, the mother should come to the front to harmonize the world.

In Astana Gede Ciamis, the Candra Surya ritual started at about 4.30 a.m. (after the dawn prayer) and continues until about 7 a.m. The ritual began at the gate of Astana Gede (an ancient cemetery of the King of Galuh).

Followed by bamboo flute and kecapi of Yaya and Ojay, and aluminum pipes by Godi Suwarna, the dancers (Neneng and friends) opened the gate of the cemetery. All was dark, except for the small torches dancing in the wind. The old trees, high and gigantic, stood out, witnessing the people. Insects were whispering. Once in a while nocturnal birds and bats chirped.

The cold wind swept the dawn, and the roosters crowed at a distance. Suprato whispered mantras and Jean-Dandin moved together with Pandu Ra Dea and Ogi and Pa Jeprut. Having entered the gate, they carried out a kind of moving meditation at the center of this cemetery. This took about 40 minutes. The dancers and other participants moved to the water -- the spring of Cikawali.

Crossing a path, the day began to break and reddish clouds appeared to the east. The well-spring was surrounded by old trees and bushes. Some fish were swimming, and the whirlpools came up time and again.

The dancers moved around and splashed some water on their faces. The journey continued to pesanggrahan (the resting area). The area is surrounded by the rice fields, Ogi and Ra Dea performed in the rice field and their bodies were buried in mud, sometimes they moved near young paddy as though they wanted to remind the people of the valuable gift the Earth provides. At the pesanggrahan the movers, dancers, performers and participants sat and prayed. The sound of terebang (a kind of small percussion) filled the air.

The area was directly open to the sun which then appeared in full, showering the audience and performers with bright rays. The sun slowly and patiently rose up, second by second, minute by minute. Like a lullaby, birds chirped and the river flowed, the sound of the water clear and precise.

The Candra Surya took about two and a half hours. I did not feel tired after moving around and maintaining a tight breathing pattern. The dew was on the leaves and ants were busy on the bark of trees. The freshness of the air met the freshness in my heart.

Returning to the camp and sitting down to rest and have a sip of tea, I realized that the day had changed. In my loneliness -- among the crowd -- I remember Suprapto saying, "Possibly we will have a time when 'Teos, Therapy and Theater' will mix and combine in one." Yes, possibly in the near future Prapto.