Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Rangsa ni Tonun has now been to Bandung

We decorated a corner of the huge aula of the Sabuga building on the ITB campus by displaying Batak textiles on panels, thus creating a cozy space. Within that space, we projected Rangsa ni Tonun. We were able to offer copies of the film and book about the film for sale in a neighbouring booth.

I would like to thank the executive team of The Story of Buku Ende for their generous and kind support of the Pulang Kampung III expedition. Our textiles and film were invited to be part of the performance of The Story of Buku Ende; we were allowed to set up our exhibition and project the film in the aula of the Tiara Hotel in Medan in September 2013, and now once again in Bandung. Both have been wonderful opportunities to share our film with the public.

MJA Nashir's poster designed for
The Story of Buku Ende

‘The Story of Buku Ende’ is a musical, a choral drama that highlights the relationship that Batak Christians have (had) with their hymn book (buku ende). Audiences love it. The songs go straight to their hearts and many just can’t refrain from singing along with it—and the Batak are renowned for their musical abilities. They know the tunes because they sing them every Sunday and during rites of passage. They remember their youth and their parents’ and grandparents’ stories. The musical is a compilation of vignettes from daily life.

There is a synchrony between Rangsa ni Tonun and The Story of Buku Ende. Both are artworks that take Batak history as their starting point. Both translate Batak culture using contemporary media and interpret it for the modern world. People often assume that I want to “bring back” the Batak world of the past. This is far from the truth. What I sincerely hope is that the Batak people will be able to build their future on their past so that it remains meaningful to them and there is a measure of coherence in their lives. Both Rangsa ni Tonun and The Story of Buku Ende are examples of artworks that have brought the past meaningfully into the present day.

There was another connection between Rangsa ni Tonun and The Story of Buku Ende. Both have the great Prophet of the Bataks, I.L. Nommensen, as their point of origination. Nommensen was instrumental in having the Rangsa ni Tonun text committed to paper and in bringing German hymns to the Bataklands. In the first instance, he was the reason why a Batak text ended up in a German archive and in the second instance why German musical culture became grafted onto the Batak musical tradition.

The contemporary connections are also vivid. Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu, the artistic directors of The Story of Buku Ende, arranged, performed and recorded the music for Rangsa ni Tonun. They recruited the filmer of Rangsa ni Tonun to direct the stage visuals of The Story of Buku Ende for the Bandung performance. Under MJA Nashir’s expert and creative guidance, the stage became satisfyingly colourful and complex.

It was an honour to be able to show Rangsa ni Tonun to the audience of The Story of Buku Ende. We hope that Rangsa ni Tonun’s following might also have augmented the audience of The Story of Buku Ende. It was fun to meet the huge and dedicated crew of The Story of Buku Ende. All of them loved to be part of The Story and hope that they will succeed in having the musical staged again next year in Jakarta.

I hope so, too. All Bataks love the musical. And if there is an opportunity to show Batak textiles again as a sideshow, I will leap at the chance. I would like to explore the integral role of Batak textiles in The Story of Buku Ende and thus in Batak culture.

Thank you to our dear friend, Christian Gultom, for his assistance in setting up our exhibition, and also to your friend Edianto Karokaro who helped out. His role was crucial and highly valued.

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