Upcoming show READING CENTHINI: NGGON (place/ownership)


Okay this is an unofficial publicity poster that i did myself.
So… Upcoming show!

Reading Centhini: NGGON (place/ownership)
27 August 2016, 4pm at Bazaar Art Jakarta, Pacific Place.

Basically this show is about building a house, following traditional Javanese calculation based on Serat Centhini and Primbon Betaljemur Adammakna.
Other than performance, I will be exhibiting my installation and video of this performance.  (They are for sale, so please buy lol)
Ok here’s the write up about Reading Centhini: NGGON (place/ownership)

In the western concept of a home, is a place of beginning and returning, a place of relationships, of collective memories and sense of belonging. For some, home is a mythical concept of desire; a place of no return.

In Javanese, “nggon” could mean a place, a home, or ownership.

Mentioning the word home, indeed, evoke many interpretation geographically, politically, emotionally, economically, artistically, culturally and so on. However, one thing for sure, home means “selamat” (safety).
The Javanese are told to ask only for “selamat” to be granted upon them when they pray. Selamat, a humble request, yet it embraces everything that we need in both life and afterlife. Selamat in life means we have enough for ourselves, we have enough to give to others and we have the wisdom to respond to anything that comes our way.
Javanese homes are very personal. The measurement for the building is based on the owner’s body part, such as length of arm, length of sole, length of fingers stretched out and so on, according to the owner’s “weton”(javanese zodiac) and goals in life.

A home is not only a part of your self-definition; it is you.

Building a home is a lifelong battle. It is a shelter for the rest of your life, a shelter in which you feel comfortable and safe. The architecture and the process of building a home, for the javanese, is more than just for the physical usage. It is a symbol of harmony between human and its environment, it is a metaphor of our life path. A home is built from the bottom to the top, just like our lives. Building a home is a symbol of living up our own path to eventually be the ultimate human being, a stage where we have achieved harmony with ourselves and our surrounding, and eventually our “roh” (soul) is unified with our physical body in all our actions.

Building a home is a dance, in which our body becomes an architecture; a home is “rasa” (taste/feeling) and awareness that has taken a form. And this is what makes a traditional javanese home-building different from the current practice of buying a ready-made house: the “rasa” is missing from today’s practice. After all, your home is you; it is your “rasa” and awareness that has taken a physical form, which in turn gives you safety and comfort.


Reading Centhini: Suluk Tambangraras(restaging at Galeri Indonesia Kaya) (photo gallery)

Some photos from Reading Centhini: Suluk Tambangraras (restaging at Galeri Indonesia Kaya)

Thank you very much to Galeri Indonesia Kaya and the audience!

Reading Centhini: Suluk Tambangraras (restaging) at Galeri Indonesia Kaya


Hey friends!! I will be restaging Reading Centhini: Suluk Tambangraras at Galeri Indonesia Kaya this coming 21 May 2016, 3pm jakarta time.
You can reserve tickets starting 14/15 may through http://www.indonesiakaya.com just click on the calendar. The show is free of charge, you only need to reserve tickets!
If you live outside jakarta, or overseas, or simply can’t make it on that day, don’t worry! There will be livestreaming from the same website, http://www.indonesiakaya.com
See you thereeee (both offline and online)!!
P.s there will be english subtitle for both live show and live streaming!


Upcoming shows!

Just to update some upcoming shows….

8 may 2016.. Reading Centhini: Margana at Selomangleng cave, kediri (short performance)
21 may 2016.. restaging Reading Centhini: Suluk Tambangraras at Galeri Indonesia Kaya (there will be live streaming as well)
4 June 2016.. Reading Centhini: Unfinished Buddha at vihara Dhama Sundara (short performance)

Let’s read Centhini again!

Behind The Scene: Reading Centhini: Bukan Cinta Satu Malam

Ok time to recap on the show. This is gonna be a long post, so bear with me.

Well, between 10-13 february 2016, I presented this series of event, Reading Centhini: Bukan Cinta Satu Malam.

It was quite an ambitious one, I guess. 4 different stories, 4 venues, 4 consecutive days. Practically it was 4 events combined in one. Don’t ask me how I did it. It consisted of months of headaches, sleeplessness, stress, emails, whatsapp chats, facebook posts, instagram posts and tonnes of help from dear friends. What can I do without my dear friends.

Really really big thankyou to all the venues, sponsors, crews, additional actor, kind people who let me use their gadgets and helped me to press buttons and greet the audience.

Basically, Reading Centhini: Bukan Cinta Satu Malam was under the theme of LOVE, thus the dates are close to valentine’s day. Tacky enough. And when we see the titles……. #massudahmas, GeGaNa- gelisah galau merana, Icik Icik Ahum and Basah Basah Basah…. even more tacky. Yeaps, they are popular dangdut jargons. There were many questions before, during and after the show regarding few things such as the titles, the songs used, the format of the performance itself and many more. Let me explain few things here in detail.

  1. Choice of dates and theme of love: love-valentine’s day, quite clear. But through the show I was talking more on love of God, spirituality, inner struggles.
  2. Why dangdut? In most of my Reading Centhini performances, I use dangdut songs generously and whole-heartedly, be it as music accompaniment or as title of the show. My reason is still the same. Serat Centhini is the most down-to-earth Javanese literature, employing many characters that are commoners, telling stories about commoners. The book itself was written in tembang form, with simple yet vulgar language that is comedic at times, with the purpose to reach majority of the javanese public, which is commoners. The current representation of this “language”, I feel, can be done best with dangdut. The music, the lyrics, very appropriate.
  3. Format of the performance? In this series, I have to say, a lot of people were confused. I marketed it as a performance, that’s all. Some people were questioning, what kind of performance? Is it theatre? Is it a dance? Is it music performance? Well, you can say it is theatre, you can say it is not. You can say it is dance, you can say it is not. You can even say it is a karaoke show, but you can also say it is not. For me, I prefer to call it performance. My medium is body language. I am not a dancer, i am not a singer, I am not an actor, thus I don’t call it choreography, song or acting. It is just me, telling story with a language that I have since I was born, body language, with the aid of lightings and music accompaniments.
  4. What is the red thread of the whole series, since it consisted of 4 different stories? Ok this one is rather long. From the 4 stories/performances, there is a gradation of my own understanding towards the concept of nafi and isbat, the concept of two become one and one is practically two. My initial understanding is more towards physical unification, that everything was created in pairs and when half of the pair is gone, the balance is ruined. In episode #massudahmas, this is very prevalent, the unification and separation is really in physical context. When we reach the episode Icik Icik Ahum, the physical unification still existed through the marriage of Amongraga and Tambangraras, however Amongraga gave us a deeper understanding through his teachings. In this episode, we can say that God is actually our ultimate pair, that’s why Amongraga told Tambangraras “what’s eternal is you in your worship”. Then in episode Basah Basah Basah, the unification from two to become one was the ultimate unification, when Amongraga was finally unified with God through the drowning punishment.
  5. Why are you so fixated with Centhini? Serat Centhini, is an encyclopedia of life, and I believe in that. To put it bluntly, if you are sad, you read Centhini, your sadness will be gone. If you are sick, Serat Centhini gives you the knowledge of natural remedies. If you want to slaughter a buffalo, Serat Centhini tells you the steps. If you want to build a house, Serat Centhini tells you all the calculations of measurements and good dates to build it. If you want to find God, Serat Centhini shows you the way. I myself feel so much helped out in my life by Serat Centhini. I think you would benefit greatly as well, if you read it.
  6. Why the choice of venues? well, this is purely marketing strategy. If you notice, the venues stretched up from the south of Jogja to the north of Jogja. I am just trying to put audience from different zones into my net. And it worked!

The last question. This came from one audience on the last day, which I think is the best question. Why do you give such suggestive titles with sexual connotations while your content is spirituality?

There are 2 answers for this:

  1. Marketing strategy-wise. Most people still perceive Serat Centhini as Javanese kamasutra. I am trying to get these people’s attention and give them an alternative point of view.
  2. Content-wise. In all religion or beliefs, the act of sexual intercourse is the highest form of worship. Because in sexual intercourse, new life (baby) is being created. God is the only one who is capable to create life. During our sexual intercourse, God is present, using our bodies as medium to create life.

Well I guess that’s all for now. Thank you for reading! You can watch videos from Reading Centhini: Bukan Cinta Satu Malam in the “performances” tab in the menu bar.

Serat Centhini, Central Java’s version of Panji story

I used to have this children storybook about Kleting Kuning and Ande ande Lumut; it was my favourite book since I was able to read words because my house didn’t have many books back then. But during primary school, around p4, I guess, I lost the book. Nevertheless, the story remains intact in my head.

Years after that, I somehow learnt that KLeting Kuning story is one of the variants in Panji stories. I don’t know the other stories, but it kind of tickled me to read more on panji stories. But well, plans are just plans. I only read up on Panji stories recently and of course I felt stupid for neglecting to read up on this.

But late is better than never.

Few days ago I found this online… an article by Lydia Kieven

Simbolisme Cerita Panji dalam Relief-Relief di Candi Zaman Majap

It is a quite informative article on Panji stories or a short article. In short, Panji story is original Java story, it presents characters that are not connected in any ways to any Mahabarata or Ramayana stories, taking javanese kingdoms of Daha and Jenggala as settings. Eventhough the main characters of the story are prince and princess, but they are portrayed mostly in disguise as commoners in the plot, and even the visualisation of the story through reliefs (commonly found in temples in east java) or statue (very very very rare) is very humble, thus the story automatically connects with common people.

Interestingly, Panji stories are very well spread in south east asia. Thailand and Cambodia calls it Inao story, the Burmese calls it Eenaung, and Laotian loves the story as well. The story spread to those regions during Majapahit era.

Panji story has many variants, as I mentioned above, but they all have few things in common; we may say that these things are criteria for a story to be classified as Panji story. Here’re the few criteria:

  1. separation scene (usually between lovers)
  2. journey (the character taking the journey is usually accompanied by “friends”)
  3. unification of lovers in a marriage/sexual act
  4. meeting(s) with sage(s)
  5. crossing water body(ies) or a scene dealing with water

Overall, Panji story deals with human trying to reach higher wisdom. The scene of meeting(s) with sage(s) symbolizes dharma or higher spirituality teachings and the scene dealing with water acts as a cleansing medium to reach higher wisdom.

Looking at the criteria, I automatically realised that Centhini takes that pattern as well, but to the extreme. The separation exists in multiples in Serat Centhini, not only between lovers but also between family members. The journey is stretched to the extreme, spreading across 12 volumes. Unification in marriage/ sexual act are told generously in Serat Centhini (thus gaining its status as javanese kamasutra), there were hundreds of sages to be met by Serat Centhini characters and Serat Centhini doesn’t only cross water body, it drowns in the ocean.

How epic.

Panji stories are only popular in East Java and Bali, through wayang performances, dances and theatre performances. Central Java doesn’t tell Panji stories through its art forms at all. This might be because Panji stories are Hindu-Buddhist and Central Java kingdoms around that era were already islamic kingdoms. My speculation is that… Serat Centhini was written to be the Kejawen, Central Java version of Panji story.

Well, that’s just a speculation…

But looking at Panji story, Centhini story…. I realize that there was a need, a want in Java, to have its own original story that has no attachment to Mahabarata or Ramayana at all. Maybe it was an opposition movement in the past, maybe it was a show of ego… Nevertheless, we gotta be proud! After all, we are the ones who know what our people need, what our people want, and most importantly, we know our own life struggles and stories.


Reading Centhini: Bukan Cinta Satu Malam eps. Basah Basah Basah (gallery, synopsis and photo)

Basah, basah, basah

13 February 2016 at Jogja Village Inn (pendopo)

This piece presents story of Amongraga’s journey after leaving Tambangraras. His journey finally stopped at Kanigara village, where he became the spiritual leader for the people along the beach area. The mosque in Kanigara village was crowded but the people was more attracted to Amongraga’s disciples’ magic tricks. Amongraga himself was drowned in his ambition to reach enlightenment, never leaving the mosque, not eating, not sleeping. He didn’t stop his disciples from using magic tricks to awe the masses. Amongraga was filled with vengeance. He wanted to take revenge to Sultan Agung because Sultan Agung had attacked Giri region in the past. Amongraga was acting as if he has lived in the incorporeal world. He travelled magically to Sultan Agung’s retreat places, however he was always late. Whenever Amongraga reach Sultan Agung’s retreat place, Sultan Agung would have already left; the only thing left was the remnants of Sultan Agung’s bettlenut chewings. Amongraga felt so ashamed; this pushed him to meditate more seriously. His only aim was to defeat Sultan Agung’s power. Soon enough, words about Amongraga spread around and reached Sultan Agung’s ears. It was said that there is a person who called himself a spiritual teacher around the southern mountain range, but the teachings are wrong. This teacher has ruined many people’s minds. Long story short, Sultan Agung ordered Patih Wiraguna to capture this person and punish him by drowning him in the southern sea. Amongraga was captured and drowned at the Tunjungbang bay.


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