Makna tanpa Makna (English)

Words and photography by Umi Maisaroh.
Translated by Azhari.

A small review of the Soydivision show: “Tumpeng Tindih“

This article is a translated version of an article with the same title. If you wish to read this article in its original Bahasa Indonesia (recommended), click here.

The warmth of Berlin summer embraced my skin. I walked along the silent brick walls that end at a gate. Behind it, couldn’t grasp the sense of time of where I stood. A soaring tower made out of bricks stood between two walls and a fence. Below it was a spacious empty lot. These buildings don’t look like dane studios, even though the search engine -that I refuse to mention- says so. The name is Ufer Studio. There I ‎saw my very first performance by Soydivision Berlin.

The title of the performance was “Tumpeng Tindih“. It was obviously Bahasa Indonesia. As far as I know, “Tumpang Tindih” is the right figure of speech. It means overlapping, stacking, or mixed up. The word “tumpang” became a different word with a completely different meaning, when you replace “a” with “e”. Tumpeng is an arrangement of cone-shaped rice. Such is language, one letter can change the whole story.

The performance told me a story that “bertumpang-tindih” (overlaps). At first a woman appeared from behind a rusty iron wall. With the faint summer breeze, she slowly walked to the front of the tower, and danced. I barely remember what happened next. It really wasn’t that long ago, but my memory betrays me. I recall someone who was playing a guitar on his throne. Someone I later knew as Bilawa. He played right next to the iron barrier where the woman had appeared before, the woman whose name I later learned as Riyako. In the middle of the show, she invited some of the audience to come and answer her questions. She also conduced the audience to move their hands back and cast the spell: “Everything that is unlucky is expelled!” The scene was enough to break the atmosphere of the performance that had been so quiet. He also had time to spread rice in the performance area.

The Gamelan melody that played suddenly stopped when its musician left and joined Riyako to dance. Suddenly another actor, later I know his name is Ariel, appeared between the constellations. With a yellow chalk he wrote on the hard cement covered ground. “Ich, mein, mich, mir, du, dein, dich, dir.. ” so on and so forth he wrote. The actors, who had been busy on their own, finally walk hand in hand at the end of the performance. They sang the song “Ilir-ilir“ as they moved away from the ‘stage’, until they disappeared among the grass. 

The show was closed as the audience received wooden sheets with traditional food inside. 

I enjoyed what I ‎saw, even though I couldn’t catch everything that they want to convey from all the elements that appear in the performance. Maybe it’s because of the symbols displayed are quite familiar to me: batik cloth, Javanese songs, Indonesian words. The show is as the title suggests. Bertumpang-tindih (overlapping), bercampur-aduk (jumbled up). Various symbols were affixed here and there, the dynamics of the actors’ movements also overlapped, as well as the various elements in it. The performance was like a my reunion in Indonesia.

I remember the encounter that happened after the performance. Bilawa was the first that I greeted. Hoping from one conversation to another introduced me to new faces, breaking cricles of  communication to form new ones. The ‘stage’ became an arena to meet, great, and discussion.  We talked and talked as if we’re old friends. It went on until the long day of summer turned dark. 

A show may not always have to convey a message or dwell on symbols and meanings.  Some are meant to be enjoyed, to be felt. Maybe that was how I experienced the first show from Soydivision that I saw on 31 July 2021. I found makna tanpa makna (meaning without meaning).

About the author:

Umi Maisaroh has completed her master’s degree in theater science at the Freie Universität Berlin. Once a dancer, once puppeteer. But now she prefers to collect stories and use various mediums to tell them. Her works are the result of her amazement at the honesty of science, spiritual reflection and artistic aesthetics.

Follow Umi: @umilaut.
Read more of her works (in bahasa Indonesia) here.

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Not an artist, nor a musician, Azhari orbits around the amazing people in Berlin. Translating his admiration towards them into words.