Sumsuman Aryati (English)

Umi Maisaroh, contributor to Soy&Zine and scriptwriter and actor in Aryati theatre piece, reflected on the end of the project Aryati (for now). -Editor

This article is a translated version of an article with the same title by Umi Maisaroh. To read the original Bahasa Indonesia version, click here.

Berlin, 27 March 2022

In Javanese tradition, especially those who live in villages or hamlets, the wedding ceremony is usually held in mutual cooperation between neighbors. Neighbors would voluntarily help the bride and groom or those who celebrate to prepare all the necessities of the celebration, such as cooking for invited guests and decorating the house and the street. After the wedding ceremony or celebration is over, the bride and groom will invite those who have helped the event for the Sumsuman event. This event is a symbol of the dissolution of the ‘committee’ or ‘team’ that has helped the event. The word Sumsuman also comes from the name of a dish. In the Sumsuman event they would pray together and then those who have the intention will say thank you and perhaps apologise if they have made a mistake during the process of organising the event. After that they will eat Jenang Sumsum.

Jenang Sumsum is a white porridge made from rice flour. It is actually not complicated to make one. Simply mix rice flour with water or coconut milk and cook this mixture over low heat. To add some aroma, the mixture is cooked with pandan leaves (Pandanus amaryllifolius ). If the dough becomes thick, sticky and bubbling, it means the porridge is ready. The porridge then will be doused with a gravy made from diluted brown sugar. The dish is simple and cheap, but becomes so rich in meaning when served as part of a Javanese ritual.

Javanese traditions often involve food as the main element in various rituals. For example, Tumpengan, which was also the inspiration for Soydivision’s show, Tumpeng Tindih. In the event (or ritual) of Sumsuman, the main dish is none other than Jenang Sumsum. The white color of this porridge is a symbol of cleanliness or purity. This meaning represents the purpose of the Sumsuman event which means to return to purity. It is hoped that after this event the parties involved in the event can return to their activities in a clean state. Purity is also a symbol of eradicating errors that may occur in the process of clebrations that might have happened before. The sweet gravy of brown sugar is a symbol of prosperity. Sweetness is a pleasant taste. Happiness also arises from a state of well-being. In addition, the sweet taste from the combination of carbohydrates and sugar in this dish is also intended to help all the people involved in the celebration to regain strength, after days of devoting their thoughts and energy. The sticky texture of Jenang Sumsum illustrates that even though the event is over, their relationship stays strong.

All along the process of making Aryati, even during the premiere, many unexpected things happened. At first I was only involved to string the words of Aryati’s story together. Eventually I also had to appear on stage. Honestly I was nervous to appear on stage, let alone to think if I ever have to do it again. I don’t know where the willpower came from, maybe thanks to the help and initiative of one of the committee members: Bilawa Respati, I was able to go through this process. He applied the approach of olah rasa in our practice. This approach took me on a journey within myself. I was able to live the characters that I played fully. Unfortunately, our rehearsal time was very short. For three days I delved so deep within the characters I played, that I hadn’t enough time to build enough emotional bonds to be able to fully support other actors’ play. The exercise of olah rasa really helped my acting process. Although tiring, the process seemed to have paid off, especially when I saw the enthusiasm of all of you who took the time to visit Aryati’s celebration.

Now, Aryati has finished with her banquet. Despite various things that have happened, whether according to plan or not, I am still grateful and accept it all with relieve. Thank you to all of you who came to this celebration, and to those who even took the time to chat with us after the performance. To those of you who haven’t had the chance to come by, hopefully one day we can meet at a banquet with Aryati on another occasion. Like Jenang Sumsum, hopefully this process will make us stick together and maintain our kinship even though the event is over.

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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.