Saturday, January 17, 2009

When a clown becomes a king

Matheos V. Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 01/17/2009 2:32 PM | Entertainment

Two words can perfectly sum up this play: triumphantly funny.

Republik Petruk (Petruk’s Republic) is more topical than the first two installments in Teater Koma’s Republik trilogy; it is also brimming with allusions, many of which could go over several viewers’ heads.

The satirical humor flashes and burns, pulling in even in the most desperate among us. The subtle jibes may prove a little confusing but one thing is certain – it is never dull. Republik Petruk, the work of rarely disappointing Nano Riantiarno, is a victory of drama over matter.

Once more playwright and director Nano Riantiarno has delivered a clever political satire.

The difference between political satire and protest, or political dissent, is that satire does not necessarily carry an agenda nor seek to influence the political process.

While the audience may well come away with ideas of political change running through their minds, the first task of the satire is to entertain. By its very nature, satire rarely offers a constructive view of what could be.

Republik Petruk, which is staged at Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center in Central Jakarta until Jan. 25, takes a gleeful look at Indonesia’s political eforms, portraying one after another the failures that grew out of the mischief of the nation’s political leaders.

The story begins when Mustakaweni (Cornelia Agatha) steals the Kalimasada amulet, the Pandawa family’s precious treasure, by disguising herself as Gatotkaca. Srikandi (Herlina Syarifudin), the woman warrior, tries but fails to recover the Kalimasada. Then who should come along but a young prince, Priambada (Rangga Riantiarno), who is looking for his father Arjuna.
Srikandi is willing to help Priambada find his father as long as the young prince reclaims the Kalimasada. Priambada accepts the deal.

A classic combat turns into a war between the sexes when Priambada encounters Mustakaweni in a battle. They fall for each other right off but both pretend to care more about winning the fight. Mustakaweni ends up allowing Priambada to reclaim the amulet.

The tragedy begins when Priambada hands over the amulet to Petruk (Budi Ros), one of the clowning characters and the Pandawa family’s royal servant. With the amulet in his hand, Petruk is tempted by the gods Kaladurgi and Kanekaratena to take advantage of its magical properties. Petruk follows their lead and uses the amulet’s power to seize the Lojitengara kingdom and proclaim himself king, adopting the nonsensical but deceptively illustrious title Prabu Petruk Belgeduwelbeh Tongtongsot.

He then sets about implementing political reforms, proclaiming Lojitengara a republic, although in name only. This newfound state is a realm in which “freedom” is taken to its limits and almost everything is permitted. In this environment of anomie, the kingdom becomes increasingly chaotic, with hilarious consequences.

Presented to an Indonesian audience who enjoy and suffer from the birthing pains of a more liberal and democratic state on a daily basis, Republik Petruk’s jibes and jokes put its audience in stitches.

As with many political satires, the script employs allusions, a device that is the best way to raise an issue without pointing a finger directly at anyone – which is why such satireoften proves the best method of advancing political arguments in situations in which confrontation is expressly forbidden or frowned upon – as was the case in this country not so very long ago.

Republik Petruk is crowded with such allusions. Though oblique, the references are clear enough for any Indonesian in the know to understand exactly which policy, polly, or pop trend is the target of criticism.

The use of slang, English or even popular phrases from ad slogans, as well as the blending of Harajuku and punk in the costume designs, appeared to be an effort to use a vernacular young people are familiar with while speaking to the present reality, namely the invasion of foreign culture and capital.

Expressions such as “Mana ketehe” (How do I know?), “Mupeng” (short for muka pengen or horny face), “How come?”, “bibeh” (baby), are regularly exchanged during the four-hour drama.
The play does not restrict its humor or comedy to politics only. Anyone and anything can be put on the mocking block.

The opening scnee, with its monologue by Petruk, straightaway ensures the audience gets the point that nobody is above critique in the Republik Petruk, not even the narrator himself.
Budi Ros deserves praise for his superior performance as Petruk, nimbly moving between his two roles as the king and the play’s narrator without losing his comic touch.

It might be hard for some to see the actual relevance of Petruk’s role, unless they understand how the character has migrated from a wayang tale, classic shadow puppet dramas. The script establishes that Petruk is an unlikely king not only because he uses illegitimate power (the Kalimasada amulet) but also because he is just a punakawan, a royal servant whose real role is to entertain princes.

This raises questions about the view of democracy here. After all, in the modern democratic world, doesn’t anybody have the right to become a leader? Why does only one group of people have the right to lead, as represented by the ownership of the amulet? What does the amulet represent in the context of 21st century Indonesian politics? Biting wit: Teater Koma’s latest play Republik Petruk (Petruk’s Republic) delivers a clever political satire. ANTARA/FANNY OCTAVIANUS

The connection to the current situation comes near the end of the play when the Kalimasada amulet transforms into slips of paper that are spread like ticker tape over the cast and audience. Perhaps everyone does have the right to become a leader.

The set design shows the brilliance of those working behind the scenes on this production.
Two famous pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, the despot Napoleon III with Petruk’s face superimposed, hang in the background – signaling a historical awareness of other times when political satire was key to social critique.

One of the examples of 19th century political satire is an 1864 pamphlet by Maurice Joly, The Dialogue in Hall between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, which attacked that lesser nephew’s political ambitions.

Teater Koma, well regarded for its political satires since it was first set up in 1977, successfully uses the elements of surprise, incongruity, conflict and repetitiveness and the effect of opposite expectations to make the audience laugh.

The use of ironic comedy to portray persons or social institutions as ridiculous or corrupt does not alienate the audience from the object of humor. It makes the audiences laugh while also giving them plenty to think about.

If it is true that the test of a country’s civilization is the flourishing of the comic ideal and comedy, then the test of true comedy is that it inspires thoughtful laughter.

If Aristophanes, the father of comedy, were alive today, he would be laughing aloud when watching Republik Petruk, even if he needed a quick lesson on the country’s
political situation.

`Knock out!' gets political

Fri, 01/16/2009 5:36 PM | Lifestyle

Yogyakarta painter Luddy Astaghis is bringing his work to Jakarta for his second solo exhibition, which satirizes Indonesian politics.

"Knock Out!", as the exhibition is called, is open at Cityloft Podium in Citywalk Sudirman in Central Jakarta until Jan. 20.

On display at the exhibition are paintings of distorted figures and faces inspired, Luddy says, by reflections as seen in the rearview mirror of a motorcycle.

The main characters featuring in his works are an ambiguous combination of athletic male bodies and grotesque faces.

The 32-year-old painter, who held his first solo exhibition in 2004, says his work reflects attitudes toward the country's politicians: "bitter but sometimes inviting laughter".

"Godaan Maut" (Grave Temptation, 2009), for example, portrays two athletic men leering at a woman behind them, in a reference to sex scandals involving politicians and government officials.

The painting titledBesar Kiriku Besar" (Big on My Right, Big on My Left) shows two big and hefty men squeezing a small, thin body between them, reminding us that disputes between prominent political figures take place at the expense of the people.

Luddy says the titleOut!" contains nuances of "fighting", which, he says, has escalated in the past year, meaning "those who are not properly prepared will be knocked out during the fight". --JP/Matheos V. Messakh

The man from coffee country

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Sat, 01/17/2009 1:04 PM | Lifestyle

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Fajar Eka Putra was no fan of coffee.
Today, however, he is a self-described coffee lover.

Coffee credentials: Fajar Eka Putra was chosen as Starbucks Coffee Ambassador for 2009, promoting coffee and educating employees and customers on the brew. (Courtesy of Starbucks Indonesia)Coffee credentials: Fajar Eka Putra was chosen as Starbucks Coffee Ambassador for 2009, promoting coffee and educating employees and customers on the brew. (Courtesy of Starbucks Indonesia)

“A coffee lover is not the same as a coffee addict,” Fajar told The Jakarta Post recently. “I don’t just drink the beverage; I love everything about coffee, including the stories
behind it.”

Just as well, then, that loving coffee is his job; it possibly even features in his performance appraisal.

In November last year, around the same time he turned 23, Fajar was chosen as coffee ambassador of Starbucks Indonesia.

He is the fourth coffee ambassador here since the coffeehouse company introduced the Coffee Ambassador Cup in 2004, two years after opening its first store at the Plaza Indonesia shopping mall in May 2002.

As in every Starbucks store around the world, every new employee is required to go through a 90-day training program called the “coffee passport program” to become a barista – someone who is an expert in making coffees.

Next comes the Coffee Explorer test, after which you can move onto Store Coffee Master level, and then onto District Coffee Master level. The district coffee masters are eligible to compete for the Coffee Ambassador Cup. Only one is chosen every year, making it rather competitive.
Across its 72 coffee shops across Indonesia, Starbucks has about 800 coffee explorers, 206 coffee masters and 18 district coffee masters.

Anyone visiting an outlet can identify which is which: A coffee explorer wears a green apron, a coffee master wears a black apron and a district coffee master wears a brown apron.

Fajar’s meteoric rise to Starbucks stardom started when he took a job at the Starbucks Coffee Paris Van Java in Bandung, West Java, in November 2007. He worked his way up to the position of supervisor at the store and then, after passing a written test and the final presentation stage, captured the title of Coffee Ambassador.

No longer a humble barista who simply puts that coffee training into practice through the standard tasks they are hired to do, as an ambassador Fajar is out and about a lot more.

In the same way a country’s ambassador speaks for and promotes that country when abroad, the coffee ambassador’s work is to raise the image of coffee both within Starbucks and without.
“It is my job to know as much as possible about coffee – its origins, processing methods, the different flavors such as extra bold or mild, the different tastes it can have such as earthy or citrus-like, the blends available and the foods that pair well with a particular kind of coffee.”

He works with others in the company to create opportunities to learn more about coffee – coffee tastings each morning and coffee class once a week – and coordinates gatherings of coffee masters and workshops to coach employees and consumers.

“I am supposed to be an expert on [Starbucks] products and take charge of furthering knowledge about coffee,” he said.

The ambassador also conducts coffee series when the need arises. This involves a talk on coffee, and a session during which he teaches people how “proper” coffee tasting is done.
Besides that, he is also the Starbucks representative who works with the media on any event that involves, well, coffee.

That Fajar landed the position shows he has the necessary qualities, which go beyond mastering milk-frothing techniques – the role demands good leadership skills and the ability to coach others. A sound knowledge of coffee is important but also necessary is a good grasp of general knowledge too.

The best person for the job, said Fajar, is someone friendly and easygoing. “You need to be an extrovert and have the confidence to speak in public. This is because you will be constantly interacting with people, both your customers and colleagues. A willingness to take up challenges and a passion for learning are other prerequisites.”

Overall, it sounds like a lot for a 23-year-old with only one year’s experience in the business – but he’s not complaining.

“What I like about working at Starbucks is that the company is very people-oriented. I do different things from moment to the next. At one moment I could be behind the cash register and the next moment I could be chatting with people around the store, including fellow employees and customers.”

Of course, the position of coffee ambassador does not come without perks. He will be sent to Seattle to attend the Starbucks International’s Coffee Education Functional Immersion, and has already visited coffee farms in Hong Kong.

For a young man starting his career, the future looks bright.

“The position might not have so much impact when it comes to salary but it does for the exposure and the training, which can prepare me for more success later in life. It’s an honor to represent Starbucks and to know more about coffee,” he said. “It’s also a plus for my performance appraisal.”

And good practice for that unknown day when he moves to the next stage in his plans – to run his own coffee-related business.

Event business always thrives, says Adrie

Matheos V. Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 01/17/2009 12:36 PM | People

JAKARTA: Music promoter Adrie Subono has no concerns about sharing his experiences in event organizing, firmly believing that his is a business that thrives even during an economic crisis.

JP/Arief Suhardiman JP/Arief Suhardiman

“In the past three years, I’ve been invited to talk shows and other events around the country to share my experience, something you can’t do in a school or with a book,” the director of Java Musikindo music company told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

“Wedding organizers, for example, are needed anytime. People won’t cancel a wedding just because of a flood. A band won’t prepare their own stage or sell their own tickets,” said the promoter, who has been in the business for 15 years and has organized more than 100 concerts.
On Jan. 24, Adrie will hold a talk show titled “How to survive in the event organizer business” in Bandung, West Java, in collaboration with

Last year, his company organized 10 concerts and brought in international singing sensations such as Bjork, James Blunt and 50 Cent and Akon.

The company also launched the Ussy Sulistiawaty’s first solo album and band Domino’s album.
Adrie said there would be more world-class concerts this year but refused to share the details.
“They’re on our program but we will announce them only after we are sure that the concerts will
happen because this year is the election year and they [foreign artists] might cancel their show anytime if they feel unsafe.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marissa takes her case to Kontras

The Jakarta Post | Thu, 01/08/2009 7:53 AM | People


JAKARTA: With her efforts to take Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah to court getting nowhere, actress-turned-politician Marissa Haque has taken her case to the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

“I came here to report the case of a police officer who was fired on Christmas Eve just because he tried to process my case,” Marissa told The Jakarta Post at the Kontras office.

“Eventually a friend who used to work at Kontras saw my struggle with the corrupt police so we came here.”

The Tangerang District Court ordered Marissa on Nov. 11, 2008, to pay a Rp 500 million (US$47,500) fine and publish an apology in two national newspapers for accusing Ratu Atut of forging a university diploma to be eligible to run for governor in 2006.

Marissa first took the case to the Jakarta Police on March 7, 2008, but to no avail.

Ratu Atut also filed a defamation suit against Marissa, her former rival for the governor position, with the Jakarta Police on March 12.

Borobudur University also filed a civil lawsuit, which resulted in the Tangerang District Court’s decision.

“Its strange that my report was turned down by the police but Ratu Atut’s report was processed,” Marissa said. JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Nano can’t get no satisfaction

The Jakarta Post | Thu, 01/15/2009 8:26 AM | People

Nano Riantiarno: (JP/JP/Arief Suhardiman)Nano Riantiarno: (JP/JP/Arief Suhardiman)

JAKARTA: Noted playwright Nano Riantiarno of the Teater Koma theater company is not easily
satisfied, even with his own creations.

Less than a week after his play Republik Petruk (Petruk’s Republic) — a satire of Indonesian political reform — opened to the public, he has already found several flaws in the piece.

“I would have stopped (writing and directing) if I was satisfied,” he said.

He refused to mention the flaws, leaving it to audiences to criticize.

Nano, who founded the troupe in March 1977, has produced 116 plays, including Rumah Kertas (Paper House) and Sampek Engtay. This latest production is the last part of the troupe’s Republik trilogy.

In Republik Petruk, the 59-year-old retains the tradition of presenting political satire through wayang (shadow puppet) characters.

“Political satire is common in wayang. They criticize everything, laugh at everything without no intention of hurting,” he said

“I have taken this stance since early in my career despite political repression in the past.”

Nano was regularly interrogated during the New Order era and his plays were banned.

Asked about whether a play is supposed to provide the answers, he said that by its very nature, a play is not a panacea for any social, economic or political problem but it can inspire action.

“A play is just an art of expression and hopefully it inspires people. Hopefully those who see a play are moved to do something.” — JP/Matheos V. Messakh


Matheos V. Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 01/14/2009 9:27 AM | People

Even though he still strives to be a political activist, Usman said Munir was the one who “dragged” him into campaigning for human rights in the first place.

“He was and still is the flame of the movement. ... He acts as a light for me to see and understand complex problems. But now the fire is gone,” Usman told The Jakarta Post in an interview.

“We just try to keep the flame alive in our hearts. He was the one who took all the risks behind the scenes of the turbulent transitional politics at the time.”

Usman met Munir for the first time at a memorial service for those shot by the military in the May 1998 Trisakti tragedy.

In his final year at the Trisakti University School of Law, Usman began joining student demonstrations on campus at a time when political instability was reaching its zenith.

He was still not sure exactly what he was doing and was too frightened to wear his student jacket when participating in a protest.

But the military brutality on May 12, 1998, in which four Trisakti students were killed, removed all his doubts.

Usman began getting involved in many demonstrations and political discussions both at the campus and in public places, changing from a member of religious and cultural groups to an activist by May in what he called “a month of upheaval for my heart and mind”.

It was inevitable that he eventually came in contact with the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) led by Munir. Today, Usman, now 32, runs the organization.

Usman said Munir opened his eyes to many things, especially the military politics and fragmentation that had capitalized on exploiting religious sentiments.

“The more I got to know Munir, the more I believed he was the right person [to lead Kontras], despite many people trying to mislead me about him.

“He was the brightest man around who saw the political problems facing Indonesian at the time, including within the military and student movements.”

This revelation led to Usman rejecting an offer to join the military to be an officer, a position offered to him through a special entry scheme devised by a high-ranking military figure.

He nearly changed the topic of his near-completed dissertation from agrarian reform to political reform, but the university prevented him.

He had chosen agrarian reform as his major because many of his relatives back home in Bogor, West Java, had been forced to become peasant workers on land they had once owned. “My family’s problem was part of the wider political problems in Indonesia. The profession I chose is more than a job, it is my whole life,” he said.

After Usman graduated in September 1999, Munir offered him a position in the public opinion division. Usman was unhappy there and asked to be moved to the legal division where his education could be more effective.

At this request, Munir took out his own legal practicing license and said it was useless in a country where the judicial system was run by the mafia.

“He said to me, ‘I need you as an activist not as a law scholar. The important thing is working out how to mobilize public opinion and attitudes. If the people are aware of militarism, the resistance will get stronger. It’s like opening the authoritarian seal to our eyes’.”

But Munir’s death in 2004 made everything much harder.

Threats, which had been part of his life since 1998, became worse. First, there were phone calls, then anonymous letters and people sideswiping his car. The constant state of anxiety took a toll on his health: “I have seven different cards from different hospitals,” he said.

The death of his mother, Halimatus Sa’diyah, in March 2007 was another big loss for him. Usman, the ninth of 10 children, had been taking care of his mother alone since his father passed away in 1990 at the age of 74.

“She was my power, she really gave me love,” he said.

His mother made many sacrifices for him, putting aside money she earned from running Koran recitals to pay for his tuition. Usman’s father, Abdul Hamid, had refused to pay because he wanted his son to attend an Islamic boarding school.

His parents’ different political backgrounds taught him that democracy begins in the home. His mother was an activist for the Golkar Party while his father rallied for the Development Unity Party.

It was their influence, Usman said, that led him to refuse many offers from political parties to join them following the 2004 election.

“My parents helped many people through their activities in political parties but they didn’t want to become politicians. We can do a lot without being a politician.”

The acquittal of Maj. Gen. (ret) Muchdi Purwopranjono of all charges relating to the murder, he said, demonstrated the judges’ narrow-mindedness and lack of professionalism.

“If the case involved intelligence, you had to have knowledge about that intelligence. This case was a judicial failure in overseeing intelligence.”

Although he lacks faith in the legal system, Usman said Kontras would use all legal means possible to put Muchdi back on trial.

Munir’s case, he said, was a symbol of the complexity of the nation’s structural problems. As with all cases of gross human rights violations, there will always be hurdles.

“Even if we solved Munir’s case, that doesn’t mean we can solve everything. There is still a long
way to go.”

What helps him is the ray of hope he finds among survivors and family members of victims in every case he and his colleagues deal with.

“... there is always hope. You should have courage to live just like you have courage to die.

“I believe what I’m doing is right and it will bear fruit in the future.”

Fariz to launch book on his life

Wed, 01/14/2009 8:43 AM | Lifestyle

JAKARTA: Singer-songwriter Fariz RM is stepping back into the spotlight but not with a new song. This time, he has turned out a book.

The musician has written a book about all the events in his life which, he said, inspired his songs.

He said the book, to be published by Kompas-Gramedia in March, is not a typical autobiography but a compilation of his thoughts on some 60 different life events, which he drew on for his compositions. "It's not a biography. For me a biography is boring. Most people remember only the very sparkling moments in their life no matter whether these moments were good or bad," he said.

"It's a long work that I have been preparing since early in my career. But I chose only those *events* that really shook me up. I believe there is something behind every song that people deserve to know."

Fariz, whose full name is Fariz Rustam Munaf, was born on Jan. 5, 1961. During his musical career he gathered an adoring fan base with eclectic, old-school hit songs such as "Sakura" and "Barcelona".

Fariz wrote the whole book himself. Budianto Shambazy and Salomo Simanungkalit, two senior journalists with Kompas newspaper, helped with the editing. we wanted publish the book on my birthday but because we want it to be perfect, we delayed the launch until March," he said. - JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Mathias tries to be efficient

Sat, 01/10/2009 10:19 AM | People

JAKARTA: Actor Mathias Muchus is trying to be more efficient in everything he does, including his work as an actor, because of his age.

"I'm introspecting myself and trying to be more efficient in everything I do because no one can avoid that the more they grow old, the more they lose their capability," 51-year-old Mathias, who was born in Pagaralam, South Sumatra, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Giving the example of the film industry, he said that no one can make their ideal film anymore, because meeting the bottom line has become the primary concern.

"In the eighties and nineties, we didn't have much competition so we concentrated on making good work. But now, no one can produce anything without looking at the business side of things," he said.

"It's not easy to mature in the industry, after we were washed away by the invasion of foreign products in the 1990s. The new generation of our film workers are just in the early stages."

Mathias gained popularity for his role as Tarjo in one of the country's first generation soap operas, Losmen, in the 1980s. He was named best actor at the 1998 Indonesian Film Festival for his role in Istana Kecantikan (Beauty Palace). -- JP/Matheos V.Messakh

Becky is into public speaking

The Jakarta Post | Fri, 01/09/2009 7:39 AM | People


JAKARTA: Actress Becky Tumewu thinks everyone should master public speaking so they can present themselves perfectly.

The actress launched a book on public speaking, Talk-Inc. Points, on Dec. 16 last year.

She said the aim of the book, which she co-wrote with two of her friends, Erwin Parengkuan and Alexander Sriewijono, was to share tips about public speaking skills, which, she said, were “really needed in this globalized world”.

“Besides, it is something I deal with in my career,” Becky told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “I saw that in this globalized world, people have more chances to speak in public and to be expressive.”

With Erwin and Alexander, the mother of seven-year-old Tara Marie and four-year-old Kayla Zefanya founded a public speaking school in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, in January 2008.
The school, TALK-inc., offers a range of public speaking courses and workshops.

“People need to learn to speak their mind because our culture doesn’t allow us to do that.”
She hopes the school can become an investment in the future as she lives her passion to educate young people.

Becky graduated from the School of Education at Atmajaya Catholic University in 1997, but her career in broadcasting began in 1991, when she was a radio DJ in Prambors.

Since then she has hosted many live events, including launches, corporate functions, award ceremonies and charity events.

The TV programs she has hosted include Pesta-Indosiar, Pesta Bintang on SCTV, The Plaza on Metro TV, Selamat Datang Pagi on RCTI and Back To Beck on Metro TV. —JP/Matheos V. Messakh