Wednesday, August 31, 2016

'Black Sun' by Sardono W. Kusumo

Conceived and choreographed by Indonesian artist Sardono W. Kusumo under the umbrella of The Sardono Retrospective and presented at SIFA, contemporary dance piece 'Black Sun' is inspired by the the people and their way of life in Indonesia's easternmost province Papua.

'Black Sun' was born when Sardono Kusumo saw a solar eclipse in March 2016. The choreographer-director had taken a photo of the solar eclipse and poetically saw a group of people around the black sun in a cloud formation. He linked it to Papua and called this piece a "tribute to life, earth and survival, both primal and sophisticated", full of lament, social and political overtones.

Hitam kulit, keriting rambut. Aku Papua.  
Black skin, curly hair. I am Papua.

The performance adopts the vocal and physical vocabulary from Papua with 11 dancers and two vocalists. Then there was a technical artist who wore a giant koteka and at one juncture, ran around two acrylic guns blazing with colored lights. That was jarring. I didn't have to stretch the imagination very much to get the idea of the destruction of nature and humans by aggressors and their modern equipment. One of the dancers' foot was bleeding. He probably cut it when stamping on the metal rivets and rough edges.

The 11 dancers were never far from their metal half-spheres. Okay, they really looked like giant woks without handles. The dancers lay within, stretched, stomped and moved around with the half-spheres. That was a fairly powerful image. But at the start, I had mistakenly thought them to be endangered giant clams on the seabed. o.O I felt that the dancers could have done more. Or rather the choreography could have been stronger, and gone deeper with the dance. It was a bit of a letdown. In an interview with SIFA, Sardono Kusumo said that the piece highlights the plight of the "boat people", of displaced humans and refugees floating in the ocean. He said,

They know only that they have to leave their land, not where to go. They have only a little space in their very little boats. Day after day, floating in the ocean, they are burnt by the heat of the sun.

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