Indonesia Forum Public Seminar Series: Dr Sadiah Boonstra

Heritage Plays: contemporary wayang practice and heritage politics


Presented by

Dr. Sadiah Boonstra

Thursday, 16 March 2017

03.00 – 04.00 p.m

Venue: Asia Institute Meeting Room, R. 321

Sidney Myer Asia Centre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville

In this seminar, Dr Sadiah Boonstra discusses the politics of heritage formation and wayang performance practice in Indonesia. The construction of wayang as cultural heritage roots in the colonial and postcolonial past, but this rather static official standard for wayang does not always reflect popular wayang performance practices. With reference to the history of wayang’s heritage formation, this talk presents the strategies that three superstar dalang (puppeteers) apply in dealing with the politically imbued heritage discourse of wayang. Their approaches range from applying standards codified in art academies and official heritage discourse by Ki Purbo Asmoro, to the commercial performance practice of Ki Manteb Soedarsono, who has become the standard for official heritage discourse as well as for popular wayang shows. Ki Enthus Susmono successfully – albeit controversially – combines radical innovations, such as a new wayang genre ‘Wayang Santri’ that merges Islamic chants with sexual allusions and rude language. Curiously, Enthus Susmono was elected bupati of his home province Tegal in 2014, exemplary of the intertwining of culture and politics.

Dr Sadiah Boonstra is a historian and curator. She obtained her PhD in History (2014) from the Free University (VU), Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her research focuses on the concept of intangible heritage, and more specifically on dynamics of heritage formation and performance practices of the puppet theatre in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. In 2015, Boonstra contributed to the exhibition ‘Shadow puppet theatre from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand’ at the British Museum in London.

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