Thirty Years Ago To­day

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Short Story -

PEO­PLE IN THE DANCE world know Tom Ib­nur’s name. He is one of about a score of per­form­ing artistes whose names are writ­ten large in In­done­sian con­tem­po­rary and tra­di­tional dance.

Thirty years ago, Tom was one of the artis­tic lead­ers at the In­done­sian Pavil­ion of the 1986 World Ex­po­si­tion in Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia, Canada.

World fairs come and go, said a re­cent news­pa­per ar­ti­cle in Canada. But few have en­joyed — or en­dured — as much of a legacy as Van­cou­ver has from its stint host­ing that 1986 World Ex­po­si­tion.

Expo 86 ap­par­ently came at a time when Bri­tish Columbia was search­ing for a new im­age — not to men­tion in­vest­ment dol­lars — and the five-and-a-half month party, be­gin­ning on May 2 and clos­ing on Oct. 13, that co­in­cided with Van­cou­ver’s cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion, was the an­swer. Be­fore the cur­tain rose, Canadian of­fi­cials had hoped 13.7 mil­lion peo­ple would visit. By the end of the fair, more than 22 mil­lion had at­tended, with a sin­gle-day record of 341,806 visi­tors (al­most 80 per­cent of Van­cou­ver’s pop­u­la­tion at the time).

There were 73 pavil­ions for 54 coun­tries, seven prov­inces, two ter­ri­to­ries, and nine cor­po­ra­tions, scat­tered across the 70-hectare site — and, for most peo­ple, not enough days to see them all. The In­done­sian Pavil­ion was ap­par­ently one of those must-visit places, since it re­ceived a four-star rat­ing (out of a pos­si­ble five) from a few pub­li­ca­tions and was the fa­vorite for one or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Records show that 2,8 mil­lion peo­ple vis­ited the In­done­sian Pavil­ion. The guest book even shows a hus­band and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Leveen Walsh Jules from Hopes­dale, who re­turned again and again 100 times, and a cer­tain Mr. Brian (sur­name un­known), who was in a wheel­chair and who would stick around the pavil­ion so much, fold­ing the awnings, pre­par­ing the stage, even be­com­ing an im­promptu guard when the hand­made

phin­isi ship launched on False Creek, we even­tu­ally ap­pointed him the un­of­fi­cial mas­cot.

Con­structed in the ASEAN Plaza, our lit­tle cor­ner of the 1986 World Expo had a Candi Ben­tar Ba­li­nese gate­way carved with the Maple Leaf and the Garuda Eagle ush­er­ing peo­ple into the front door, and a 150-seat live per­for­mance stage that be­came the pavil­ion’s hub. I dare­say this was the main rea­son why at least two peo­ple re­turned up to 100 times.

For bet­ter or for worse, Expo 86 was Van­cou­ver’s com­ing-out party, said the press this year on the ex­po­si­tion’s 30th an­niver­sary. Van­cou­ver wooed the world, and the world paid at­ten­tion.

For In­done­sia, al­most the same could be said. To woo the world to our shores and in­vest, we forked out bil­lions of ru­piah. I have searched high and low for the ex­act fig­ure of how much we did spend, but had to bear in mind that 1986 was the height of an­other regime, when open in­for­ma­tion let alone book­keep­ing were not yet an im­per­a­tive.

But on record is this: Eight min­istries and the In­vest­ment Co­or­di­nat­ing Board (BKPM) were, well, on board to host the show, at the be­hest of a pres­i­den­tial de­cree, no less — De­cree No. 28/1984. This is not even count­ing the 20 pub­lic and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, acad­e­mies and sec­ondary schools that took part, nor the po­lice se­cu­rity and med­i­cal teams, the au­dio­vi­sual, hand­i­craft, de­sign shops and ar­chi­tec­tural bureau, and, of course, the phin­isi- mak­ers, who built a whole ship in situ in the space of three months: the

Phin­isi An­tar Bangsa. An­other phin­isi, the renowned KRI Dewa Ruci, on a trip around the world as part of cadet train­ing, had sailed from Surabaya via Honolulu to New York, then made a south­ward turn and headed to Van­cou­ver in time for the In­done­sia Na­tional Day held on Aug. 20 in the Ma­rine Plaza, be­fore go­ing off to roam the Pa­cific Ocean.

Dur­ing the five-and-a-half months, the In­done­sian Pavil­ion’s 60 dancers and game­lan and karawi­tan mu­si­cians per­formed live an as­ton­ish­ing 1,600 times, show­cas­ing 50 orig­i­nal chore­ogra­phies based on con­tem­po­rary and tra­di­tional dance forms. Gar­ner­ing huge in­ter­est in the ro­tat­ing ex­hi­bi­tions of plas­tic, fine, hand­i­craft and au­dio­vi­sual arts were an ar­ray of drums and an as­sort­ment of

ken­tun­gan — hol­lowed out logs, carved in the shape of mon­sters and oth­er­worldly crea­tures, struck when­ever a mes­sage of death or dis­as­ter had to be con­veyed — and sev­eral be­cak (pedi­cabs) and a he­li­cak (three-wheeled ve­hi­cle). Af­ter all, the Expo 86 theme was Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Trans­porta­tion, with the tagline “World in Mo­tion, World in Touch.”

I was for­tu­nate enough to be part of the whole ca­boo­dle, as the deputy to a min­istry of­fi­cial han­dling in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. I re­call how, in face of all the high tech and gee-whiz in­ven­tions the ad­vanced coun­tries brought to the show — both the United States and the Soviet pavil­ion were space-ori­ented — In­done­sia in­stead elected to show­case its cen­turiesold trans­porta­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods — a ship built en­tirely by hand us­ing no iron nails nor joints, the be­cak pow­ered by hu­man mus­cle and grit, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion through dance per­for­mances, where view­ers and dancers in­ter­act as hu­man be­ings.

The stance sounds al­most naïve now, but it worked.

We did ex­hibit our Palapa satel­lite, or­bit­ing the earth for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion pur­poses. By then, In­done­sia had also al­ready es­tab­lished an avi­a­tion in­dus­try, but put sim­ply, the eight min­istries un­der the aegis of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan­ning Board (Bap­pe­nas) had de­cided we wanted to show­case other strengths.

The team held sev­eral ma­jor events. These in­cluded a troop de­file by the Dewa Ruci cadets fol­lowed by 300 artistes and ar­ti­sans on In­done­sia’s Na­tional Day, a vil­lage culi­nary fes­ti­val, an all-night wayang pup­pet per­for­mance ac­com­pa­nied by live game­lan, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the In­ter­na­tional Drum Fes­ti­val and the World Art Fes­ti­val, daily batik and carv­ing demon­stra­tions and the world’s very first In­ter­na­tional Game­lan Fes­ti­val — be­cause as per­form­ing arts man­ager, chore­og­ra­pher Sar­dono W. Kusumo, said, “North Amer­ica al­ready has a bur­geon­ing game­lan com­mu­nity. How em­bar­rass­ing if they sud­denly hold the first fes­ti­val in­stead of In­done­sia, where the game­lan orig­i­nated”.

In his open­ing re­marks at the In­done­sian Pavil­ion’s 30-Year re­u­nion in mid-Novem­ber, Tom noted that he had been for­tu­nate enough to have been in In­done­sian teams for five or six world ex­po­si­tions. “But the 1986 World Expo was where we re­ally learned the ropes on how to show­case In­done­sia,” he said, chok­ing with emo­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, of the 126 plus per­son­nel put through the paces for those five-anda-half Expo months (the Pavil­ion was open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, with a shop and the afore­men­tioned nine live per­for­mances daily, the six film screen­ings and sym­posia, dis­cus­sions, craft demon­stra­tions and vis­its to speak and per­form at schools and mu­se­ums in Canada and the US) only 81 peo­ple turned up for the re­u­nion. It was sad to note that 27 col­leagues were no longer with us, hav­ing passed away in the 30-year in­terim.

We had hired the Ge­dung Ke­se­nian Jakarta play­house for the cel­e­bra­tion. Half of the 81 were per­form­ers, mean­ing the huge hall seated only 40 peo­ple ogling at their friends now in their late 50s and mid-60s, yet still danc­ing up a storm. And I was struck once again by the fact that, of the score of In­done­sia’s cur­rent per­form­ing arts greats, more than a third had served at the 1986 Expo’s In­done­sian Pavil­ion. As we watched Ida Ayu Wimba do her

Truna­jaya, Tom do his Tari Pir­ing, and the Pakarena, Gam­by­ong, Topeng and all the other teams per­form their dances, the years fell away and we were once more in the ASEAN Plaza, get­ting a briny whiff from False Creek and English Bay, wear­ing In­done­sia so proudly on our sleeves. +++

BY DE­BRA H. YATIM

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