Elegantly presenting the traditional Javanese values
For Fajar Satriadi, presenting Javanese culture to audiences in the UK was a mission. The dancer and choreographer portrayed the male lead, Raden Mas Said, in an abbreviated version of Atilah Soeryadjaya’s entertaining spectacle, Matah Ati that was presented at a seminar at Oxford University during the UK Arts and Culture Trip.
Matah Ati tells the story of Raden Mas Said, a prince from the royal Javanese family who established the Mangkunegaran line. He died in 1795 and has since been named a National Hero. “I try to bring forth the elegant traditional cultural values of the Javanese by taking a closer look at the source of the creative process in order to extract universal knowledge,” Fajar told J+ in an interview. According to Fajar, the classical touch brought by the show’s karawitan, or Javanese musical ensemble, when coupled with costumes designed by the Iwan Tirta Private Collection made the performance even more thrilling. “I’m so excited that we all could present a superiorquality performance to the UK audience during this trip.” Fajar said he read widely and interviewed many people to learn more about his character and the driving force behind his actions. True to traditional Javanese spirituality, Fajar also visited the great aristocrat’s grave, immersing himself in Raden Mas Said memorabilia as well as fasting to observe the nobleman’s birthday, as he believed these actions might help him to get deeper into his character. “Raden Mas Said is a prominent figure in Java. This role is very important and meaningful for me personally. Therefore, it became my duty to ensure the quality of the performance.” Fajar said he also relied heavily on rehearsals to be in top shape as an actor and a dancer, expressing gratitude that he could work with Atilah, who was Matah Ati’s choreographer, director and writer. “Ibu Atilah is a very strict and disciplined director, who is highly programmed in her creative process. She was so strict that I actually called her jenderal kopassus [Special Forces general]–but her disciplined manner of training us actually came to fruition. Preserving his health through proper nutrition and rest was also important as the lead, Fajar said, adding that the traditional arts should not be dismissed as out of date. There’s something revolutionary and ahead of the times about such works, which is why they stand the test of time. “Hopefully, by being aware that traditional art actually resonates within a contemporary context, members of our young generation could actually be interested to explore their own cultural roots,” Fajar said.