All the hard work paid off… Our Wayang Performance ‘Planting Seeds’ was a great success at the Bali Arts Festival! There was barely a spare seat left as the audience packed into the designated Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet) Arena just before 8pm on Monday night.
The crew had been busy for hours building the set whilst dancers & actors busied themselves fitting costumes & applying make-up.
The performance opened with the Gamelan Orchestra and visuals of planets flying through space. As the music built, three human shadows appeared, each with six arms. Raising their arms and bringing them to their sides in a slow fluid movement, an illuminated OM symbol appeared and floated on the central figure.
Next, the traditional Kayon (Tree of Life) fluttered across the screen, officially opening the show. This transitioned into rice field. The long stems of rice plants were swaying in the breeze. Suddenly, the rice field became alive with reflected light insects and the audience voiced their amazement with a huge applause.
Six young girls appear on stage next. Behind them, a large TV screen flashed advertisements. The girls become excited over dresses and mobile phones and discuss all of their wants & desires.
The Father of Sari (one of the girls) enters & Sari begins to pressure him to buy her all of these fancy things. The father switches off the TV, much to the annoyance of the girls, and he explains that Sari’s grandfather is dying and they must all go and see him.
A shadow puppet of an old man appears & hobbles across the screen. Reaching the other side the Grandfather appears in the flesh and the girls run to the old man surrounding him.
The grandfather has a story to tell his granddaughter and her friends, a story that they must carry and one day tell their grandchildren. Taking a seat he begins to tell the story of how the Goddess of rice, Dewi Sri came to be and how rice was gifted to the Balinese people by the gods.
The performance continually flows between the narration of the Grandfather and the tales of the shadow puppets. Planting Seeds covers the Hindu Sage Rsi Markendeya, who came from Java and set up the Desa (Village), Pura (Temple) and the Sawah & Hutan (Ricefield & Forest). The Balinese people live in peace with their philosophy of Tri Hita Karana: the Balance between man & man, man & their divine and man & nature.
As history progresses this idyllic image is eroded as Tri Hita Karana begins to fall apart. First the balance between man & man is severed as the Dutch invade and occupy Bali. Over 1000 Balinese people die for their land.
Then, the connection between man & nature is jeopardised as the green revolution wreaks havoc on the ecosystem and consequently the health of the people.
Many environmental & social issues are presented during the show as the fertile agricultural land is rapidly converted into villas, hotels & shops.
The Kuta Bombing is a confronting scene as the dancers fall to the flames. This scene highlights what many people have forgotten or don’t know about the bombings: post-bomb, nearly every tourist fled Bali as they no longer felt it safe.
Those Balinese people who relied 100% on tourism were left without any income and no means to buy food. Those who had sold their land had nowhere to grow food whilst the farmers continued on unaffected by the loss of tourism.
Eventually the Grandfather’s story telling comes to a close- he is tired and must rest. The girls bid him goodnight. When they awake the following morning, Sari’s father deliverers the upsetting news that her Grandfather has passed away.
Her Father tells Sari that he will have to sell their family’s rice field to pay for the cremation ceremony. He attempts to comfort his daughter by telling her that he will be able to buy her all the material things that she desires because he will have lots of money from selling their land.
After all that Sari has learned from her Grandfather’s story she is determined not to let her Father sell her ancestors land.
But a greedy investor and his sidekick, with a case full of cash, arrive to purchase the land from the father.
Just as the Father is about the sign the land away, Sari forces her way between them and passionately explains why he must not sell their land.
And so, the investors come up with the solution: rent the land to them instead of selling. The father is impressed, “What a great idea!” and once again, he is close to signing when Sari pushes the contract from his hands. Her motivating speech follows with the input of her friends. They explain why renting the land is also a terrible plan for the island, her family & their community.
Finally, Sari’s father agrees with Sari and her friends and says he will not sell their land. All of the girls celebrate and chase the investors from the stage.
As the Gamelan strikes, the girls break into song and are accompanied by dancers. They sing about Tri Hita Karana.
To conclude the performance the shadow of a farmer appears and one by one, the young girls thank the farmer for all that the farmers do: “Thank you for providing us with healthy food, thank you for protecting our environment, thank you for upholding our traditions, thank you for saving our culture, thank you for saving our planet, thank you for saving us, thank you for performing the most important job in Bali!”
The Gamelan Orchestra fades with the lights, and the audience erupts.
The sound of Pak Made’s voice can be heard… “Om Santi Santi Santi OM”
The actors, dancers & puppeteers appear on stage to absorb the applause and they deserve it!
After the performance, I was told audience members had tears during the final scene. Other feedback included entire families enjoying the show as well as numerous people saying that we must show this all over Bali!
And so, that is what we will do… After a little more sleep and recharging our human batteries we will refine the story and organise another show specifically for high quality filming. Pak Made also wishes to make a condensed version with a smaller crew so that Planting Seeds will be more easily performed & its story and messages will continue to be told.
A huge thanks to Pak Gede and his crew from IDEP media who filmed the performance. They have generously volunteered their time to help spread these important messages. Also, thanks to Yayasan Konservasi Sawah Bali (one of our partners) for getting us a slot at the Bali Arts festival on such late notice and assisting in many other ways.
I offer gratitude & thanks from my heart to all of our supporters, donators and team who have made this possible. We are blessed to have found each other and to have produced a truly inspirational performance in such a short time frame. Suksma.
Om Santi Santi Sani Om