This video is a Dutch interview with Indonesian dalang Ki Enthus Susmono.
Destroying or innovating tradition? The politics of authenticity in the Indonesian wayang puppet theatre
IIAS Lunch Lecture by Sadiah Boonstra
Date & time: Wednesday 10 May 2012, 12.30-14.00 hrs.
Venue: IIAS Conference Room, Rapenburg 59, Leiden, Netherlands
Ki [The Honourable] Enthus Susomo (1966) is one of Indonesia’s most famous dalangs or wayang puppeteers. He is widely regarded as a radical innovator for the incorporation in wayang of non-wayang characters such as Batman, Harry Potter, political figures like Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden, the use of innovative musical compositions, and the creation of Wayang Santri, dealing with Islamic daily life. These innovations make him extremely popular, but urge critics to see him as “Destroyer” of the “authentic” wayang “tradition”.
Combining historical and anthropological research, Sadiah Boonstra will focus on dalang Ki Enthus Susmono to show how processes of defining “authenticity” linked to “tradition” in contemporary Indonesia are the result of mutual interaction between individual, local traditions and (post)colonial and (inter)national heritage policies influenced by identity issues concerning appropriation and belonging, and in- and exclusion.
Following Sears (1996) I will demonstrate that “authentic” wayang is a colonial construction that turned wayang plays and puppets together with the sound of the gamelan into symbols of “authentic” Javanese culture with roots in a pre-Islamic past. Arguing that UNESCO has perpetuated this myth of “authentic” wayang in the context of the Indonesian nation-state with the enlisting of the wayang puppet theatre as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage in 2003, I will analyze the politics of “authenticity” and its negotiation in the context of the contemporary wayang performance practice, the creation of heritage and the concept of intangible heritage as a signifier in the cultural canon of contemporary Indonesia.