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'Fractura Hepatica': A woman's transition from heartbreak to healing

A. Kurniawan Ulung

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Wed, August 8, 2018  /  09:28 am
'Fractura Hepatica': A woman's transition from heartbreak to healing

The brokenhearted: Artist Andita Purnama, clad in a Javanese wedding dress, presents a performance art piece during the opening of her exhibition “Fractura Hepatica” at the Cemara 6 Gallery in Central Jakarta. (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

Artist Andita Purnama raises the issue of nikah siri (unofficial, unregistered marriage) in her ongoing exhibition, while sharing love and hope as well as terrible loss and grief with viewers.

Andita admits that her solo exhibition, “Fractura Hepatica: Love, Pride and Dignity” at the Cemara 6 Gallery in Menteng, Central Jakarta referred to the lowest point in her life.

In 2016, she was devastated when her husband, an Australian gallery owner who had entered into nikah siri with her, left her suddenly, just 10 days before they were to have registered their married status and held a wedding reception.

She became the subject of unwanted rumors and speculation, and incurred huge losses from her preparations for the big day, from the catering to the venue and of course, her wedding dress.

“My friends from Australia had even arrived in Indonesia to attend my wedding,” said the soft-spoken, 37-year-old artist.

Andita, however, could not claim her rights as a married woman because she did not have a valid marriage certificate. Two years later, she created her exhibition not only to break her silence on this dark episode in her past, but also to raise awareness on nikah siri.

Running from Aug. 1 to 10, “Fractura Hepatica”, which derives from medical terms that mean “crack” and “heart”, is the second solo exhibition from Andita, a graduate of the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) in Yogyakarta.

Since 2000, Andita has participated in at least 35 group exhibitions at home and abroad, from Australia to Poland.

Curated by Christine Cocca, “Fractura Hepatica” showcases 13 pieces – paintings, statues and installations – on the glory of love and women’s dedication to marriage.

“My paintings are about how women struggle to have their right recognized and protected by the law, while they fight alone to raise their children without status and documents and are vulnerable to domestic violence,” she said.

Andita recalled that people denounced her verbally for her troubled relationship, and that her ex-husband also accused her of materialism as a way to justify his irresponsible action of leaving her.

“Fractura Hepatica” is unlike her earlier exhibition, because it includes her paintings. Before, Andita diplayed only her sculptures and installations.

For her, painting is like meditation, and helps her through the hard times.

“I searched for the meaning of life through painting,” she said.

At the exhibition opening, Andita appeared in a Javanese wedding dress, but more interesting were the bold words painted on her upper torso: pride, loyalty, trust, sincerity and dignity.

Having lived in Yogyakarta for 14 years during gave her a better understanding of Javanese philosophy. According to her observations, Javanese philosophy was in harmony with feminism because it valued women, including their self-esteem and dignity.

That is why her exhibited works are rich with Javanese culture. Among them is a batik fabric bearing a parang (Javanese machete) motif, which symbolizes honor and loyalty as the highest Javanese values.

Andita said the batik was memorable, because it was part of the attire for groomsmen that the male members of her family were to have worn at her wedding.

“Clouds Number Six” by Andita Purnama“Clouds Number Six” by Andita Purnama (JP/A. Kurniawan Ulung)

The konde, a bun-shaped traditional hairpiece, also appears in an installation titled “Sukma Nguntal Rogo” (spirit unites with body) in her exhibit. Two years ago, she bought many konde for her female relatives to wear as her bridesmaids. But, like the batik, they ended up being useless.

The batik and konde are not the only pieces in her exhibition that draw from Andita’s personal archives. In the “Sigaraning Nyowo” (Soulmate) installation, she displays her own hair that she lost during the period.

“In this work, the hair lost is the product of grief and disappointment,” she said, explaining that the breakup made her so severely despondent that her hair started falling out. She did not throw away the hair she lost, but kept them instead.

Through the installation, she attempts to deliver the message that parts of our bodies, such as hair – universally considered as symbolizing feminine beauty – can respond to what we are feeling.

Andita said that “Fractura Hepatica” did not aim to expose her grief or to seek sympathy.

The idea to raise awareness over the issue of nikah siri came to her mind after she read a report from the Empowerment of Female Heads of Households Program (Pekka). The report made her realize that she was not the only victim.

“This exhibition is also [the victims’] voices. I just want to embrace them,” she said.

She hopes that her exhibition will make more people aware of the issue. Another reason behind “Fractura Hepatica” is to show the artwork that reflect her honesty and her side of the truth – a principle she always abides by as an artist.

Andita herself has moved on.

Near the “Sukma Nguntal Rogo” installation is “Gusti Mboten Sare” (God Never Sleeps), an installation of a queen-size wedding bed with a black silk sheet, accompanied with her broken-hearted poem of the same title.

“God does not sleep. He will give us a way,” said Andita. “Making art is the process of healing and forgiving myself.”