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Yogyakarta play shines light on rape victims' despair

Bambang Muryanto

The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta  /  Fri, March 15, 2019  /  03:38 pm
Yogyakarta play shines light on rape victims' despair

Ela Mutiara portrays a rape victim during the 90-minute play. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

Ela Mutiara anxiously lies in bed, frequently turning from side to side. At one point she wakes and sits up; her eyes empty as she stares into space. She then changes her clothes, finds food to eat and goes back to sleep.

This routine goes on and on every day. Sometimes, Ela can be found throwing all her clothes onto the floor, then sits down crying her heart out -- only a metronome keeps her company with its haunting ticking sound.

"Ela portrays a woman who was raped by her uncle. I've met with the survivor and she was highly depressed," choreographer Ayu Permata Sari told The Jakarta Post on March 8.

The aforementioned scene was Ayu's works that was showcased at a visual art exhibition titled KAMI Bu-Ta (We are not animals) at the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (PKBI)'s Lentera Sahaja Youth Center Gallery in Yogyakarta. It runs until March 23.

The exhibition, which is held to celebrate International Women's Day, also features work that was showcased at the 2017 Jogja National Museum, as well as documentation photos of works by Ari Kusuma and installation art.

In Ayu's 90-minute play, she dances alongside Pebri Irawan.

In the last scene, the audience sees Pebri Irawan sitting on red fabric with a red curtain in the background designed by Anwar, which symbolizes sexual abuse. In the last scene, the audience sees Pebri Irawan sitting on red fabric with a red curtain in the background designed by Anwar, which symbolizes sexual abuse. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

"The KAMI Bu-Ta dance was inspired by the experience of a girl who was raped by her stepfather until she feels more animal than human," said Ayu.

Read also: Victim blaming obvious no-no. What about victim protection?

The girl was raped between the ages of 10 and 16. Her stepfather raped her anytime he wanted, and had done so on the dining table, in the living room or bathroom.

The exhibition concept is uniquely divided into five scenes. The first scene features three documentation photos of KAMI Bu-Ta art performance that portrays the victim being gagged, her hands bound and being physically abused. The photos narrate how the victim is unable to scream or become a witness to her terrible ordeal.

The second scene portrays the victim's daily activities, which only revolve around eating, taking a shower and sleeping.

In the third scene, the viewers are invited to see the collaborative installation works of Ayu and Anwar Sugiharto in the form of a marionette.

"This artwork portrays how victims of sexual assault are always drawn to their past due to trauma," said Ayu.

In the fourth scene, Ayu and Anwar's collaborative work features three people donning the hijab who sing children's song titled "Balonku Ada Lima" (I Have Five Balloons) while holding four red, orange, pink and black balloons.

These balloons, said Ayu, were our daily reality on various sexual abuse acts such as catcalling. However, amid the darkness of sexual abuse symbolized by a black balloon, a white one appears to represent how hope is always there to help us rise again.

In the last scene, the audience sees Pebri Irawan sitting on red fabric with a red curtain in the background designed by Anwar, which symbolizes sexual abuse. Around 2 meters above Pebri's head, seven candles are lit and installed in a tilted position. Pebri was always in pain whenever the hot candle wax fell on his face.

"This is my interpretation of candles. Candles are like the police, government and doctors who, if not in the right position, can hurt victims of sexual abuse," said Pebri.

The police who made rapists marry their victims, said Ayu, were an example of a solved case that was hurtful to the victims of sexual abuse. And many such cases are against the interest of the victims.

Ela, who played the victim, said she felt sad when portraying the role. When she slept on the bed, she felt afraid and no longer had the will to live.

"I cried during our first show," she added.

Ela Mutiara portrays a rape victim during the 90-minute play.Ela Mutiara portrays a rape victim during the 90-minute play. (JP/Bambang Muryanto)

During the opening KAMI Bu-Ta exhibition, Ayu's performance was showcased twice. Until the end of the exhibition, viewers can only watch documentation photos, installation works and properties of KAMI Bu-Ta’s first show.

According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the number of cases involving sexual violence in Indonesia continues to grow. By late last year, it recorded up to 348,446 cases in 2017, an increase of 25,522 from 2017.

Ironically, the majority of the cases, or 71 percent, happened in private settings such as the victim's home. And the perpetrators are always close family such as a birth father or uncle.

Ayu is hopeful that the exhibition would help open visitors' perspectives on sexual violence cases.  

"Hopefully, they can realize how hurtful it is for the victims of sexual violence," she added. (kes)