I've been home for a little while now, but it's only been recently that I've looked through the remnants of Spider and Kite thoroughly. Here are some of the letters I wrote Jackie in Indonesia. That place changed me. And so strange to be reunited with these documents of those changes. It's something like a full circle, maybe.
Piles. Letters, postcards, objects, drawings.
Information and poetry from the few amazing activists I met in Australia. The good loving and fighting are happening everywhere.
Letter on reverse side of image above:
We are on the train in Yogya waiting to pull out of the station and begin our fourteen (empatbelas) hour ride to the Eastern tip of Java. And now we are moving. This is a very long ride so the next few letters may or may not be from today. Beautiful paper, huh? (referring to envelopes). It's all handmade recycled paper made by this fantastic local group called Milah (short for 'a very long dream'). Atik told us about it. Veggie grub, handmade goods, preschool, art programs, organizing and organic everything...
You would love Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogja or Jogjakarta). Everyone is so ready to wisk you away to their favorite spot, or just walk you to where you want to go and have the same wonderful conversation. It's different every time.
Yesterday I was led to a puppet maker. Wayang is the Javanese art of shadow puppets. They were once made out of leaves, but now they use a this semi-opaque leather. There is so much detail! The two main stories told using these puppets are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata , but originally, the puppets were part of Javanese animism culture. The spread of Islam was also made possible through Wayang.
The visual culture here makes my mouth water.
The most beautiful part of the artwork here, however, is how it is ingrained with the philosophy of the area. Every Batik pattern has a history and meaning. Every part of the puppet means something--so much so that the puppet itself tells a story before the story even begins. As an artist (seniman), one should live life as they make their art- in love, with patience, and with one eye on the small action at hand, and one eye on the long-term task. That is how you batik, that is how you live life. Here, art is, to many, a deeply spiritual, essential part of life.
Art is the bridge between this life, this earth, this human experience, and god, the universe, the Cosmic We. Art is love. Art is a weapon. We are magicians, Jackie. I believe it now more than ever. If puppets can spread a foreign religion to millions, they must be full of magic. This place, more than anywhere I've been, realizes this. They don't need to theorize about life as art or art as life because they know it. It's in their bodies, breath and DNA. The two are inseparable from each other and there is no point trying to make the distinction.
Oh. It's not just the traditional arts, either. Do forgive me if I have made that impression. Yogya has taken to the spray paint and transformed itself. It's hard to find a wall without a tag, mural or wheatpaste. The city is painted fearlessly and feverishly. In Yogya, the warriors are young and they're covered in paint.
Everything, Everywhere, Always,
Letter on reverse of image above:
Harry and I are in Ubud now, Pemuteran and our illness behind us. We caught a ride with a wonderful couple from Vancouver- rich and retired-good people.
The architecture here is so intriguing- i will draw as much as I can.
Today in Bali there are ceremonies in honor of the goddess of education and knowledge--everyone dressed so nice so colorfully bringing thanks of fruits and cakes to the temples. Ketut's wife returned home with temple offerings to share with the family and gave us some to enjoy-bringht pink and green cakes, oranges, rambustans.
Found a stand selling Mangosteens sweet Shiva and Jesus I thought I would never have them again.
Every culture has so much to teach the other. Seeing the ways people think and dream elsewhere-the diversity is overwhelming- as is the rising tide of Western homogeny. What a tragedy it would be if this place disappears-the place will be here, but the essence of the place- the whispers, the dreams, the food stuck between teeth, the songs sung under breath- I don't need to witness and photograph these things. I know they exist and that I don't have a place in them and that's okay. I would rather know a dance exists than to see it and have it exist a little less by my seeing it. I don't want to buy empty shells of rituals past. Keep them real, even if that means keeping me out of it. That's not to say travel passive (or not travel at all), rather, seek out a world that thrives without you, and feel honored to be in its presence. One person's ritual is not your entertainment.
All my love,