23 September 2007

If women ruled the world . . .

By SHEELA CHANDRAN
sheelac@thestar.com.my

The dominant role of women and their power to rule are apparent among the Minangkabau people of west Sumatra, who practice a unique matriarchal system, in which family property and wealth is passed down from mother to child. This unique structure or way of life is strongly influenced by the worship of Mother Earth and nature.

Intrigued by these customs, Dutch Indonesian theatre thespian Gerard Mosterd (right) has created an abstract multimedia dance performance that pays tribute to the matriarchal practice of the Minangkabau.

Themed pARa_DIsE . . . a woman? BunDo kAnDuanG, the thought-provoking performance poses the question as to whether the world would be a better place if women ruled.

"I have been interested in matriarchal rule. According to the Minangkabau way of life, women have power and authority. I have always wanted to find out if it were a woman's world and if they made all decisions, would the world be an ideal place to live in?"

The 43-year-old Netherlands-based choreographer learnt classical ballet, contemporary and folk dance at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. He also studied tai chi and elementary Javanese court dance.

The performance also highlights Mosterd's interesting view on how humans are connected to the world.

"Basically, people live in two worlds - the horizontal and vertical world. People living in the horizontal world are connected to nature and people. Those residing in the vertical world are self-centred, living in skyscrapers with male- invented intellectuals. In this world, the economical hierarchy takes us away from where we come from.

"Most west Sumatrans live in a horizontal world where they are not concerned about monetary issues. Most are uneducated and unaware of power of money. Sometimes, the less educated people are, the more beautiful, sincere and connected they become.

"These simpletons do not think of economic adventures and are not concerned over political issues. The scenario is different in big cities where people are bullish, self-centred with a need to participate in an economic capitalist lifestyle," he elaborated.

The one-hour multimedia dance theatre is a collaboration between Mosterd and renowned Sumatran, Bessie Award-winning choreographer Boi G. Sakti. (The New York Dance and Performance Awards are called Bessie Awards.)

For the performance, Boi takes his starting point from an old Minangkabau myth, Bundo Kanduang, which is about an ancient powerful queen mother. His dance material is complemented by video in which seven dancers perform a modern dance with Minangkabau influences.

A multimedia presentation will provide the backdrop during the dance. It will feature images of skyscrapers in Indonesia's capital Jakarta, Minangkabau women, their community and nature.

pARa_DIsE . . . a woman? BunDo kAnDuanG was conceptualised in Indonesia. This production will be performed in Singapore, Thailand, the Netherlands and some European countries.

o pARa_DIsE . . . a woman? BunDo kAnDuanG will be presented at Pentas 2, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), Sentul Park, in Kuala Lumpur tonight at 8.30pm and at 3pm on Sept 23. Entry is by donation: RM30 and RM20 (students, senior citizens and the disabled). For more information, call (03) 4047 9000 (The Actors Studio), (03) 2094 9400 (KLPac) or browse www.klpac.com.

Saturday September 22, 2007


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