A few weeks ago, Chinese New Year was being celebrated. In Indonesia it’s known as “Imlek,” and Jakarta certainly celebrated. For us, this was truly remarkable since, when we were last here 20 years ago, you still had to vouch on the immigration form that you not only were not carrying explosives, but that you had nothing with Chinese writing on it. Some things have improved in the intervening years.
We are now in the Year of the Dragon – the Water Dragon to be precise; I was born, with no choice, in the Year of the Dog – but at least it was a Fire Dog. Dragons were everywhere for Imlek – especially in commercial locations where they might induce a level of exuberance that would lead to purchasing stuff. The absurdly (and, given the overall social context, disturbingly) ritzy mall in our building complex was no exception. And, along with the dragons, came events. My eye was caught by a small item on the poster announcing these, between “Fiddle with 2 Strings,” and the “Dainty Lotus Dance” - “Grains of Sand.” Mystified, I hurried along one lunchtime, and watched a performance by “Indonesia’s only sand artist.” This is the art of telling stories via continually changing hand-sculpted images in sand on an overhead projector. One of its celebrity proponents is Kseniya Simonova, who won “Ukraine’s Got Talent” with her work a couple of years ago. It may not be “great art” in the traditional sense, but it’s compelling to watch, it’s highly creative and requires impressive skills – I certainly couldn’t do it.
The Indonesian artist, “Denny Darko,” performed wearing a blindfold, and his story, topically, was “The Legend of Lotus Flower and the Dragon King.” You find your attention switching from the artist to the screen, watching his hands moving, pouring, scattering, and sculpting the sand, the grand sweeps dramatic, the small details meticulous and mysterious, images appearing and dissolving. And one of the compelling aspects is the expectation – a scene begins to take shape, but you have no idea what exactly it will be, until a detail begins to emerge and all is revealed. No, it may not be “great art,” but it’s really impressive, fascinating to watch, and a great way of visually telling a story.
A couple of images and a short movie: