UNDER THE VOLCANO
A theatre work inspired by a poem written by Sumatran Poet Muhammad Saleh on the eruption of Mount Krakatau
One of the world's most cataclysmic volcanic outbursts was the 1883 eruption of Mount Krakatau located on a small island in the Sunda Strait which separates the islands of Sumatra and Java. The explosion was so enormous that it could be felt thousands of miles away. The eruption and the massive destruction it caused, has stirred the imaginations of artists and writers around the world.
Syair Lampung Karam 1883, (The Tale of Lampung Submerged), is among the first texts devoted to the eruption of Krakatau. It is a beautiful poem composed by Muhammad Saleh, an Indonesian author who was an eyewitness to the catastrophe. The text is composed in the form called syair,
a traditional form of Malay poetry made up a series of four-line stanzas. A syair can be a narrative poem, a didactic poem, a poem used to convey ideas on religion or philosophy, as well as to describe historical events. Though largely unknown today outside of literary and academic circles, Syair Lampung Karam 1883, was published in Singapore in 1883.
The poem of Syair Lampung Karam is especially meaningful to the people Minangkabau of Padang Panjang, who indeed, live under a Mount Marapi
a volcano, which has erupted many times over the centuries, most recently in 2009, followed by a devastating tsunami. Located on the slopes of Marapi, the people of Padang Panjang, live under the imminent risk of disaster. Even now the conditions on the mountainside are worrying. Legend has it that the Minangkabau people have their roots on the slopes of the volcano (as recorded in Tambo Minangkabau), which means that what is happening with the mountain today harks back to the very beginnings of Minangkabau culture.
The creation of Under the Volcano has been inspired by the richness of the Minangkabau culture as seen in the silat martial arts, Minangkabau dance, and the feel of Minangkabau music. These sources of inspiration were transformed through distortion of space, movement and sound. Vertical space was employed along with horizontal. Thematically, the emphasis of this piece is on is on the terror experienced by the people living on the slopes of the volcano when it erupts. Before disaster struck, life was harmonious, people interacted peacefully. Suddenly the earthquake came, followed by the explosion of Mount Merapi and then a tsunami. The slope dwellers panicked and attempted to save themselves. When the eruptions subsided, they returned to disaster, trauma and impoverishment. Little by little they rebuilt, certainly with the assistance of others, their homes and their villages.
Life returns to the peaceful routine of the time before disaster hit.
Under the Volcano is spoken in Indonesian; told through text, dance, music, and stunning visual effects. The music and dance are based on traditional Malay forms, sometimes altered to reflect changes made with the passage of time side by side with contemporary music and dance.
The message of Under the Volcano is as true today as it was in 1883: To survive in this world one must depend on the help of others.
Singapore / xxx
Beijing / xxx
UNDER THE VOLCANO
A theatre work inspired by Syair Lampung Karam 1883 a poem written by Sumatran Poet Muhammad Saleh
Multimedia & Photography
Gembong Hardian with Fendi Siregar
Bumi Purnati Indonesia
In collaboration with The Bali Purnati Foundation and China Arts and Entertainment Group With Ensemble from Hitam Putih Art Community, Padang Panjang, Indonesia
duration of the show │ 1h
Helga Davis is an interdisciplinary artist based in New York.
She collaborates with composers and choreographers among others. In 2011, David Keenan from Wire Magazine described her as a ‘‘powerful vocalist with an almost operatic range and all the bruised sensuality of Jeanne Lee.”