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The Last Tobong

Irene Barlian | Indonesia

An actor backstage moments before going onstage. For more than two hours, the actor and actress delivered the show in the Javanese language.

The Last Tobong represents a portrayal of a lost culture in a rapidly changing world. A story about resilience and sacrifice of once glorified traditional performing art originated from Java, ketoprak. This project documents the fragile nature of an almost-extinct community, Ketoprak Tobong Kelana Bhakti Budaya, the only one ketoprak tobong’s group left in the country.

Ketoprak tobong is a nomadic theatrical performance of Javanese traditional art. Tobong means a multifunction non-permanent building where the performers live and perform. Traditionally, Ketoprak tobong travels from one place to another every couple of months to entertain the Javanese community. In the 1920s, the ancient art blooms and become the enjoyment preference for every class in society.Since 2006, the Javanese gypsy, the epithet given for the group who never settle, have decided to choose Yogyakarta as their home.

The nature of ketoprak tobong has metamorphosed due to economical and agrarian problems. But, adapting to a more progressive approach and shifting its character in the cultural capital of Indonesia is not enough. Ketoprak Tobong Kelana Bhakti Budaya is still struggling to find their place in the conventional tradition of performance art.

Historical values and norms embedded in these ancient traditions are basic constitutions for Indonesian identity, especially the Javanese community. A long line of theatrical tradition is challenged and vanished if Kelana Bhakti Budaya did die out. The Last Tobong delineating drama of a fearful future this last stronghold of traditional theatrical art in facing the converge of a new culture.

Website: www.irenebarlian.com

Phone: +6281212079119

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