Photographic exhibition of travelling theatre troupe in Java, Indonesia
The photographs are beautiful; powerful and playful at the same time. They show members of the Ketoprak Tobong Kelana Bakti Budaya – one of the last remaining nomadic theatre troupes currently based in Yogyakarta, Java – in traditional costume, makeup or posture, but out of their normal context.
Ketoprak refers to the noise made by the hitting of a wooden mallet on a hollow wooden box. The rhythm is similar to that of the boom-tish! that the drummer plays to punctuate a joke. Ketoprak theatre can be seen in the same vein as vaudeville or music hall, and emerged in the city of Yogyakarta in the 1920s.
In the resulting images, members of the theatre pose for the camera in urban or contemporary settings rather than performing for an audience on a stage.
‘City Wall’, shows a player and a worker in front of a graffitied wall. (Yogyakarta is a city famous for its political graffiti).
Sometimes members of the troupe are shown interacting with modern technology, such as in ‘Air Con’ above, in which the performers where asked to interact with one as if rehearsing a scene.
Above: ‘Harvest’, taken in a rice field. Below: ‘The Airport’.
There is an accompanying newspaper for Project Tobong that includes fascinating background information about the Ketoprak Tobong Kelana Bakti Budaya theatre troupe, the photoshoot process, the collaboration between Helen Marshall and Risang Yuwono and the history of Javanese traditional theatre.
Project Tobong is showing in the Balcony Gallery until 10 April 2016
Horniman Museum & Gardens
100 London Road Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ
The Museum is open daily, 10.30am – 5.30pm
Entry is FREE
A tobong is a temporary structure made from bamboo that can be moved from place to place, often used by the nomadic theatre troupes as a stage.