Jogja’s Community Theater for Radical Change for People with Disabilities

Theatre is the art of looking at ourselves – Augusto Boal, Founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed

Ekawati Liu invited me to come out to Sleman, where she was doing her research into the livelihood choices of Indonesian villagers with disabilities to document a theater workshop. The performance took place on a makeshift open-air stage using only the simplest of props, in the pendhopo attached to the sub-district office in Berbah, Sleman, on the outskirts of the city of Jogja. The performers were mostly amateurs with limited experience who had come together less than a week previously to develop the concept for the play, to create a scenario, and to practice the skills required to convey their story. The performance itself worked because of the sincerity of the performers. They weren’t really acting, they were playing their own stories. But to me, the most interesting thing was the process by which they put the performance together.

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Coffee Farmers: Appreciating the lemon and sugar-palm notes

A few years ago, I traveled to the districts of Tapanuli Utara, Tapanuli Selatan, and Mandhailing Natal on an assignment for Conservation International, to look at how the Sustainable Landscapes Project was teaching coffee, rubber and cacao farmers how to get more about of their land by producing organic compost, insecticides and fertilizers and by intercropping with other plants, like sugar palm, that prevent erosion. A lot of it is gorgeous wild forest, tiger and orangutan lands, particularly in the Gadis Batang National Park. It’s fairly sparsely populated, and the people are lively, boisterous Batak. I was particularly charmed by the Sipirok Coffee Shop, a simple shack where farmers gather to drink world-class, single origin coffees to better understand their own crop.

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