Tuesday, 11 February 2014

PRAGUE EVENT: Olbram Zoubek's Exhibition

Photo and text are by my beloved Wolfie.

Prague, February 26, 2014

© Jiří Sedláček (2014)

This retrospective exhibition of sculptor Olbram Zoubek took place at Prague Castle Riding School from November 2013 until February 2014. The exhibition, conceived by the sculptor himself, offered the best of his long life work. There were displayed almost 300 (three hundreds) works from mid 50th years to the present. Some statues and sculptures were presented for the first time. 

Zoubek's work, predominantly reflecting the artist's belief in mortality of spiritual values, belongs to the humanistic messages of the present time. His sculptures are exclusively human figures (men, women, sometimes children) mostly in the nude, some have stylized, antique robes. All those almost 300 statues were positioned as if in a dialog or mutual interaction (by couples or groups). As the exhibition hall looks out to the old rampart and a small garden space, several groups of statues, all girls were positioned in that open space as well. The background being formed by nothing less than the majestic St. Vitus Cathedral.

© Jiří Sedláček (2014)
© Jiří Sedláček (2014)

There was a running documentary in a loop presented there, too – as was in the case of photographer Drtikol’s – with him talking about his life and work, at times waxing philosophical, at times very touching. He’ll be 88 soon, and still working.

“The Earth’s gravity and the desire to overcome it – that’s what intrigues me. I make flying, floating, falling, weightless sculptures that I put in a sort of a theatrical pose: each one carries certain mood, gesture or noiseless scream, as if they wanted to meet and have a dialog with each other.  And exactly this would be possible now, at he Riding School gallery.”

© Jiří Sedláček (2014

On death:
“All your sculptures are as if rooted in the ground and reaching out upwards, to the Heavens. So perhaps you are familiar with what’s there, above us?” 
“I’d like to know that, but I don’t... My relation to God is a doubting one. I don’t think there is anything after death. People make up afterlife and things life that to make it easier for themselves – which is good, but I don’t believe it. Faith might make life easier to gear, yet you can live as well with doubts. We, who consciously doubt, make our lives more complex, richer. Each decision must be based on your own thinking, not on some scriptures or commandments.”

© Jiří Sedláček (2014)

© Jiří Sedláček (2014)

Below is the link where you could see the photo-gallery of the exhibition.

About the sculptor:

Olbram Zoubek was born in Prague on April 21st 1926. Though he had studied at a technical secondary school, his interest in modelling was supported by his parents. Soon after Second World War, after a brief practical experience in a stone-cutting workshop, he started studying sculpture under Prof. Josef Wagner at the Academy of Arts, Architectural, and Design in Prague. He completed his studies in 1952. The first years of his studies were encouraging. They took place during the period of freedom. 

After 1948, the atmosphere of freedom changed into hegemony of ideological dogmas, purges and fear introduced by the communist regime. Prof. Wagner deffended himself and his students against this impacts. He acquainted them with the technique of conservation, so until the 1950's Zoubek earned his living by restoring sculptures and graffito. This activity strengthened, among other things, his attitude towards the values of tradition. In school he became acquainted with the sculptress Eva Kmentova, who later became his wife.

In the 1960's, they left their common studio. Zoubek adapted a former stone cutting workshop in the old part of Prague New Town, where he has been working up to the present time. He oriented himself, like the other members of his generation, on modern art, which was rejected by communist ideology. He became member of the group 'trasa' in the frame of which he began to exhibit and publish his works. His work and organizational activity essentially contributed to the development of art in Czechoslovakia of the 1960's. The tragic fall of the Prague Spring in 1968 put a check on the freedom for artists and citizens. 

Zoubek's exhibitions, the realization of his statues in public places, his participation in international sculptor's symposiums, and no less his democratic position caused his persecution by the totalitarian power. The authorities began to eliminate him from public competitions. He couldn't even participate in exhibitions for a long time. He took refugee in the activity of conservator (for 20 years he restored graffito in the Litomysl Castle). Together with his friends he participated in the activities on the alternative culture opposing the governing regime under difficult conditions. 

In 1969, after student Jan Palach burned  himself to death in a protest against the Soviet occupation, Zoubek secretly took his death mask, to be preserved for the future. When in 1989 Czechoslovakia returned to democracy, his struggle for freedom ended.


Monday, 10 February 2014

BADUY - Banten Peaceful Indigenous Society

Baduy, 4-5 January 2014

With Baduy Dalam lads welocoming at Ciboleger Village
It was a fine midday when I arrived at Ciboleger, a village in the outer skirt of Mount Kendeng, Lebak, Banten. Together with my friend, Mujib, I went there by joining an open-trip group consisting of 23 people (including us) to visit Baduy community. Our group was accompanied by a native guide named Kang Sapli a.k.a. Kang Baim. 

In Ciboleger square, we were welcomed by some Baduy Dalam native lads wearing their peculiar clothes: black or white T-shirts, black skirt and white head cover, and white sling bag. All that pieces of fabric are hand-weaved by their own community. Their average height is only around 1.60 meter. They have muscular body and wide feet. At a glance, they remind me of the hobbits, fictional creature created by J.R.R. Tolkiens. Though they were so quiet they were so generous in sharing their sincere smiles to us, the visitors.

Welcoming gate at Baduy
Before starting our tracking, we filled up first our backpacks with meals and drinks we bought in Alfamart there. Some of us also bought wooden sticks from kids who aggressively approached us and another visitors. We started our tracking at around 1:00 AM. Before passing the welcoming gate, we could saw some women weaving a Baduy traditional Ikat sheet.

Our destination for this trip was Cibeo village, one of three village where Baduy Dalam community lives, the other two are Cikeusik and Cikertawana. It is located around 12 (twelve) kilometers from the welcoming gate. The path was so challenging for a newbie tracker like me because of its steep hills. I lost my breath easily for the first and second kilometer but after that gradually I can manage my breath better. The first 7 (seven) kilometers are still considered as Baduy Luar area hence people are still allowed to use electrical devices and capture pictures. While the rest, entering the Baduy Dalam area, people are not allowed to.

Baduy Luar woman weaving a oiece of Ikat sheet © +sita ariana pangestu (2014)
Along the way I could hear clearly the melodious sound of the wind. It really calmed me down and wept away the exhaustion I felt. That sound came from the Calintu, a big flute made of bamboo hung above the trees. The sound is intended to amuse the paddy (rice) plants, their main source of their meal and income, in their rice fields hence they could grow well and give more prosperity to them.

During the tracking journey, I and Mujib preferred to get in touch with the native Baduy Dalam to the other group members because both of us have sheer interest in sociology especially about indigenous live. We had a very nice talk with Pak Juliarni, one of Baduy Dalam lad becoming our porter.

The big flute named Calintu
He told us some basic rules of  Baduy Dalam community e.g. not allowed to wear footwear, not allowed to use any vehicle for transportation, not allowed to use electrical device and not allowed to smoke. They are also not allowed to marry with people outside the community unless that 'stranger' want to join their community.

He was also open while we asked about his community's belief. Casually he told us about their religion called Sunda Wiwitan. He told us that their belief was based on the teachings of Prophet Adam, their ancestors. They have no holy books like Quran for moslem or Bible for Christian. Their teaching is inherited through mouth to mouth led by their community leader called Jaro. Based on their belief, their main task in this world is to keep the harmony of the nature and life.

The small lake we found along the way to Reach Cibeo Village
Baduy community has Kawalu as their sacred day. It is a quarterly celebration preceded by one day fasting on each month for each adult. The fasting lasts for 24 hours. Similar with Islam, their adulthood is signed with the circumcision for man and menstruation for woman. They have their own calender system. And they forbid lamb for their meal (which is such a good way of living to avoid excessive cholesterol). They have a sacred forest to do profound meditation there, a kind of pilgrimage.

"Could the visitor attend the Kawalu?"

"No they can't. Kawalu is only for native people. Both Baduy Luar and Baduy Dalam."

"So Baduy Luar, the expelled people, could still join the ceremony?" I asked.

Calmly Pak Juliarni answered, "They are still Baduy. They were not expelled but it was themselves who decided to go. Everybody has their option whether to stay or not. If they want to stay, they must follow the rules. If they can not follow the rules they can go and will be considered as Baduy Luar, unpure ones. Though they don't live with us anymore, they are still the part of us."

I and Mujib was quite amazed hearing his answer. We could instantly feel the ultimate peace there.

Pak Juliarni
Then we encountered so many breathtaking spots we encountered. This tracking really reminded of 'Negeri di Atas Awan (Land above The Clouds)' a TV program about kids and nature I watched while I was kid. I sang along its soundtrack,

kau mainkan untukku sebuah lagu tentang negeri di awan
dimana kedamaian menjadi istananya.
(so you played the song about the land above clouds
where peace becomes its castle)

We finally arrived at Cibeo several minutes before the sun went down. It is one of three village where Baduy Dalam community lives. . In Cibeo we were hosted by Pak Yardi and his family. Right after lodging our bags into the bamboo house, some of us went to the river to take a bath. Some just preferred to enjoy the remaining daylight. Some girls helped our host to cook the ingredients we bought from downhill as dinner. Lighted by candles' light  and flashlights, we enjoyed our dinner peacefully.

With Kang Baim
There were not much thing we could do on the night. We were not allowed to make any noise. Hence most of of just fell asleep to rest their stiff bodies after long hour tracking. The last persons staying alive were only me and Mujib. We sat in the terrace, talked about so many absurd things while enjoying the night where sometimes the stars revealed their shine. A few times we could also see the fireflies. What such a peaceful moment it was.

On the following day, we woke up quite early in the morning. We had our simple breakfast before finally waved our good bye to leave the village. We also bought handmade souvenirs such as bracelets, bags, bamboo glass and Ikat piece of fabrics, as oleh-oleh. 

We took a different part from yesterday path for our down hill journey with the main purpose to see the root bridge. The path was more challenging due to after raining effect. The path was so muddy and slippery hence we needed quite much longer time for this journey.

The root bridge © +sita ariana pangestu (2014)
During the downhill journey, I had just known that Kang Baim was a 'fresh Baduy Luar'. I curiously dig his story about his decision. He casually told us that it was just because he wanted it too. At that time, it was really up to him whether he would stay or not as Baduy Dalam. No pressure at all against his decision. There was sacred ceremony led by Jaro, Baduy religious leader, for letting him go. On that ceremony people prayed and wished him for the best.

I really admire the simple way of life commenced by Baduy community. They hold tight their value without forcing it one to another. They let their people follow their own heart whether to stay or to go without hating them. They life in an ultimate peace and harmony. I really wish that the society where I live, who claim their selves as modern and well educated people, could be as peaceful as Baduy community.