Indigenous Performing Arts in a Sumatran Province: Revival of Sakura Mask Theater, 1990-2012

2017-11-07T23:33:23Z (GMT) by Karen Thomas

Due to a vast transmigration program instituted by the Dutch from 1905 and persisting under the Indonesian government from the 1950s to the present, the ulun Lampung (indigenous Lampung people), comprising just 13 percent of the total population of Lampung province in Sumatra, have for decades remained a forgotten and neglected minority in their own province. The indigenous Lampung performing arts illuminate this social problem as demonstrated by the topic of this article—sakura masked theater performed by the Saibatin ethnic group living in Lampung’s mountainous northwest. Unlike the performing arts in Java and other parts of Indonesia, which were largely regulated by the national arts’ policies of Depdikbud (Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, Ministry of Education and Culture) out of the national capital, Jakarta, the history of sakura masking has been determined by the marginalization of the ulun Lampung via the century-old transmigration program; this has resulted in their social stigmatization, perpetuated by communities of pendatang (newcomers). Reviving the arts was to take place through a program of promoting the Lampung philosophy of pi’il pesenggiri (self-respect) by drawing on components of traditional hospitality, including bestowing Lampung titles at traditional ceremonies on both guests visiting—and immigrants residing in—the province. This program was initiated by the current ulun Lampung governor not long after his appointment in 2003, and continues to be implemented today.