The Village of Bebekan

house of stone house of soul

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bebekan 20

Waisak (celebration of the birth, the Awakening and the death of Buddha), public holiday in Indonesia.

We left off in October 2007 on a note of suspense about a set of gamelan instruments which a man wanted to offer the sanggar, but where to put it ? Seven months have since gone by, and the life of the sanggar went through many metamorphoses. The gamelan has arrived in Bebekan, but it actually comes from a village not far away, where a group of fanatical Muslims reject any "profane" music. In rural southern Yogyakarta, it is a case as rare as it is saddening but Bebekan is the happy beneficiary. The group of musicians asked that their gamelan be granted "asylum" in the sanggar, while allowing the villagers of Bebekan to use it as well. We have therefore built on the northern side of the "pendopo" (pavilion), against the wall of the library, an annex to house these very bulky instruments. The group of "refugees" only practice once a month, from nine in the evening to midnight. We serve them tea, coffee and a few local delicacies. As a result, women of the "emping" cooperative have also organized a gamelan group and practice every Monday afternoon. As for the men of Bebekan, they practice on Tuesday evening. Astonishingly, the young people (girls and boys) who had been so far "allergic" to gamelan and had their own pop-rock band, have asked us if they could also learn to play the gamelan. The sanggar now has four gamelan groups. It is a country-side kind of gamelan set, made of iron, and doesn't sound very "sophisticated" but the musicians (who are mostly farmers) play together with such energy and joy that their happiness is contagious. The gamelan orchestra doesn't necessarily need to be played by virtuosos in order to generate just and pleasant sounding notes, as is the case for Western symphony orchestras. Each musician plays a note from time to time, he or she strikes a gong, a bowl, a bamboo, and it is the addition of all these blows, which individually might seem fragmented and disconnected, that makes up this lunar and ecstatic music.

This spontaneous development of gamelan in Bebekan, without any intervention on our part, proves what we have been slow to understand : that the traditional arts can not be "restored" by outsiders, that the desire and the initiative to do so must come from inside, from the villagers themselves. A friend of ours, writer and poet, the Indonesian Jesuit priest Sindhunata, came one day to the sanggar. He told us that for four years he had tried to revive traditional arts (gamelan, pantomime, dance) in a village on the slopes of the volcano where he has an out-of-town room (otherwise he lives in the Jesuits presbytery in the center of Yogyakarta). He had even organized a complete puppet shadow theater, but at the end of the performance, which lasted all night, he found himself alone when time came to store the puppets in their boxes and fold the screen.

He gave up eventually and he now composes Javanese lyrics for a hip-hop singer (Marzuki). He is also re-composing the Gospels in "tembang", the standard meter of Javanese sung poetry. According to him, artists suffer from a misguided urban romanticism when they seek to restore the traditional arts in villages, because the villagers feel "backwards" and would much more prefer (especially the young) to enter urban culture. So when urban artists come to them as prophets spreading the word to return to their traditional arts, they consider it almost like an insult, as if outsiders wanted to preserve them in "the mud of their rice fields." Sindhunata told us that we had succeeded in the sanggar, because we focused on education, health, micro-economy, modern technology (computer, Internet, video camera) and that we did not touch the traditional arts. We certainly learned the lesson at our expense with the Reog dance group that we supported with the purchase of instruments and costumes, and the training of the dancers and musicians. Now that group is at a standstill, not even bothering to practice, waiting for a performance that doesn't come. But is this a failure ? The Reog group has played the role of a genuine post-earthquake collective therapy by bringing to the villagers stuck in the middle of their ruins the trance and joy of this hallucinatory dance. And we have not given up. The group will soon have to practice since they have been invited to perform on July 25 during the Centhini Night at the French Cultural Center of Yogyakarta. The evening and night will be devoted to this great poem of Java which I have re-composed a few years ago; the Indonesian version will be reprinted in a single volume. There will be architects, academics and various specialists who will talk about this forgotten masterpiece, there will be a buffet of traditional Javanese dishes, and the night will close with a riotous Reog performance.

I must also add that the people of Bebekan, like all the inhabitants of the southern area of Yogyakarta affected by the earthquake, went through a dark tunnel lasting several months, a sort of delayed shock wave of the earthquake, one year later : frustration, jealousy, bitterness, selfishness, as if once their homes had been rebuilt, their egos had reconstituted and hardened like a stone. At Bebekan, this resulted in a total indifference to the activities of the sanggar. Asep and I organized meetings, but nobody came except the two security guards of the sanggar. We had the feeling of imposing this sanggar, of managing it against their will. It brought in the village a revolution which the villagers did not want. They did not want to be jostled in their habits even if these habits led to stress and poverty. The head of the village, until then an ally, began to avoid us, even though we had hired his wife as secretary and librarian (we had her trained for this work). We thought it was a form of male jealousy : while he was happy that his wife received a salary from the sanggar, at the same time he was jealous that she had a job outside the home and not him, who continued every morning to drive his cows to the field. The leader of the Reog group, a mask sculptor, also began to snub us. We thought that maybe the sanggar had taken the place of these two men who before the earthquake were more or less the two village leaders. Perhaps they felt they had been shoved out of the circle of influence of the village as the sanggar took more and more space. We almost decided to give up everything. Especially when this indifference took an aggressive turn. One day, one of the guards insulted Asep and threatened to beat him up and "kidnap" him if he did not stop the sanggar activities in the evening, after sunset, because young girls and boys would meet each other by nightfall in the sanggar (actually to learn how to use the computer in classes taught by two young girls of the village that we have trained for that purpose) and they flirted, etc. He insisted that girls should not have access to the sanggar after sunset. The next day I went to see him. He said his ears were heating up, even burning, because of all the rumors going round. I replied that I was surprised that his ears did not rather sparkle with the laughter of the two hundred children who come each week for tutoring at the sanggar, that this laughter was larger and noisier than the muted murmurs spewed by evil tongues. And that if there were rumors, these rumors came out mouths and lips that were attached to a body. I asked him to indicate who were the villagers who spread such rumors. Of course he was incapable of doing so. We therefore organized a reunion with several villagers.

I asked them :

Is there in the Koran a verse saying that girls of legal age are not allowed to study in a public place, open and lit up, after dark until nine o'clock in the evening ?

Answer : No.

Question : Is there in the Indonesian constitution an article that prohibits such girls from studying in the evening ?

Answer : No.

Question : Did the parents of these girls consent that their daughters could come to the sanggar in the evening to study ?

Answer : Yes.

Question : So where does it come from, the rumor saying that access to the sanggar is prohibited to girls of an acceptable age in the evening ?

Answer : It is the adat, the customary law.

Question : But who has formulated it, what is its legitimacy ?

No response.

The hidden power of customary law, or rather the power of customs, is sometimes terrifying in Java and in other traditional societies. It presents itself as ancestral wisdom, but it is built on hearsay, grudges, jealousies, values presented as immutable because supposedly issued by the ancestors, but nobody knows its origin nor can explain its merits. The incident was closed on this note, but a heavy atmosphere still prevailed.

At a meeting in November, while we were doing an evaluation of the education program of the sanggar, the head of the mosque said that since the beginning of the sanggar operations, the number of children who followed the Koranic reading classes in the mosque had diminished by half because the tutoring hours at the sanggar overlapped those of the mosque classes. In fact this was only an expression of the fear of losing influence, a fear we soothed by promising to rearrange the schedules for the children of Bebekan, knowing full well that since children from other nearby villages had the same kind of mosque classes on different days, it would be an impossible puzzle to accommodate all the children. But the issue was quickly forgotten when we asked if the people of Bebekan would agree to host a gamelan set seeking asylum. It is precisely the head of the mosque who was the most enthusiastic because he loves to play the gamelan.

In was in this dark period that Sheikh Bentounès arrived at the village. Or rather came back. Sheikh Bentounès, the spiritual leader of the Sufi brotherhood Alawiya, based in Mostaganem in Algeria, had already come to Bebekan in October 2006. He came to Indonesia for the publication of the Indonesian translation of his book "Sufism, the heart of Islam", a translation I had supervised. He returned a year later, this time looking for artifacts to be housed in the world museum of Sufism that he is building in Mostaganem.

As he wished to salute the people of Bebekan who were very dear to him and see the reconstruction of the village, Asep and I first took him on a courtesy call to Pak Haji, a local Muslim religious leader, healer and patron of traditional arts. The people of Bebekan have always held him in the utmost reverence because he had built the stairs leading to the cemeteries and he often lent his generator for various events.

As he lives in a nearby village, we walked there, accompanied by Pak Adi, one of two guards of the sanggar who lost an arm in a soybean dissecting machine. Pak Haji welcomed us, sitting behind his very disorderly desk and dressed in a sarong and a shirt. Young people were waiting at his feet. One of them said that his hand phone was stolen in his boarding room, Pak Haji asked him to come nearer and told him that he would see the thief if he looked into the water of a glass he was holding… Then suddenly Pak Haji spoke to Sheikh Bentounès in an extremely vulgar tone, something quite unusual in Java, using the low-level you and in a voice full of contempt : "Why did you come here ? What do you want from me ?" (I translate as well as I can.) The Sheikh replied that he simply came to pay his respects. Though Pak Haji had been told that Sheikh Bentounès was the spiritual leader of a great Sufi brotherhood in Algeria, he nonetheless continued to speak to him in the most offensive tone possible. Then he took a machete on his desk and began to carve a bamboo stick : "You see, this machete, it cuts damn well !". Then he got up, approached the Sheikh and slashed his arm with the sharp instrument. The Sheikh remained impassive, his arm did not bleed, and Pak Haji said in triumphant voice : "You see the amazing powers I have ! You should be wounded but you are not !" I wanted to interject that it was rather the Sheikh who seemed to have powers of invulnerability, but I was so stunned by the unfolding incident that the words could not get out, as in a nightmare. Then Pak Haji applied his machete to the ear of the Sheikh and started to slice it off. Still no blood. Then he ordered him to stand up and to kneel down in the prayer position. As the Sheikh complied and started to bow down, back to him, Pak Haji stepped back, picked up a brick and violently threw it against the neck of the Sheikh. The Sheikh still remained impassive, and even smiled. Then Pak Haji triumphantly returned to his desk, grabbed some tree leaves, and standing very close to us, he crushed them and when he reopened his hands the leaves had turned into bills of 20.000 Indonesian rupiahs. Then he took the cigarette pack of Sheikh Bentounès, hid it in his sarong in front of us and brought back a completely different pack. Yes, Pak Haji was jubilantly displaying all his powers.

The Sheikh asked him : "Where did you get these powers ?"

Pak Haji : "Directly from Allah. It blows your mind, hey, all my powers ?"

The Sheikh : "No. You tell me that they come from Allah, and Allah is Almighty, so it does not surprise me."

Pak Haji quoted verses from the Koran which he uses to increase his powers and asked the Sheikh : "How many times have you made the pilgrimage to Mecca?"

The Sheikh : "Once."

Pak Haji : "Me, twice! Ha! ha!" New triumph. And so on and so forth.

Finally we got up to leave. The Sheikh affectionately hugged Pak Haji in his arms and we started to walk bak to Bebekan through the rice fields. The Sheikh said: "When the ego swells with pride, this is what happens." In fact, knowing that the Sheikh was a great Sufi master, Pak Haji felt threatened, went overboard, and tried to provoke the Sheikh in a duel of magic. I had read about such duels in various mystical stories, such as The Ten Thousand Songs of Milarepa (a Tibetan yogi) or even in The Book of Centhini (the great poem Java), but this was the first time I had directly witnessed one, sitting at ringside. I realized that Pak Haji was a man who actually had real powers and that his ego could make them extremely dangerous. But Asep and I did not report the incident to the villagers for fear of hurting the veneration they felt for Pak Haji. Only Pak Adi, who had witnessed everything, was shaken. But he is a discreet man, he is not only the guard of the sanggar but also of the cemetery of Bebekan, and therefore of the dead and of silence, and he did not say anything to anyone.

We went back to the sanggar, night was falling, we drank a glass of coconut milk on the terrace of the limasan house at the top. Sheikh spoke to us of Christ who, with his arms fully opened in the cross position, welcomes all beings, while the Prophet Muhammad, arms crossed over his chest in prayer, hugs everyone. Then he told us that the time had come for us to choose a precise mode of management for the sanggar, and that we could not continue solely on the strength of improvisation. He suggested we adopt the method known as "management by the circle", a method as old as the world, universal, practiced for centuries by the Sufis. The Circle of qualities and virtues. It is about finding a balance between the spiritual center of the circle and, on one side, feelings, and, on the other, interests. In fact, it is foremost a method of working on oneself and then extending it to others. During my visit to Paris in January 2008, at the request of the Sheikh, one of his disciples, a computer scientist, generously devoted a whole day to teach me the basic principles of this method. But I must say that I haven't applied it to Bebekan because I do not yet master it for myself. Then around nine o'clock, the Sheikh wished to visit the mask sculptor, Pak Jamari, because he wanted to buy one of his masks. We told him that Pak Jamari had been avoiding us for several months, that things weren't going well for him. Well then, said the Sheikh, it is precisely the moment to pay him a visit.

We had barely sat down in the house of Pak Jamari, that his wife served us tea, and then the Sheikh asked Pak Jamari what was the last mask he had carved. Pak Jamari felt embarrassed, went to get the mask, an unfinished and terrifying face carved in wood. He said that he hadn't been carving masks for several months, in fact since the night that mask came to visit him in a dream : the figure was crying and screaming in pain and it begged Pak Jamari to stop lashing his face. The Sheikh asked him what this mask was. "An evil spirit." "Ah ! But why do you carve evil spirits ?" "Because in the Reog dance, there are evil spirits attacking good ones, there is good and evil, it is a war between two forces." "Of course, but in this case, before you start carving such a mask, you must fast and pray. Bring me a glass of water." The Sheikh then blew his breath over the water and pronounced a prayer or a verse from the Koran (I am not sure), then he asked Pak Jamari to throw a drop in each of the four corners of his house and then drink the rest (if I remember correctly). Finally, the Sheikh bought the mask of the white monkey Hanoman, the chief of the monkey army in the Ramayana. He gave Pak Jamari 300.000 rupiah (25 euros). "It's too much !", exclaimed Pak Jamari. So the Sheikh smiled, took one the three 100.000 rupiah bills, wrote Arabic letters on it and said : "This bill, you must not spend, keep it preciously." Since then, Pak Jamari feels much better, he has framed the bill and nailed the frame to the wall of the main room of his house.

At the time, the mayor of the region had diagnosed very well the symptom of "depression" that had hit all the victims of the earthquake. He therefore decided to allocate one million rupiah (70 euros) to each village district (there are thousands in the affected region) in order to organize an evening of "reconciliation". It was up to the inhabitants themselves to decide whether they preferred to organize a party, a show, prayers… Seventy euros seems a paltry sum in Europe, but here in Java, this amount will allow a community meal for 200 people. Three months had gone by before the amount was distributed. Meanwhile things had settled down by themselves, neighborly help had come back, the villagers began to appropriate the sanggar, and the head of the village had become our ally again… He has even been democratically and by direct suffrage elected "Dukuh", that is to say head of six villages. Throughout the election campaign, we suspended all activities aimed at adults at the sanggar so that it could not be used as a propaganda platform. Rumors already circulated that the village chief was using it as an electoral springboard to enhance his reputation, and activities opened freely to all children from neighboring villages became suspect. The magician, Pak Haji, supported a candidate from another village who had promised him a horse-drawn carriage if he won. Some candidates had bribed voters with money. The village head of Bebekan, who had no money and therefore had given nothing, was elected. After the election, his father fell ill, without strength. The nephew of the mosque preacher suffered sudden atrocious stomach pains. On his death bed, doctors opened his intestines and discovered inside needles and nails. Sometimes at night, dragon-tailed fireballs went through the houses, etc. The people of Bebekan attributed all these phenomena to black magic and they knew perfectly well who was sending this black magic: Pak Haji, the religious leader they had so revered until now.

Pak Haji had not accepted that these poor peasants which he had always helped had won an election against the candidate he had backed. Filled with a bitter and raging anger, he used his powers for evil and when he reached a point of exhaustion, he allied himself with other magicians in the region who took the relay, an exchange of good services. One day, as I was arriving at the village around midnight, all the men of Bebekan were gathered in the house of the village head, sitting on mats in front of tea glasses, dodols (sugar) and mendut (sweet potatoes cooked in banana leaves), There were also paper sheets with Arabic phrases transliterated into Latin characters : prayer for peace and longevity. They told me that there had been a new attack of black magic that night, that their only defense was to assemble and meditate together, and recite the name of Allah (Dikhr, remembrance of God), in order to erect a sort of spiritual fortress around the village to prevent the intrusion of black magic. Suddenly, it was as if this black magic was reuniting the people of Bebekan around a circle of spiritual solidarity. Here they were, back together again, united, ready to help each other.

They decided to use the one million rupiah given by the mayor for purposes of reconciliation, and planned an evening of prayers to take place on March 20, the day of celebrations for the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. They wrote "an oath" that was typed out by the young people on the computer and decorated with illuminations. The reconciliation evening took place at the sanggar, under the big pavilion. The hadrah group, girls and boys, opened the evening with their drums and their praises to Allah. Then the oath was read aloud, sentence by sentence, and the people of Bebekan repeated each sentence. The event was solemn, moving and heart-warming : "We swear to always remain united in our activities, our feelings and our work in order to rebuild our Bantul region in a prosperous, democratic and religious way... By the oath we have just made, all the problems that have destroyed the fraternity, all the disagreements, the hatred and the bitterness are hereby cleared. The harmony for our common well-being is restored. Together, this evening we are committed to this promise and commit ourselves to achieve it.

Bebekan, Kadekrowo, March 20, 2008

Are signatories to this pledge : the religious representative, the citizens representative, the youth representative, the women representative, the village head."

Since then, the sanggar activities have resumed with accrued intensity. The people of Bebekan really begin to appropriate it, especially the youths who assembled every night around the computers, the electric piano and now around the gamelan. With an Indonesian painter friend, Edi, we launched a "garbage bank." An ambitious project. Edi is a 35 year old painter. During the earthquake, his house collapsed on him and he remained unconscious for several hours under the ruins. His neighbors eventually dug him out. He was hospitalized for three months. He suffered physical injuries but also mental trauma and depression, because all his life's work, all his paintings, were destroyed in the earthquake. For several months he acted like a mad man, and no longer talked to anyone. Finally one day, he met a foreigner friend who told him that there were only two ways out of his severe depression : meditation or gardening. Edi chose gardening, he became passionate about plants, organic fertilizers, and started looking for rare and endangered plants or seeds. By replanting life through plants, he replanted life in himself. The director of the Academy of Fine Arts, his former professor, entrusted him with the garden of his institute : Edi started planting trees, and converted the open areas between the buildings into bio-gardens… It is through this director, an old friend, that I had met Edi : at the time he was looking for a community to implement his ideas, and of course Bebekan was available !

He now comes every Sunday. With the young people, he picks up the teak and bamboo leaves that the villagers were until now burning. They gather big lots every day. A portion is used to make craft paper, based on models designed by the young people (the paper is used to make envelopes, box covers etc., which are in big demand by a Jakarta company with which Edi is working). Another part is used to make compost and organic fertilizer on the sanggar grounds. With the young people, Edi has segmented thick and tall black bamboos to create long pots, a kind of artistic scaffolding very effective for planting on various levels, especially red betel leaves which have important medicinal properties (they are in high demand by local hospitals but are rarely cultivated). Between these bamboo scaffolding (installed on the small field in front of the limasan house), Edi has planted peppers, tomatoes, a miniature organic vegetable garden set as an example for the villagers, hoping that one day they will do likewise in front of their houses. We will divide the field into several smaller plots, each class will be in charge of its own section and they will try to grow the most beautiful one. A small space would be enough to provide for their basic needs in peppers (villagers have stopped growing them even though they consume a lot, instead they buy plastic bottles of chili sauce at the grocery store, just like urban dwellers) and vegetables, knowing that the world-wide food crisis is also threatening Java, even if no hunger riots have yet taken place, as was the case in other countries in the region. Out of curiosity, the peasants of Bebekan came to observe how we were making organic fertilizer. They haven't used it for more than 30 years, they use chemicals instead. It took two generations to forget this know-how.

Edi also has also set up drawing classes for children. He teaches them how to use the materials around them : snack-bags, tree leaves, etc… We have introduced a mandatory break in the tutoring classes : accompanied by their mistress children go round the sanggar and collect garbage (which they themselves have thrown away for the most part). The girls are starting to bring us containers of laundry soap, soy sauce, etc, manufactured in a strong shiny plastic material. We are beginning to make an inventory of recyclable waste available at Bebekan in order to invent models of bags, pencil kits, mobile phone pouches which can then be crafted by the women of Bebekan. We will also put to use the elderly of Bebekan and neighboring villages. They come once a month at Posyandu, the mobile clinic which comes to the sanggar for babies and pregnant women, but also for the elderly. Some are struggling to make the journey because they live far away and cannot walk very well. We are therefore going to use for their transportation from and back to their home the small train of Bebekan belonging to a local man in which he tours children on Sunday for 1000 rp. We will show them how to scissor sequins out of shiny aluminum snack-bags in order to make padding for sofa and chair cushions. Thus, every month, they will bring their production of "glitter: and they will feel useful, although they no longer have the strength to work in the rice fields.

The process is slow because we cannot force the villagers, we must wait for them to realize that waste has value, just as money does, which is why we use the term "garbage bank." We will most probably issue cards to be used as a bank savings book, in order to write down as in a game each "transfer" of bags of laundry or sequins brought by the bank's customers. This bank will be called SAPU JAGAT, meaning sweeper of the universe, a famous mythical Javanese hero. This sweeper was originally the gardener of the sultan's palace, but when the first sultan of Java, Senopati, wanted to unite with the goddess of the South Sea, the queen Ratu Kidul with whom he had deeply fallen in love during a meditation, Ratu Kidul told him that he must first eat "the egg of the world." But by eating the egg of the world, the sultan was to become a spirit with a very ugly face. Understandably he hesitated. His gardener then sacrificed himself for his sultan and ate himself the egg of the world. Cursed afterwards with a truly ugly and repulsive face, he hid from men in the crater of the Merapi volcano. Since then, it is he, Sapu Jagat, the sweeper of the universe, who cleans the bottom of the crater of all the physical and psychic garbage of humanity. He resembles somehow the Quasimodo of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. Anyway, this adventure has barely begun, and let us see what happens.

We also opened a nursery-playgroup for children from 2 to 5 years-old before kindergarten. It had been a long-standing request from the mothers. But we wanted to hire young girls from the village. We first had to identify those who were motivated and then train them. It has been done. The two girls, Rina and Rus, have attended a few months ago a giant puppet workshop for 15 days in an art center (Yayasan Bagong) led by artist friends, amongst whom the great Indonesian actor Butet, and the dancer and choreographer Besar, with whom we have collaborated since the earthquake : he was the one who trained the Reog dancers of Bebekan. These two young girls (18 and 21 years old) were very shy and reserved. The workshop has metamorphosed them. They met other young people from other villages and together they have created a theater group. During the Christmas holidays, they came to the sanggar to produce a play with the children and teenagers of Bebekan around the legend of the two ducks in love, from which came the name Bebekan (the residence of ducks). They crafted two giant duck puppets and with the musicians of the village and the girls learning to dance at the sanggar, they produced a magnificent show. After the show, Rina went to look for work in Jakarta, the capital. She worked there a month and a half as maid and babysitter in a family, but she was exploited and returned to Bebekan. A friend of Asep, a playgroup teacher and trainer, has trained Rina and Rus, and the playgroup started with 30 children in mid-April at the sanggar, every Saturday morning. Mothers will contribute : 1000 rupiah per child (7 cents) to cook together dietary and low-cost snacks based on products from the village : coconut, palm sugar, rice, sweet potatoes, banana… We are launching a "struggle" against the commercial snacks sold in small bags (chips and other salty and sweet junk foods) which basically ruin the mothers (we calculated with them that almost 15% of home expenditures went to these snacks for children). They wish to please their children always begging for these junk-snacks they have seen on TV. In fact, what they end up buying are by-products of those sold by the TV commercials. Ideally we should write a small recipe book of these organic snacks, locally made, healthy and cheap.

On May 13, Brigitte Bironneau, the wife of the general manager of Carrefour Indonesia, came to inaugurate the playgroup in a very informal way. Since August 2007, Carrefour always sends us every month 8 million Rupiah (about 600 euros) deposited in an account at the local bank next to Bebekan and gives us complete freedom to manage this money without ever requiring that the name Carrefour appear anywhere. After some initial frictions during the construction of the sanggar, this relationship of trust is a true joy. Alas it will stop in principle at the end of December 2008. Several major projects, which could finance part of the activities of the sanggar when Carrefour stops its contribution, are in the making, but I am waiting for a green light from our various partners to discuss them in the next letter.

One last item : we have undertaken to "restore" the limasan house at the top of the hill, which has an office and two rooms serving as artists residence or guest house. Young architects of the French association "Emergency Architects", who since the earthquake have been doing reconstruction work in villages of southern Yogyakarta, came to the sanggar and have confirmed that the inner walls of the limasan house would collapse at the first seismic tremor. These walls are more than 3 meters high and more than 3.6 meters wide, without any reinforced concrete column either horizontal or vertical. But this is one of the elementary anti-seismic rule that a wall covering an area of 3 meters or more must be interspersed with vertical and horizontal reinforced concrete columns. So far I have never been able to sleep in these rooms and could not invite people. So we brought down two walls and replaced them with "gebiok", walls of teak which we bought second-hand at a very good price. This is how the old "limasan" houses were built in the villages. Besides the safety factor, they add to the overall charm. We have also completely redesigned the two bathrooms with new tiles and a sink, and carved an opening at the top of the wall which allows the user to see the bamboo forest without being seen from it. We can therefore accommodate without fear Nicolas Cornet, a French photographer, with whom I sometimes work on assignments for GEO (amongst other accomplishments he has published two books on Vietnam). He will be coming at the end of May to give a week-long photography workshop with the youth of the village, in collaboration with the French cultural center of Yogyakarta. The photos taken by the young people of the village during the workshop will be exhibited in Yogyakarta in November 2008 during the Month of Photography, and they will be shown next to photos taken by young people of a French agricultural village (in southern France) where Nicolas held a photography workshop last year. We hope to start weaving the first frame of a network of villages between Bebekan and other villages in the world.

To this end, Asep and I have finally founded an Indonesian association officially recognized by the Ministry of Justice of Indonesia. It is called LOKALOKA. A website is under preparation. LOKA is a Sanskrit word meaning the world of appearances, the phenomenal world, the division of cosmic space with its people and their behavior. Loka comes from the root "lok" meaning "to see, perceive, hear, recognize." It is also an open space in the forest (a clearing), an open space promoting freedom. It is also the light which reveals the phenomenal world. ALOKA is the opposite : the invisible worlds, without any appearance, buried in darkness, the unmanifested cosmos. I had this idea in mind when thinking about the word "local" as opposed to the word "global" which Indonesians use today as often as Westerners, and they have even made up the word "delokalisasi" (relocation). I wondered why they did not use a more "local" word precisely, rather than a Western one, of Latin origin. And it is in an encyclopedia of the basic concepts of Indian arts (Kalatattvakosa – Vol. II – Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts – New Delhi and Motilal Banarsidass Publishers – Delhi 2003) that I discovered the origin of the word local, from Loka. After all, Indonesians, whose Javanese language comes from Sanskrit, are not so "delocalized" linguistically as one might think.

As the painter Edi says, the earthquake has triggered in ourselves an inner revolution and it is as if we were still being carried by its shockwave and were acting, despite ourselves, under its influence. A recent and much more deadly earthquake has struck China. It is up to the survivors, which we all are, to transform the destructive aspect of this telluric force into an energy of action and feeling to serve others.

Thank you and until the next installment,