From left, Foreign Affairs Ministry's Europe II director Hendra Halim with Rama Thaharani and Yudi Tajudin from Teater Garasi. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)

Teater Garasi Wins Norway's Ibsen Scholarship


OCTOBER 14, 2019

Jakarta. Multitude of Peer Gynts, MPG for short, an inter-Asia theater project by Yogyakarta-based Teater Garasi, has won an Ibsen Scholarship from Norway's Ibsen Awards. MPG is one of five winners along with other projects from India, France, China and Lebanon.

In a press conference at the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry in Jakarta on Monday, project director Yudi Ahmad Tajudin said MPG will involve artists from other Asian countries such as Japan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

MPG competed with 148 projects from 60 countries to win the biennial endowment awarded by the Ibsen Foundation for innovative projects that combine art performances with social criticism through the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Teater Garasi will receive 500,000 Norwegian krones ($54,700). Yudi said the scholarship will be used to complete the ongoing project. 

The press conference was attended by Norway's ambassador to Indonesia Vegard Kaale, the Indonesian ambassador to Norway Todung Mulya Lubis, the inter-agency and regional relations deputy at the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) Endah W. Sulistianti and the Foreign Affairs Ministry's European affairs director Hendra Halim.

Bekraf has been supporting the MPG project from its initial research to production development. It has provided travel grants for the performers so they could attend international events.

"Bekraf will continue to increase support for the creative economy industry," Endah said in the event.

"Around 70 percent of our budget is marked for creative business players. The priority sub-sectors are film, music, digital application, craft, culinary and fashion. While performing arts is not part of those sub-sectors, we've been supporting the project since last year when Yudi presented the project to us," she said.

Hendra Halim also praised Teater Garasi's achievement and also the media coverage it generates.

"The award has earned good media coverage. That's also good for the diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Norway, which have been dominated by more serious issues. We will celebrate the 70th anniversary of our bilateral relations next year, but we usually focus on energy, environment, marine and fisheries issues. This is a breakthrough that will balance the coverage of the relations between the two countries. We're more than pleased," Hendra said. 

Multitude of Peer Gynts

Multitude of Peer Gynts is a performance based on the "Peer Gynt" play by Ibsen, often dubbed Norway's answer to Shakespeare.

Yudi said he had chosen the play for this project due to its relevance to the global zeitgeist. 

The original play explores themes of fear, anxiety and both mobility and immobility in society.

Yudi realized that even though the world is now more connected than ever and is getting increasingly borderless, new forms of fear and anxiety have arisen.

MPG turned into a cross-border project after Yudi started discussing it with artists from different parts of the world. He found that his feeling of discomfort at the current state of the world was also felt by artists and people in other countries.

Asked why he did not choose a more popular and probably more accessible Shakespeare play for his project, Yudi said Ibsen's play was superior.

"The year 1867 [when Peer Gynt was first published] was the starting point for modernism, capitalism, colonialism and orientalism, all which came for criticism from him [Ibsen]. The play also has important things to say about slavery and the role of women in society," he said. 

"I could adapt Shakespeare's Othello, but that play has been done so many times for intercultural projects. Also, European audiences are likely to have made up their mind [about Shakespeare] while Peer Gynt is still very open [to interpretation]."