Tempo Artis of 2020 in the Performance Category Playwright, theatre producer and director: Faiza Mardzoeki

On January 11, 2021 TEMPO Magazine announced its artists of 2020 in various artistic categories, including Performance. The Tempo Jury comprised members of its Editorial staff as well as respected figures from the literary, artistic and academic community.

In the January 11th 2021 English language edition of Tempo in an article titled: The (Literary) Arts In The New Reality by Nurdin Kalim, it states: “and her five directors as Tempo’s Artists of 2020 in the After a lengthy discussion, we decided that Waktu Tanpa Buku [Time Without Books] was Tempo’s choice for theatre performance art and chose Faiza Mardzoeki performance category. We feel that Faiza played the role of choosing those five directors and producing their online performances. It is rare to have work interpreted by five directors at the same time as part of a single project.“

In the Indonesian language edition of TEMPO for January 9, a feature article on Faiza Mardzoeki and her 2020 project, the translation into Indonesian of the Norwegian play by Lene Therese Teigen, Time Without Books, and the production of five different film- theatre interpretations of this play appeared under the title: Memory Of Violence: Between Uruguay And Us. An English translation of this article appears below.

On December 5, 2020 Tempo also published a review of the five productions in an article entitled Memori-Memori Interrogasi written by Seno Joko Suyono.

Memory of Violence: Between Uruguay and Us Majalah Tempo, 9 January, 2021.

Faiza Mardzoeki has opened up a new space in our theater scene by translating into Indonesian the play by Lene Therese Teigen, the Norwegian feminist playwright, Time Without Books (Waktu Tanpa Buku). She also turned the script into five performances directed by five female directors from Aceh across to Makassar. This play is about the memory of victim violence from the period of dictatorship in Uruguay. This transforms into five performances that are densely colored by the memory of violence in their own country, Indonesia.

On a bright afternoon, one family was picnicking in a green field. Father, mother, daughter, and an aunt all wore white clothes. The girl came up with a watermelon, which she immediately cut on a white plaque. They chatted lightly about swimsuits and shopping malls.
The boy throws prank questions at his father. Favorite color? Favorite food? A drink? Do you smoke? The camera focuses on the father (played by Jamaluddin Latif) who initially smiles but then becomes full of wrinkles and anger as the questioning continues and becomes more urgent. Name? Age? A job? A political party? Political affiliation? Age? Name? “I’m your father!” the father screeched, stepped off the picnic mat. Such is a piece of the scene in the interpretation of Yogyakarta director, Agnes Christina, on the script of Time Without Books.

A similar interrogation scene appeared in a different performance directed by Ramdiana from Aceh. In Ramdiana’s interpretation, the green field is replaced by pitch dark. Tension builds through the sound of a loud beat of the clock and a reddish glow that highlights the faces that are being seized by questions. At first a nervous man is interrogated by an invisible questioner. Name? Ahmad. A job? Trader. Address? Then it’s the woman’s turn. She is wearing a hijab scarf over her head. Name? Nadia. Age? Nineteen. Do you have ID cards? No. Red and White ID cards? No. Where do you live? Cot Murong….

The answers give a very different context to the dialogue coming from the same play: Time Without Books. Five directors, all women, created five different theatre films that were screened through the Institut Ungu YouTube channel during December 1-10 last year.

The woman behind this project was producer, director, playwright and play translator, Faiza Mardzoeki.

When first she was first shown the play by Teigen, Faiza’s memory quickly focused on Wiji Thukul, Marsinah,and other victims of human rights abuses in Indonesia. The manuscript was written by Teigen in 2017 based on interviews with Uruguayan immigrants in her country. They were victims of the dictatorial regime in Uruguay between 1973 and 1985 which imprisoned and exiled millions of its inhabitants. Some of them looked for a new life in Oslo, Norway. That story, for Faiza, is very close to what happened in this country from the events of 1965 and through the 33 years of the New Order regime. “I was so excited. This manuscript must be translated and published for Indonesian people because the story is very like our situation,” said Faiza, who we interviewed over the internet on Sunday, January 3.

Faiza got to know Teigen at the Women Playwrights International Conference. Teigen knew Faiza focused on writing plays that touch women and cases of human rights abuses. Faiza’s previous plays include Silent Song of the Genjer Flowers about former female political prisoners, They Call Me Nyai Ontosoroh based on This Earth of Mankind, the novel by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Women at Point Zero based on Nawal El Saadawi’s novel, and Women Demand The Night co-written with Rieke Diah Pitaloka. Teigen then asked Faiza to read and translate the manuscript – an effort that was supported by Norwegian Literature Abroad.

In addition to feeling so close to the story, Faiza was challenged to translate this manuscript because of the complexity of its characterizations. Teigen created many characters, but only four actors play them. Then one actor can be three-four characters at once. The figures appear to be families torn apart by dictatorial regimes. For example, Rita, Sofia, and Pedro’s imprisoned family then must move to a country of exile. Or Enrique who was taken prisoner, leaving behind his wife, Lydia, and daughter, Aurora, who was just one year old. Then a woman named Maria who witnessed other women being strung up from the ceiling as she walked to the interrogation room.

Faiza’s translation work opened a new space in the collection of Indonesian theater adaptations. Previously we had only known of the works of realist Henrik Ibsen which were written more than a hundred years ago. There have been many productions of the plays of the father of modern realist here in Indonesia. Faiza was also one of those who adapted Ibsen’s plays into Indonesian. Faiza’s Subversif was adapted from An Enemy of the People by Ibsen. Faiza’s Rumah Bhoneka was her adaptation of A Doll’s House. Time Without Books is the first adaptation of a contemporary Norwegian play to enter our theatrical universe. Given the rarity of new translations of contemporary plays from Europe and America, it is something of great value. In the 1970s, translations in Indonesia appeared frequently. It could happen because there are still writers such as Trisno Sumarjo, Toto Sudarto Bachtiar, Asrul Sani, and Sapardi Djoko Damono who actively translated manuscripts from the West. Now we rarely find translations of cutting-edge Western manuscripts, even almost said to be non-existent. At that point, Faiza’s translation work became important.

Faiza remembers, after translating the script in 2019, she was not satisfied. She didn’t want the manuscript to end up as just reading material. Faiza again looked for ways to publish the play in book form and to produce Time Without Books as a performed play. Support came from the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, coinciding with the pandemic. So since the beginning, Faiza imagined that the performances would be formatted to be screened online Wawan Sofwan became Faiza’s partner as a performance consultant.

Faiza insisted the show should be directed by women. She chose five theatre workers from five regions to enrich the diversity of interpretations of the script when embodied on stage. Faiza’s first reason for choosing a female director was that Teigen’s script focused on the memory of a family that many women represented. In addition, “The Indonesian theatre world is still very masculine, there are not many female theater directors. But I’m sure women can be good directors,” Faiza said.

Faiza’s production choices have had very impressive effect in the Time Without Books project series. The five performances were so different, both in terms of duration, delivery techniques, and the historical context that was embedded in them. This diversity flows strongly from the background and experience of each director.

In the hands of Ruth Marini, presented as a film theatre, the script is entirely approached in the style of cinema. She presents the spaces of the past in the form of dark prisons and interrogation rooms as well as present spaces in a collage of actors’ monologues. “I imagine a movie theater where we can still feel the concept of theatre in it – but technically it’s film,” Ruth said.

Shinta Febriany from Makassar uses a body movement approach, in accordance with the approach she most often uses in

her theater practice. Shinta’s stage scenes are filled with actors, women and men, reciting monologues in a position of sitting, standing, and falling rhythmically. They wore white costumes with faces completely covered by red thread. Shinta edited several parts of the script. “Some texts or dialogues are not uttered in whole or not even spoken at all by actors, but rather visualized,” she said.

From Bandung, Heliana Sinaga together with the Mainteater theatre group chose to be faithful to the structure and dialogue of the original script. The show ran for almost two and a half hours. The context of Indonesia’s history is presented through an artistic approach by disseminating newspaper pieces containing news about the events of 1998 throughout the stage floor. “At first I wanted to edit the script to make it shorter,” says Heliana. “But, after the first reading, the team and I decided to present it fully because judging each piece in the script was important.”

Agnes Christina set a completely different tone by bringing the script to an open, light-lit setting. This performance feels the calmest. The memory of violence comes in an unexpected symbol, a watermelon that is split and then devoured until all gone. “Probably because of my background as a Chinese descendant who experienced a lot of discrimination. As a minority, I see no hope, so our choice is to be quiet, not to make noise, and just swallow everything,” Agnes said.

On the contrary, the interrogation
scene in Ramdiana’s stage is precisely so intense and gripping. It feels that the memory of violence is still very deep in the memory of Acehnese people. In the script, Teigen simply sets the question and releases the answer according to the situation in the staging of the script. Without being too obvious, Ramdiana incorporated the context of a bloody tragedy on May 3, 1999, when military forces opened fire on protesters. A total of 46 civilians were killed. The trigger for the demonstration was the persecution of residents four days earlier in Cot Murong Village, Lhokseumawe. Members of the Indonesian National Army combed the house and interrogated and

tortured residents on suspicion of preparing for the 1st anniversary of Muharam as a meeting of the Free Aceh Movement. The names of these regions appear in the Ramdiana stage dialog. “This script is a story that I experienced as well and actually I really want to forget about the trauma,” said Ramdiana. “But I think this story should be told in the form of art performances so that the younger generation knows the history that we have experienced.”

Source TEMPO Magazine