Kisah Antah Berantah: Bringing the Imaginary World of Bali’s Fables to Life

Story By
Stephanie Mamonto

Within and beyond Indonesia, children and their families will be able to listen to Citra Sasmita as she reads fables from her upcoming exhibition, “Kisah Antah Berantah” (Tales of Nowhere), through online platforms.

Photo by Museum MACAN’s Documentation

As children and adults continue to do most activities from home, Museum MACAN announces the fifth commission for the UOB Museum MACAN Children’s Art Space Commission which will feature the work of Indonesian artist, Citra Sasmita, Gold Award winner of the 2017 UOB Painting of the Year (Indonesia). The Children’s Art Space commission is a hybrid of physical installation and online engagement, designed exclusively for children and their families.

In December, Citra Sasmita’s commission for children will be unveiled across a range of online platforms. Titled “Tales of Nowhere”, it brings the imaginary world of Bali’s fables and myths to life. The artist imagines a kingdom of mythical animals which she painted on a majestic, eight-meter-long scroll. Each animal in this large painting has its own distinctive character. Among them are a slender deer, known to be wise in Balinese folklore, and a tiger as a nod to Museum MACAN (the Museum’s acronym means tiger in Bahasa Indonesia). All of her paintings for “Tales of Nowhere” have been digitized so they can be exhibited online.

These animal characters are nameless as the artist will invite the audience to help her name them through an interactive online activity. Citra Sasmita, whose works are inspired and influenced greatly from Bali, will also encourage children to create their own stories with the animals they have encountered in her stories. These interactions are all set by the use of web augmented reality (WebAR) technology designed by local company Festivo, so that viewers can also experience the fables online by accessing Museum MACAN’s website.

From a very young age, Citra Sasmita’s passion for reading has sparked her imagination about people and places. Growing up, Citra began to create her own stories that depicted the life of a modern Balinese woman facing social and technological changes of the 21st century. According to her, when an artist works, consciously or not, the artist will process their personal problems into something that represents problems outside themselves. Through her series of artworks in “Tales of Nowhere”, she incorporates Kamasan, a traditional Balinese painting technique as she retells traditional folk stories and adapts them for the contemporary social context.

“Tales of Nowhere is a representation of the pure world of childhood. It provides a safe space for children to get to know a new environment and new characters, while exploring their most valuable treasure, namely their imagination. The stories will share with children the values of kindness, peace, compassion and leadership. As children, we first learn these traits through stories told by our grandparents, passed on to our parents. We then pass them to our own children as bedtime stories and one day they will continue the legacy. “These classic fables will evoke the treasured memories of our childhood,” stated the artist.

In “Tales of Nowhere”, animals will come alive through a 3600 virtual tour, face tattoos as Instagram filters developed by AR and VR specialist Octagon Studio, and a WebAR feature that enables children to play with the animals. Taking the current social distancing measures due to the Covid-19 pandemic into consideration, the physical exhibition will open at a later date with necessary health protocols and precautionary measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of visitors. The virtual experience will also be available in pop-up venues around Jakarta, with details to be released in due course.

According to Fenessa Adikoesoemo, Chairwoman of the Museum MACAN Foundation, Citra Sasmita will bring a cutting-edge installation that transcends the many boundaries that we are facing in the art world due to the global pandemic. While Aprina Murwanti, Head of Education and Public Program in Museum MACAN, shows the team’s dedication to present this hybrid experience to more children because they believe that children need meaningful art interaction in between hours of online learning as they spend more time at home during the pandemic. “In an unusual situation such as this, it is even more important for children to meet new characters, to dream up a different world, and to imagine countless possibilities through storytelling,” she carefully elaborated.

“Tales of Nowhere” is designed to enable children all over Indonesia and Southeast Asia to learn about art and creativity. With anticipation, the children will also have opportunities to learn new ways of expressing their thoughts, feelings and hopes. “As children and their families enjoy Tales of Nowhere, we believe the exhibition can also motivate aspiring storytellers to create their own stories,” said Maya Rizano, Head of Strategic Communications and Brand, PT Bank UOB Indonesia.