maandag 6 juli 2009

Nyoman Darsane, painter and player of wayang stories

In early June 2009 Nyoman Darsane was at some celebration and a conference of the Theological School (PThU, Protestantse Theologische Universiteit) in Kampen. There were some twenty of his paintings in a modest exhibition. At the invitation of Volker Kuester, Anton Wessels, my wife Paule and I walked with him in the rooms of the exhibition.
I know the work of Darsane since long. One of his paintings is on the front page of the 'thick book', the History of Christianity in Indonesia (Leiden, Brill, 2008, 1004 pages), which I edited together with Jan Aritonang of Jakarta. Volker Kuester wrote on him in that book, 940-947 in comparison with the more daring and modern Bagong Kussudiardja. Finally we liked Darsane for the front of that book. But this was the first time I met him in person.
Darsane is slender, but very tall for a Balinese, about 1.85m the same length as I am. He was educated a teacher of art, but after some success in Batik painting he could make his living from his art. He has the same problem as the Indian Lutheran artist Solomon Raj: his painting are not used in his church. He sells mostly to foreign tourists or to Indonesian Christians for use at home. Darsane also makes leather wayang puppets and he uses the puppets for performances in churches.
Among the twenty-odd paintings in Kampen there were three paintings of Martha and Mary the two sisters of Lazarus, Jesus' friend in the village of Nethany, close to Jerusalem. The sisters are quite different. Mary is the talking and reading one, listening to Jesus sitting at his feet. Martha is always busy in the household. She complains to Jesus about her 'lazy' sister (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus takes the side of Mary: 'Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.' In Catholic and Orthodox tradition Mary is identified with contemplation of monks and nuns in monasteries, while Martha is like those active in practical work like education, health care and pastoral work.

Darsane elaborated the story in his wayang play much longer than the few lines in the gospel of Luke (and some more about Lazarus risen from death, John 11:1-44) and he continued this in his paintings. In some of these Martha and Mary are quarrelling. In one the two are like twin sisters and cannot be differentiated. This is because at this stage they have reached harmony and agree about what must be done in practical things and for the more substantial truth.

1 opmerking:

Scott Rayl zei

As a fan of Nyoman Darsane, I was recently researching him for a post on my own blog ( A commenter asked why Darsane's church does not use his paintings, and I wondered if you knew the answer. Also, do the Balinese Christians who buy his work simply hang his paintings in their home for decoration, or is it ever used in devotional or ritualistic ways?