Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Lekra’s Last Theatre Campaign: Anti-Kabir Plays, Ludruk, and the Search for “Kepribadian Indonesia”

Fri, April 1, 10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 3rd Floor, Room 304


Wrestling with President Soekarno's conception of "kepribadian Indonesia" (Indonesian personality), many writers aligned with the Indonesian Communist Party-affiliated cultural organization, Lekra, engaged in what Benita Parry has termed an "imaginative rediscovery" of "nativism," a non-essentialized appropriation of traditional cultures. This effort involved tensions and contradictions: how to incorporate local, traditional cultures often tied to "feudal" groups into modern, left-progressive cultural forms linked to international socialist movements?; how, as Lekra put it, to "raise the artistic level" of bawdy and rustic folk forms while at the same time valorizing ordinary peasants and workers as the pillars of revolution? This paper will detail how these tensions were given artistic form by examining some of the last plays written by Lekra activists as contributions to the party's anti-"kabir" (capitalist -bureaucrat) campaign in 1965. These anti-kabir plays showcase a blend of "revolutionary realism" with elements of the East Javanese comic theatre, ludruk, a form concerned most centrally with the domestic sphere, the dangers of marital infidelity, and the challenges of modern urban life. The resulting works wed political treachery and bureaucratic corruption with domestic chaos and unbridled westernization. My paper explores the ways in which Lekra activists viewed ludruk, how Lekra writers attempted to integrate aspects of ludruk into modern western-style drama, the creative possibilities and ideological limitations of this fusion, and the kinds of political and moral visions these plays offered.