East to West

Just now

2024 Nusantara Route

Here we go again.

In Arka Kinari's longest and final route through the Indonesian archipelago, this year's voyage follows the trade winds steadily from east to west, and includes neighboring islands outside of Indonesia's borders, starting with Timor Leste, whose name literally means "east-east" when translated from Malay & Portuguese.

You might remember Timor Leste from it's twenty-five year civil war ending in 1999. But then maybe not, since that conflict ended another twenty-five years ago. It remains the poorest nation in Southeast Asia, and also the proudest. If independence didn't come easy, maintaining autonomy from bigger and bellicose nations might be even harder.

Grey and the soldier

We had big plans for Timor Leste, and succeed with most of it. A storytelling performance at the Fundacao Oriente was packed despite an unseasonal evening downpour. To reach the maximum audience we spoke in English, with supertitles (sidetitles?) projected in the local Tetum language. Locals really stepped up to welcome us, from the Fundacao's hosting, to the local activist's translations efforts, dancers, bards, and experimental musicians opening the night. This is one of the many ways that pride can manifest, as an eagerness to share culture, both new and old, and through their curiosity and consideration for what newcomers might bring.

The ship performance in the port was cancelled at the last minute by the harbor master, who, despite confirming our dock access months in advance, bounced Arka Kinari in order to host a massive Chinese warship. Gunboat diplomacy alive and well in the 21st century. The date was saved by inviting the dance & drum troupe scheduled to open the dock performance to instead come onboard to make a Laut Loud session. It would be hard to imagine a more lovely gang of young performers, and bonus points for inverting the normal gender roles by having the women drum and men dance.

Aileu dance troupe

What else?

The last two weeks were much like the start of each voyage- a tsunami of logistics and administration, although exacerbated this year by four border crossings (out of Australia, in and out of Timor Leste, then into Indonesia). We've become strangely expert with the byzantine rules of port immigration, customs, quarantine, to the point that we often know the procedures better than the officials, but must hold our tongues because people in uniform don't like being corrected by unwashed foreign artists.

Onshore Storytelling Performance Dili Timor

And who are the unwashed this time?

Nova and I are back onboard after our forty-day world tour of random separate gigs in opera houses, projection domes, dance theaters, university halls and even an abandoned pharmacy building in rural Japan.
Three of the international crew, Bochay, Claire and Yann, are staying on for now. Sahar and Chewy, the two Australians, departed, while their three Indonesian replacements- Raka, Hibat, and Alaps- just came onboard. Dora, the ship's canine psychologist, sadly can't join us until Bali because of a rabies outbreak in the eastern islands.

Eight humans to keep this hunk of steel afloat, to manifest performances, archiving sessions, talks, feasts and friendships at the edge of the world, if not the end of the world.

Grey Filastine
8.31ΒΊ S, 123ΒΊ E