Culture & Social

Dolanan, a Childhood Revisited

Those who have had a happy childhood will always look back on that magical time: roaming and playing during the day without a care in the world, as well as listening in awe to bedside stories and lullabies at night.

Somehow, most of us find it increasingly difficult to connect to or replicate the emotions brought up by that magical time once we transition to adulthood.

Four young creators — a digital illustrator, a street artist, a fashion designer and a pottery artist — share a similar yearning to bring back that magical time and have teamed up to create Dolanan, a 10-day visual art exhibition starting this Saturday.

Dolanan, a Javanese word meaning children’s games, will be held at Uma Seminyak (Instagram handle @umaseminyak), a cultural oasis nestled in Seminyak’s crowded landscape of boutique hotels and plush
restaurants.

It will feature the works of digital illustrator Monez (@monez_), street artist Unclejoy (@theunclejoy), pottery artist Venty Vergianti (@prett_art) and fashion designer Myra Juliarti (@akusiji).

“The works on display are inspired by the childhood experiences of the participating artists,” Uma Seminyak community manager Ruth Onduko said.

“The theme Dolanan also refers to the artists’ playfulness in experimenting with different materials and colors,” she added.

For Monez, childhood is a period of burning curiosity as kids try to find answers to and the truth behind life’s mysteries.

“Mysteries that are hidden behind bedside stories and folklore as well as the ghost stories narrated by our peers,” he said.

He recalled how when he was a kid he was both fascinated and terrified by a story about tonya or memedi, an unseen creature that roams along Bali’s secluded rivers and bamboo grooves. It is said that this creature kidnapped children and kept them in its lair for days.

“The people say that tonya takes the kidnapped children into another dimension,”

The fascination for these unseen monsters and the notion that the world comprises several dimensions have fueled Monez’s aesthetic journey.

“They set me free to create my own dimension: an alternative world without any boundary. A world filled with mysteries and monsters,” he said.

His colorful depiction of numerous imaginary beasts, mostly with benign demeanor, has won him both aesthetic and commercial success.

For Dolanan, however, Monez opted for a different mood. His monsters in Dolanan are dark and menacing, a reminder that imagination can lead you to dark places and that not all children live in a bright, sunny place.

He also put down his digital brushes and powerful tablet and instead used charcoal sticks to create his works for Dolanan.

“Charcoal is raw, mysterious and spontaneous. Drawing with charcoal gives me spontaneity that digital media could not provide.”

Batman Kasandung by Venty Vergianti (Uma Seminyak/File)

Spontaneity is another element of the childhood’s magic that the four artists try to recreate.

“We, the adults, often think too much and, thus, further complicate everything, whereas children just go with the flow,” Venty Vergianti said.

The pressure to complete the objectives, reach the target and arrive at the destination has robbed adults of the pleasure of the journey itself.

“Whereas children simply enjoy whatever they are currently partaking in,” she added.

A trained architect who seven years ago made a sudden U-turn to become a pottery artist, Venty believed that we never completely lose that child soul within us. It is simply a matter of reconnecting with it.

To some extent, her works — ceramic masks, figures and installations — are the means for her to reconnect with that innocent, spontaneous, honest kid inside her as well as to inspire others to do the same.

Most of her work depicts the faces of children laughing joyfully.

“Watching kids laughing makes me laugh too. Hopefully, it will also make other people laugh,”

Even the reason why she chose pottery would put a smile on the faces of many people.

“I like the cool sensation clay gives to my hands; it’s like playing with water,”

Day Dreamin by UncleJoy (Uma Seminyak/File)

Monez’s dark and frightening monsters are balanced by Unclejoy’s works. A street artist whose childhood memories were a joyful juxtaposition of cartoon superheroes, Japanese robots, wayang (shadow puppet) characters, batik and Javanese dances, he loves spraying empty walls with imaginary, hybrid creatures in bright colors.

His works show that the child’s soul inside him is not only alive but is also truly having a good time.

Conundrum by Siji (Uma Seminyak/File)

Myra Juliarti, the designer behind gender-fluid clothing line Siji, uses textiles and clothes in her installation piece called Conundrum.

Inspired by children’s penchant for riddles, she employs the Mad Hatter’s conundrum “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” and The Hobbit’s “This thing all things devours” to turn her fashion into a statement.

It is not a statement about the necessity to ask a good question or to seek a perfect answer.

It is a statement on the importance of reconnecting with the child within, to let fantasy and imagination soar free. In the end, Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkien, and these four artists have done that.

The Jakarta Post

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