Rezky Chiki / Makassar -South Sulawesi
“Serendipity: Finding My Fortune”
“Serendipity: Menemukan Keberuntungan”
by Rezky Chiki
Makassar – South Sulawesi
I was fourteen when I first met my mom’s niece. She is a tall middle-aged woman with elegant and graceful gestures. Her face radiated calmness. She smiled while looking at me intently. At that time she told how she brought my mother to dance from stage to stage. She offered me to join the practice at her studio the next afternoon. She said that she would teach some traditional dances (Pakarena and others) if interested. With the lure of the opportunity to dance abroad, I finally stopped by her dance studio. At that time, I had no idea that my mom’s niece was a famous dance maestro in this country. She was a choreography consultant and dance master for the I La Galigo theatre performance, and she is Andi Ummu Tunru. I call her ‘Enta Ummu’, other students call her ‘Mama Ummu’.
My meeting with Enta Ummu was a spiritual gateway in my search for identity. Suddenly I fell in love with dance and took it seriously. Learning the dance accent and philosophy was like digging up my buried nobility identity. My passion for learning dance didn’t always go smoothly, the issues in the community problems often disturbed my mind. Some dancers talked between them that my body is thin, not suitable for swaying, flat chest, dull skin, not beautiful face, while for me, it’s like belittling the philosophy of dance itself. Being blue blood is not enough mental booster to make me feel fierce. I felt inferior to other dancers.
Two years later I heard the news that Enta’s leg was amputated due to diabetes. Anxiety welled up all over my body. I couldn’t imagine the heartbreak of a dancer losing a leg. But my anxiety was dispelled when Enta started dancing in her wheelchair a few months later. Sometimes she stood supported by prosthetic legs.
Enta Ummu explained to me about Pakarena only when I was older. For her, Pakarena is more than just a dance, Pakarena is a principle of life that teaches us how to stay strong in the face of all the complexities and problems of life. I did witness how the strength of Pakarena is entrenched in the life’s principles she carries with her each day. Like a rock swept by the waves, from her, I learned a lot and could feel Pakarena’s spirit in each of her works.
My Enta died in January 2015. After that, I had performed her works several times, but the sadness and longing pierced my chest. For me, there is no teacher as wise as her. Losing her has made me stop dancing for a moment. Once, I read an article that said that My Enta left the palace at the age of thirteen to seek knowledge, went to several teachers and read many dance scripts. She left home and set foot in search of identity.
Six years ago I met the Deaf community, exactly a month after Enta passed away. From several meetings with the Deaf community, I got my sign name. There are several requirements to get a sign name, one of which is by adapting to the sign culture of a Deaf community. The sign name is given by deaf friends by looking at the characteristics and background of the individual. At first, my sign name resembled the hand gesture a dancer makes at the temporal bone. After studying in the community and getting more attached to it for years, my sign name has changed to follow my other habits: picking up friends’ food and eating krupuk snacks. My sign name changed from “Chiki the dancer” to “Chiki the snack”.
I gathered all the Deaf friends I could reach. They have taken me deep into a world full of signs. Armed with knowledge from Enta, I brought together male and female deaf friends to learn dancing. We started with all the limitations. I faintly remember how Enta started dancing again with what she had. So, I maximized the training by making use of the existing facilities. I contacted my cousin (Enta’s son) and Enta’s husband to borrow the dance studio left by Enta Ummu. Slowly but surely, I trained deaf dancers there. I observed how deaf dancers ‘listen to music: they put their hands close to the source of the sound trying to feel the vibrations that travel to the skin. The source of the sound could be the drum or the speaker. They matched what they hear to the counts. I marvelled at how they learn so naturally.
Our training has progressed as we started to learn other things besides traditional dances when I discovered that one of my Deaf friends was passionate about poetry. This one read it with gestures. I was amazed once again! There was a string of words there demanded to be read?! Finally we worked on a dance theatre based on strings of words.
An artist friend of mine contacted me, offering me a stage at a big festival for Deaf friends. An invitation to voice social issues, I did not waste it by all means. After discussing, we also worked on a show in the form of experimental visuals and received a warm welcome from the audience. We then initiated an art community that brought together Deaf artists, which was named “The Four Points Art Community”, inspired by the four elements (water, fire, wind, earth) that balance each other. While seeing the art community that I mobilized together with my Deaf friends evolve, I remembered the words of Joko Pinurbo, “Poetry is indeed more enjoyable to listen to in silence”.
It started with the noise: the sound of horns and leaking exhausts mixed amidst traffic jams, the discordant nonsense chatter, lecturers speaking of the biggest corruption case in Indonesia, the sound of drums, the sound of flutes and harps that became the most enjoyable sounds of all that I have observed. I get through my day to day almost without a pause of silence. Only sound. So many sounds.
I was once enjoying tea in a doughnut shop and saw a man. His eyes were gloomy and the wind was playing with his eyelashes. A sweet smile sometimes crossed his lips. I noticed he served all customers with gestures, assisted by a calculator he typed to show prices. Oh, turned out that all the workers in the shop communicate the same way. This made me probe deep into my mind. How do these people get through their days? Is it hard? How do they work every day without hearing the sound of grills and frying pans? Is it quiet?
Long story short, after visiting the shop several times, the man with those puppy dog eyes became my lover. My world changed in an instant. I tried to dive into silence every time. It was he who taught me to spell letter by letter, word by word, then sign by sign and so on. I have become much more sensitive to body language. I saw a lot of anger in his eyes, a pile of disappointment and ambition that he never shared with the world. Instantly I looked in the mirror to reflect on my own. It was the nights full of anxious thoughts that gave me tightness in my chest, the feeling of restlessness hanged around all night with no sense. I didn’t even say a word. I was not even fighting. So how has been my lover made peace with his current situation?
My love story with him didn’t last long but it was enough for me and the other Deafs to get to know each other. From them, I learned that all humans are created equal before God (should be before the law too). Just because I can hear, it doesn’t mean I’m far capable than the Deafs. I see again that sometimes in life, it’s good to stay ‘deaf’ against people’s perceptions of us. To keep going and focus on the goal. Like the deaf friends who not only keep growing even with the limited access pressed on them but also keep struggling to assert their rights.
Lately, I no longer hear nonsense chatter between my fellow dancers who used to physically marginalize people. Or maybe I just don’t care, my ears choose other things, which may feel quiet but give me valuable awareness. I moved on to live my life by what I believe in and tried to dance on my own feet. I don’t need validation or being aware of what people think of me. Everyone has the right to judge, the right to dislike it. I also have the right to be free, happy and live a life full of love. The important thing is proving what I believe to make people understand the path I have chosen. It’s okay if people don’t understand, as long as there is still a place for expression and exploration.
I chose my stage name ‘Wind Dancer’ against the physical standardization of the ideal dancer. This point of view seems toxic as it is already ingrained in the dancer’s mind. These standards reduce the meaning of art itself, and even worse, limit people from doing art. I was inspired by Enta’s artistic journey, which changed the royal tradition by leaving the palace, building a studio independently and accepting people from various backgrounds. Art should be carried out inclusively to reach a wider people and be enjoyed by all people. Let’s move without concepts like the wind because it’s all about the process.
I am grateful that my Deaf friends guided my eyes to track down movements in another dimension. There is no condition for the sign. To my deaf boyfriend, I was just a listener who loves signs and enjoys the quiet world they offer. It never crosses his mind that besides the fact that I am now playing with signs, I am just like others for also having been discriminated against for what I didn’t have.