Years Of Culture Debut Play In Qatar

Intiqab Rawoof

May 9, 2023


The Years of Culture Initiative and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, Research, and Technology today announced the upcoming debut of a new theatrical production, “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love.” The play will be performed at the Katara Opera House during a special two-day event as part of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture on May 23 and 24. Tickets will be available on the Qatar Creates website in a range of price options.

Created for Qatar-Indonesia 2023 by Rama Soeprapto and his production company, “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” follows the hero’s search for the meaning of life through various trials in the hopes of understanding the nature of human goodness. The stories of Panji and Sekartaji, some of the oldest and most treasured Indonesian epics, are considered part of the world’s intangible heritage by UNESCO and was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Program in 2017. Acclaimed Indonesian performers Achmad Dipoyono and Kadek Dewi Aryani star as main characters Panji and Sekartaji respectively.

His Excellency Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar Ridwan Hassan said, “Qatar and Indonesia share a lot when it comes to cultural heritage and its influence on our societies today, not least of which is the pride we have in our ancestors’ wisdom and teachings. “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” goes in search of life’s meaning to find it in service to others, a beautiful thread that weaves us all together in today’s interconnected global community. I am proud to share this specially commissioned performance with the people of Qatar as part of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.”

Aisha Ghanem Al Attiya, Director of Cultural Diplomacy for Qatar Museums, said, “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” is one of this Year of Culture’s principal events. We are grateful to the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, Research, and Technology and the cast and crew for the passion that went into creating this masterpiece.”

The “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” narrative is inspired by a Javanese transcript about the meaning and purpose of life, the Wedhatama Script (Serat Wedhatama). Created by the fourth ruler of the Mangkunegaran Palace, Mangkunegara IV (1809), the Wedhatama Script combines teachings from scholars and poets about the nature of human goodness, ethics and morality. The story, told through five acts, tells of the hero Panji’s journey in search of the taste of love and perfection, which he ultimately finds in the service of his land and people.

The play’s musical concept seeks to transport the audience to the Majapahit era (13th–16th centuries AD), the height of artistic expression in ancient Indonesia, by combining traditional Javanese and Balinese ensemble music. Majapahit society developed a high degree of sophistication in both commercial and artistic activities and its cities thrived with a cosmopolitan population among whom literature and art flourished. Director Rama Soeprapto said, “There have been so many versions of Panji and Sekartaji and their story over the centuries. I wanted to create a simpler version with “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” that audiences can understand and connect with. It has been a welcome challenge.”

Producer Bayu Pontiagust explained that “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” is an original show, “What I am trying to visualize within the production is how to maintain its origins from the classic Javanese and Balinese tradition, while imbuing it with a modern touch through musical and visual elements. I want the audience to not only experience and understand the essence of the story, but also enjoy the choreography.”

Costumes for “Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love” were designed by Era Soekamto, a household name in Indonesian fashion. Known for her batik designs, she often takes inspiration from the ancient Mataram and Majapahit kingdoms of Indonesia and has expressed her hope that the stories she is able to tell through her batik help others learn and understand their history, “To me, the philosophy is like the tree of life. When the roots are stronger, the nation will grow stronger too.”