Building Bridges Through Arts

July 26, 2014

Growing up in a culturally diverse environment has not been always easy for Indonesian theatre & performance artist, Elyandra Widharta. He was born to parents with different religious affiliations. His father is a Muslim while his mother is a Christian. They split up when he was only four.

"Last Supper Van Java", Maundy Thursday Worship Service in April 2011,
GKJ Gondokusuman Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Written & Directed by Elyandra Widharta
Elyandra started theatre acting in church plays during Christmas and Easter celebrations. He also joined radio dramas for the children's program of the Radio Republic of Indonesia. As a teenager he began to develop a love for drama. His passion eventually led him to enter the Theatre Department of the Indonesia Institute of Art in Yogyakarta.

According to him "…drama or the theater is the life that I live. Being a Christian is my choice." Indonesia is host to a culturally diverse population, wherein Christians are a small minority. This makes it difficult for Elyandra to co-exist with his fellow countrymen. One way that he copes with the cacophony of languages and beliefs is through the arts. He deems the arts as the most intimate means of communication. "I use theater as a medium of communication to reflect the social, economic, cultural and even religious realities."

He integrates theater with Easter and Christmas church celebrations. The Church of Gondukusuman Java in Yogyakarta is the usual venue of these creative pieces that are based on Biblical stories. The worship liturgy becomes a unique experience through the introduction of theater, inspiring the congregation to reflect on the message anew.

Elyandra prefers contemporary issues as subjects for his performance art. Each issue revolves around social life and spirituality. Here he practices his vision to communicate with diverse communities and the environment through his art. He often imagines about the idioms to be used and the locality where he can perform.

Elyandra sees a globalized world full of threats of any kind. "I feel insecure as a minority in my country. The issue of religion is very delicate in Indonesia. It is prone to flare up anytime, anywhere. I believe in the capacity of theatre to communicate and to bring humanitarian ideas to others. Theater that doesn't involve an element of humanity has no meaning. I believe that my humanity grows deeper as I look to Jesus as a model of spirituality in my life."

He uses his art to send a message that will be able to change the perception of the world. "I believe that the slightest change in the values of a person will bring a big impact in the community, and even the world." With each performance, Elyandra lays a brick that will build the bridge towards real understanding.