The annual ICN production from PINTU (Pelajar Indonesia Nanyang Technological University) promises something new this year. Instead of adapting a known folk tale, Arunika: A Musical is a totally original story that deals with a time before the Dutch actually colonised Indonesia. IndoConnect talked to the production’s Artistic Director, Hans Albert Lianto, to know more

ICN Cultural Production stands tall among student performance groups in that it strives to be a “professional student-run musical performance group.” Its commitment and dedication to producing quality entertainment while creatively having its own voice with the students writing their own scripts, composing their own songs and choreography have garnered a strong following here. In the past many of their productions have been inspired by Indonesian stories, personalities and even folktales. This year they are stretching their artistic muscles by creating a completely original story that takes place in 19th century Batavia (as Jakarta was previously known) during a lesser-known period in the country’s history that saw slavery being practiced by the Dutch East India Company. Arunika’s Artistic Director, Hans Albert Lianto, said this time, the story will encompass issues and values such as prejudice, social justice and inequality. It will also mirror life as things are not always black and white, and the main characters are not absolute heroes or villians.

Hans elaborated on what audiences can expect from ICN 2019, “Unlike in the past, this year we’re not adapting a known folk tale. We’re doing an original story in a time and place that has never been fully explored before: 19th century Batavia. This was a time before the Dutch had actually colonialized Indonesia by force and when slavery was still prevalent in the city.”

Hans who is a third year NTU Computer Science student said, “We also moved away from the usual tropes of playing the characters as stereotypes where the Indonesians are depicted as the so-called ‘good’ people, always doing the right things. We explored the viewpoints of the Dutch and found a richer and deeper dimension in the story when boundaries are blurred between who is good and who isn’t based on their actions and their own prejudices. Thus we were able to have a more even handed ‘judgement’ of the characters when it comes to the commonly portrayed theme of the fight between good and evil.”

This year ICN’s cast and production team numbered 145 people and they faced many challenges researching what life was like in Batavia back then. “One very challenging aspect of the production was how to represent the Indonesians and Dutch in the 1800s. There is much more diversity as we had to cater to a large number of supporting characters that includes outfitting the Moluccans and Balinese of that period in traditional and slave costumes, as well as Dutch citizens and guards. Altogether we had to come up with wardrobe for 32 performers! The audience will get a glimpse of this at the start of the musical when we open with a very vibrant song and dance segment introducing the city of Batavia that showcase many of these costumes. That was fun to do.” And quite worthwhile too, as the story highlights the need for everyone to be free of discrimination. “At the end of the musical, we also want the audience to reflect how much pain and tragedy could have been avoided if we are all more understanding and tolerant towards one another and not judge based different looks, social class, race or religion. Hopefully this one slice of history can go someway in helping realise this,” said Hans.


National Library Building Level 3 100 Victoria Street. S(188064)

Saturday, 16th February 2019 2.30 pm & 7.30 pm