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MATA KAMERA Monologue Serves Snapshot of Nation's First Professional Photographer

In 2021, Titimangsa and KawanKawan Media premiered Di Tepi Sejarah (‘On the Edge of History’), a series of monologues highlighting oft-forgotten historical figures.

MATA KAMERA Monologue Serves Snapshot of Nation's First Professional Photographer In 2021, Titimangsa and KawanKawan Media premiered Di Tepi Sejarah ('On the Edge of History'), a series of monologues highlighting historical figures whose achievements and stories lie just outside the edges of history. This year, the series makes a return with Mata Kamera ('The Eye of the Camera'), a monologue telling the story of one Kassian Cephas, the first native Indonesian to become a professional photographer.

The script is written by Hasta Indriyana, while Teater Garasi's Muhammad Nur Qomaruddin assumes the role of both director and lead actor. The show, Titimangsa's 55th, was performed at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta on April 20-21. A recorded version will be made available to watch on Indonesiana TV in August of this year.

MATA KAMERA Monologue Serves Snapshot of Nation's First Professional Photographer

Kassian Cephas was born in Sleman, Yogyakarta, in 1845. He was adopted by Christina Petronella Philips, a Dutch missionary. His upbringing allowed Kassian to access European education, including the opportunity to study photography. He was then assigned to be an abdi dalem penewu of the Keraton Mataram kingdom, a royal staff photographer.

At the time, the kingdom was led by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono VII, a sultan with considerable wealth due to the Dutch-built sugar mills in the town of Yogyakarta. That fortune allowed Kassian Cephas to access cutting edge photography technology of the time. Kassian took photos of the sultan, the royal family, royal ceremonies, and public activities. His works are collected in books by Isaac Groneman.

MATA KAMERA Monologue Serves Snapshot of Nation's First Professional Photographer

In 1889, Kassian Cephas was assigned by the Dutch Indies government as a professional photographer for the project of Karmawibangga, exploring the majesty of the Borobudur temple complex to be introduced worldwide. His photographs became a seminal body of work of Indonesian photography. Yet, his name remains widely unheard of, despite being a photographer who helped immortalize the nation's cultural heritage.

Happy Salma, founder of the Titimangsa Foundation and the show's producer, stated: "There are so many figures whose struggles and ordeals we need to witness. It's a portrait in time for us to see humanity and invoke us to be wiser in responding to today's streams of information that too often ignore truth and values. The Di Tepi Sejarah monologue series is an effort to fight against hoaxes."

MATA KAMERA Monologue Serves Snapshot of Nation's First Professional Photographer

While Hasta Indriyana, scriptwriter, shared his insight on writing Mata Kamera:

"Kassian Chepas was both a photographer and a messenger. He captured the nation's identity through the lens of a camera. The modern technology of his time was not a goal in itself, but merely a tool to spread the word of his country to the outside world. Kassian Chepas was a lens, reflecting what was happening around hm, a lens that broadcast both beauty and sorrow as they were."

Muhammad Nur Qomaruddin, shed light on the challenges he faced embodying the character:
"The challenge in playing a historical figure is building the world they lived in then putting it on stage. In Kassian Cephans context, who lived at the cusp of the 19th century, the main challenge was a lack of information that could help shaping the role, or imagining the life at the time. But that challenge was also an opportunity for me to offer my own reading and interpretation of Cephas."

The production team for Mata Kamera also included Tamimi Rutjita as assistant director; Yulia Elvina Bhara and Pradetya Novitri as coproducers alongside Happy Salma; Trisfahilda as production lead; Iskandar Loedin as artistic lead; Deden Jalaludin Bulqini as multimedia; Moga Pasaribu as music arranger; Jadug and Eggy Iskandar as lighting arrangers; and Boy Ari Yandhi as wardrobe manager.

MATA KAMERA Monologue Serves Snapshot of Nation's First Professional Photographer

After Mata Kamera, Di Tepi Sejarah will adapt the stories of other national figures, including Gombloh, a musician and singer; Emiria Soenassa, a painter; and Ismail Marzuki, a composer.

Photos by Yose Riandi/Titimangsa Foundation.



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