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interview with artist rani pramesti

Image Credit: Daniela Rodrigez

Image Credit: Daniela Rodrigez

Artist Rani Pramesti is adamant about inspiring conversations, self-reflection and social change through intimate and insightful stories by and with culturally diverse women. She is also keen to create a safe space to discuss seemingly taboo subjects and brings this up frequently in the conversation about her new performance installation titled Sedih // Sunno (‘sadness’ in Bahasa Indonesia and ‘to listen’ in Fijian Hindi).

In this performance, she and her three collaborators invite audience members into their private spaces to listen and engage on a topic that is often mired in shame and secrecy: child sexual abuse.

This project is very personal to Rani as she draws on her mother’s experience of being sexually abused at the age of 8. ‘When I went back to Jakarta and found out about my mother’s experience, I was very moved by her willingness to speak up. I wanted to transform her pain and sadness into intergenerational healing. Perhaps by shedding some light on the topic, more women will come forward and speak about it.’

Audience members will arrive in groups of 12 and move around the space adorned in treasured family heirlooms of Indonesian Batik that belongs to Rani’s mother. ‘With a topic like this, it is easy to have visuals that are very confronting. But I did not want to do that. I wanted to create a safe space to listen to sadness. So when you walk in, you will see my mother’s batik. You will hear Javanese-inspired vocal work by Ria Soemardjo, you will experience the visual and lighting design by Shivanjani Lal and Kei Murakami. It is all very gentle and soothing. Still, I don’t know how people will react to it. It is not the same as walking through a museum gallery, because we take you along the journey and provide some commentary. Guess we’ll have to see.’

Image Credit: Daniela Rodrigez

Image Credit: Daniela Rodrigez

Rani draws on her experience as a social worker in developing this performance piece. ‘I spent a lot of time talking to people who are vulnerable to understand and help them deal with their concerns. These stories are very personal and so I think it is very important to have their permission to share their stories with a wider audience’.

‘My mother agreed to tell her story but what is most important to me is that I tell her story in the best way possible. My mother was very involved in the creative process. I sent her everything I drafted and she would give me her feedback. The process has refreshed some of her sadness but she has her siblings to rely on for support and that has helped her deal with it a bit better.’

Sedih // Sunno is playing at the Warehouse Space in North Melbourne as part of the Next Wave Festival. Rani plans to take this to Brisbane later in the year. Her  previous work Chinese Whispers won the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival Award for Best Live Art and Kultour’s Innovation in Culturally Diverse Practice Award.


Sedih // Sunno was created through Next Wave’s Kickstart program, with the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria and the Besen Family Foundation.

Show Name: Sedih // Sunno

Venue: The Warehouse Space, Arts House, North Melbourne, 521 Queensberry Street

Dates: 5-15 May, 2016

Times: Wed–Fri 6:30pm | Sat 3pm & 6:30pm | Sun 5:30pm

Duration: 60 min

Ticket Prices: $28/ $23

Warnings: Contains references to sexual violence. Please arrive on time; no latecomers will be admitted.

Access: Wheelchair accessible | Tactile tour Sun 14 May 2pm | Relaxed performance Thu 11 May 1pm, $15

Artist talk: Sun 8 May 6:30pm, 45 min, free

View the trailer here

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