in Ngawi, East Java in 1965 , the same year that Soeharto came to
power in a bloody coup, Bram is one of four children in a family
led by an aristocratic Javanese father and a Scottish-Australian
mother . His father's family, defeated in the Java War (1825-1830),
maintained its privileges from the Dutch colonial era through the
Nationalist revolution and well into recent times by retreating
to the isolated rural village where Bram was raised and treated
like a little prince. He spent his childhood in an extended family
that practiced all the traditional Javanese arts: offerings and
magic, batik, healing, martial arts, wayang and poetry.
the age 11, Bram was sent into the raucous urban world of Jakarta
to attend high school. He suffered a profound culture shock that
sent him reeling into the arms of student gangs and the street life
of Jakarta. After two years, fearing for his life, he moved to Yogyakarta
in Central Java, the Boston of Indonesia, which he has come to consider
his real home. There, Bram became involved with a radical theatre
group, Bengkel Theater (the Theatre Garage), headed by the charismatic
Javanese poet/actor/director Rendra.
didn't go to formal art school," Bram explains. "I learned the way
of the Javanese poet from my grandmother, then Rendra and Bengkel
Theatre. Bengkel Theatre practiced contemporary theatre with a traditional
Javanese soul. Bram could be describing his own bright, bold paintings
as well, which draw upon traditional Javanese theatrical characters
and masks to convey narratives of contemporary Indonesian realities
with a satiric bite. Bram explains, "The art of the Javanese poet
may take any form: martial arts, healing, music, dance, and performance.
I am a Javanese poet who paintsÉ I believe that the practice of
art in daily life (as opposed to the consumption of art) transforms
the human spirit in alchemical ways. My art is propaganda for freedom
and creativity in my country and everywhere." All his work in this
exhibition was part of a one-man exhibition entitled "MASTURBASI
REFORMASI" which traveled through Yogyakarta on horse drawn carts
in February 1999.