Jakarta, IO – “I am a woman of warriors, destined by God to protect the ocean,” Keumalahayati.
The musical theater Keumalahayati: Laskar Inong Balee was presented by Gema Citra Nusantara (GCN) and Papatong Artspace in Taman Ismail Marzuki, Central Jakarta, on August 12–13, 2023.
The tale of Keumalahayati’s bravery began after her husband, Admiral Zainal Abidin, was killed in combat, upon which moment she pled to the Sultan of Aceh that she be allowed to form an army consisting of widows of Acehnese warriors who were killed in combat (Inong Balee). The Sultan granted her request and designated her as the leader of Inong Balee.
Keumalahayati led a force of almost 2,000 Inong Balee women warriors against the Dutch, and became famed when she killed Cornelis de Houtman in one-on-one combat on the deck of a ship.
For her valor, the Sultan of Aceh Darussalam bestowed upon Keumalahayati the rank of admiral; she was soon to become famed as Admiral Malahayati.
Mira Marina Arismunandar, Executive Producer of the musical theater Keumalahayati: Laskar Inong Balee, explained that the story of Keumalahayati is based on a true story. Keumalahayati was a national hero and the world’s first female warlord. “This musical drama intends to inform and educate all of the life and struggles of Keumalahayati; hopefully, our Millennial generation can follow in Keumalahayati’s footsteps, her character, tenacity, and patriotism in defending the nation from colonialism, as expressed here through performing arts,” added Mira.
“Not many people are aware of Keumalahayati’s figure, when in fact, her struggle was recognized by the government, who declared her a national hero in 2017. This performance also introduces her as a great woman of Aceh, one who led the war, which was extraordinary,” Mira continued.
The musical theater performance was directed by Teuku Rifnu Wikana and Krisna Aditya, and featured as main players Haikal AFI 2, Teuku Rifnu Wikana and Karissa Soerjanatamihardja. Other senior Aceh artists were also involved, including Marzuki Hasan, Junio Ferandez, Yan Wibisono, Beyon Destiano, Fachrizal Mochsen, and four “Sahabat Keumalahayati”: Nanda Dian Utami, Nadya Devina, Kartika Desma, and Jeyhan Safiana.
Gema Sedatana (scriptwriter), Leodet (music composer), Jufrizal and Asep Supriyatna (traditional music arrangers), Wiwik HW (choreographer), Helen Nanlohy (vocal coach), Endro Sukmono (fighting coach), Bulqini (scenographer), and Mamed Slasov (lighting) are among the backstage creative team.
On August 12, 2023, the Independent Observer was fortunate to witness the Keumalahayati musical theater: Laskar Inong Balee. The audience’s enthusiasm was displayed from their early arrival at 5 p.m., long before the play even began, at 7.30 p.m. The audience crowded the venue and formed a long line to get into Taman Ismail Marzuki Grand Theater. They were captivated by the performance; players, dancers and distinctive stage setting during the 1.40-minute Laskar Inong Balee musical theater were astounding.
Kalya Mahiya, one of the Gema Citra Nusantara’s dancers, admitted that to appear and dance in the Keumalahayati: Laskar Inong Balee musical theater production, she practiced for three months with Gema Citra Nusantara friends.
“I performed the Ranup Lampuan and Ratoeh Kipah dances. Although the dance was relatively easy, it requires patience in practice,” Kalya, a grade 9 student at SMP Al-Izhar Pondok Labu in Jakarta, explained. Great performance requires a commitment to constantly practicing. “I focused on practicing on the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday,” added the 13-year-old girl.
It is a privilege for Kalya to be able to dance in the musical theater production Keumalahayati: Laskar Inong Balee, as the figure of Admiral Keumalahayati, teaches young women a strong sense of leadership, patriotism, courage and accountability in the quest to carry out her mandate. “I truly adore Admiral Keumalahayati, as my grandfather is also an admiral,” concluded Kalya. (des)