a memorial for Cristina

dsc_4612.jpg Cristina’s home is truly a reflection of her – outwardly simple, but with very precise detail and perfectly sited. Yesterday the 30th a bunch of friends came together to remember her. The following account by Rucina Ballinger sums it up: “At first it looked like it might rain. But then the mood lightened and it was a bright and crisp day.As I walked down the path to Cristina’s house, it hit me. I will never walk this path again. I entered the archway where her helpers, Ibu Ketut and Pak Made had decorated with coconut fronds.Two big “offerings” of fruit and flowers flanked her doorway. Rio had printed up a lovely photo of Cristina by a river holding her favorite mask, Dalem the king and hung it on the outside door. She was looking up at us. I walked into her living space and there was another photo of her looking out to the actual river and the view outside, in profile with the mask side by side with her, in profile as well. The kitchen was filled with coffee, tea and Balinese cakes that Asri had organized. I started Working on a “buku kenangan” or memorial book (thank you, Tom Hunter for that idea!), filling it With photos from Cristina’s albums. Everyone who came signed it, saying good bye to Cristina for The last time. dsc_4626.jpgdsc_4668.jpg The Gambuh troupe filtered in, we could see them coming down the path carrying their instruments, all the Men in long blue tshirts and kain (sarongs). They set up the instruments and were given coffee and cakes.Other artists arrived, such a Ibu Nyoman Candri, Pak Wayan Dibia, Ibu Made Wiratini, Pak Made and IbuIntan Wianta, scholars and friends. People sat everywhere: on the porch, inside, on mats on the grounds looking out to the river. It was a poignant atmosphere. Not somber, but celebratory. The Pura Desa Gambuh group began playing. The scent of heady incense permeated the house. All of us with our own thoughts about Cristina, remembering the last time we had seen her. dsc_4627.jpgThe “committee”, if you will (Rio Helmi, Asri Kerthyasa, Pino Confessa, Antonella de Santis and Rucina Ballinger), aftermaking sure everyone had been fed a little bit (thanks to Ketut, Made and Nyoman Kejut of Asri’s household and a numberof other friends who pitched in) began the “talking bits”. We started with reading an email from Alberta, Cristina’s youngerSister. Pino read it in Italian; Rucina the translation in English and Rio translated it into Indonesian———————–Desidero dire poche parole su Cristina, mia sorella che ho amato e che continuerò ad amare.La sua lealtà, la sua purezza, la sua integrità l’hanno accompagnata sempre, non potrò maidimenticare i suoi occhi nei quali leggevo tutto l’amore, l’entusiasmo, la fatica, la serietà per la danzala sua compagna più fedele, perchè questa era la sua vita; ed è per questo che vorrei che ancheattraverso le sue maschere e i suoi costumi lei continuasse a danzare per noi.Non dimenticatela, lei non vi ha dimenticato!—————-I want to say a few words about Cristina, my sister that I love and continue to love. Her loyalty, pureness/purity and integrity will stay with us always, I will never forget her eyes in which you could read love, enthusiasm ,hard work and seriousness for dance, her faithful companion, because this was her life and for this and through it’s masks and costumes she continues to dance for us. Don’t forget her as she will not forget you.—————–Cokorda Raka Kerthyasa, the owner of Cristina’s house, spoke about Cristina and when she first came toBali and stayed at Tjetak Inn (the former very humble incarnation of Ibah Hotel), how she built her firstAnd then second houses, and how the hotel guests would complain about the loud singing coming from the back ofThe hotel (Cristina practicing). He applauded her dancing abilities as well as the fact that she had written aTwo volume book on Gambuh. He led us in a moment of silence to remember her.Pak Made Suamba, the head of the Pura Desa Gambuh troupe then spoke — calling Cristina a real maestro and a fanatic about tradition.Rucina then talked about how Cristina had started an all women’s Topeng troupe: Topeng Shakti and how much she had learned herself from Cristina.Ni Nyoman Canderi, dancer and singer supreme, spoke about Topeng Shakti as she was the main performer (along with Cristina) and how they gave workshops in Paris.Rhoda Grauer reminded us that Cristina was an eminent scholar as well, not only performing Gambuh but researching it as well.dsc_4653.jpgdsc_4719.jpgThe Gambuh dancers then did a full story so that all the major characters were represented. At the end, there was a scene where food was brought out for them to eat. The main dancer of that group looked at the food and his eyes lit up and he said “Ah, vegetarian” (Cristina was a well known non meat eater) and then he and the others offered up the food and said “for you, Cristina” and held it up to her portrait that hung behind them. (Rio: “this was such hilarious and sweet moment, it was completely spontaneous and everybody burst out laughing and crying at the same time!!”)dsc_4792.jpg Then Ibu Canderi led the troupe in a Balinese children’s son
g (Putri Cening Ayu) and the piece de resistance was the whole troupe singing an aria in Italian that Cristina had taught them.
(Here a note from Cristina’s friend Julia Varley: Dear Rucina, it is probably “Brindiam” from La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. This is the only aria I have heard them sing, they did it in the clown version of “Hamlet”. But Cristina taught it to them! We wish we could have been there with you, to cry as well. Love Julia )(Rio: “This was another one of those nutty Balinese moments: the Gambuh troupe, especialy the old guy who plays “demang” with his one tooth and wizened face belting out this aria in Italian on Cristina’s porch, which I almost fell off when I realized what they were singing. Life is stranger than fiction!”) And afterwards, we all ate our vegetarian “nasi bungkus” (rice in a banana leaf). The performers hoisted up their instruments and went down the path once again, leaving only the strains of their beautiful music lingering in the air for Cristina to hear.Rucina BallingerJuly 31, 2008Rio: During the whole thing I caught a classic scene: Cristina’s old friend, Gung Niang, the very down to earth mother of Tjok Raka, sitting quietly at the back enjoying a chat with one of Cristina’s employee’s husband quite content to let everything else was happen out front. Like a classic back of the house Bali palace scene….gung-niang.jpg this link will be of interest to those who know Cristina: http://www.themagdalenaproject.org/archive/cristina_wistari.htm

One Response to “a memorial for Cristina”

  1. Irene Di Dio

    Dear mr. Helmi ,
    I only recently heared about Cristina . I was a closed friend and i would like to give her my loving tribute .
    We met 18 years ago in Bali , walking in a little dark path in Ubud , she heared me talking italian and asked me and my friend what we were doing there, so we went for dinner , then i told her i came to learn the dance and that was because of Artaud ! So she smiled and proposed me to work with her! That night ,my life changed for ever! One of the consecuences was that some years later i came to live to Paris where is the Arta school for practicing the ancient arts as the balinese dance and where i still live now with my companion and our two year old son. Actually the last time i saw her it was last year when she met my little boy and played with him with her lovely smile! In between , during all those years where we regularly saw each other mainly in Paris( i only came to Bali once again some years ago) i had the chance not only to learn some of the beautyfull dance she practiced but much more than that ! She was so generous and her words i have the chance to keep in some most beautiful letters from the time before the e-mails, in those lovely papers she used to decorate with some little drowings , were such a relief!
    When i wrote to her an e-mail some weeks ago i thought she was in Salina, then later i heared her hushes were thrown in the see , by that island and i understand wy !
    I shall miss her and as all of her friends, i will keep in my heart her beautyfull smile !
    Thank you for the possibility to participate to the memorial in Baly with those lovely pictures and report !
    May be you know that there’ll be a memorial as well here in Paris at Arta , the 25 of september !


    Irene Di Dio

    P.S. I would like to give my condoleances to her sister and brother, i will appreceate to have their e-mail .


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