Monash University
Mendu excerpts 1984.m4v (334.83 MB)

Example 11.1: Mendu theatre audio-visual excerpts, Natuna, Riau Islands, Indonesia 1984

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Version 3 2019-03-12, 04:10
Version 2 2018-11-26, 05:29
Version 1 2018-11-19, 00:53
posted on 2019-03-12, 04:10 authored by Karen Kartomi Thomas
Video excerpts of recordings taken from one of the most popular Mendu theatre performances in Natuna, the episode in which the heroine Siti Mahdewi has an evil spell cast on her that transforms her into a White Elephant. It was staged by an all-male cast at night beginning around 8pm and finishing after midnight, inside a traditional stage frame with mystical Pulai tree planted at the front, located in Ceruk village, near the capital of Natuna, Ranai.

0.00-1.54 Scene: The hero Dewa Mendu sings and dances a mantra around a White Elephant attempting to break the spell, with his brother Angkaran Dewa comically warning Dewa Mendu of the potential danger in carrying out such magic.

1.55-3.38 When Dewa Mendu's mantra succeeds in lifting the spell, the White Elephant sheds its elephant skin to reveal princess Siti Mahdewi in exile from the kingdom ruled by her father, King Langakdura. The brothers attempt to attract her attention. Mixture of singing by Siti Mahdewi and comic dialogue between the brothers.

3.39-5.49 As the three characters attempt to find their way through the jungle to the kingdom of King Langkadura, they meet three of the king's masked clown servants chopping wood for the palace kitchen.

5.50-9.53 Set in the king's meeting hall, King Langkadura and his three ministers discuss the lay of the land. The clowns arrive with the three travellers. The king is informed, and the clowns are allowed to enter the meeting hall to address the king and to bring in the travellers including his long-lost daughter, Siti Mahdewi, now no longer an elephant. In a playful mood, the clown servants wait outside, while the king expresses his joy in song.

9.54-10.59 The king meets with Dewa Mendu and his brother, expresses his gratitude, asks him to marry his daughter Siti Mahdewi and to succeed him as king.

11.00-11.57 Joget dance between two female characters and males invited from the audience, to mark the end of the evening.

Further information about this performance can be found in Chapter 11, 'Mendu theatre performance in the Natuna Islands (1984-2013): transformations in function, performance practices and style' by Karen Kartomi Thomas, in Margaret Kartomi (ed), Performing the Arts of Indonesia: Malay Identity and Politics in the Music, Dance and Theatre of the Riau Islands, Copenhagen: Nias Press, 2019.

See also K.S. Kartomi. 1986. "Mendu Theatre on the Island of Bunguran" BA thesis. Clayton: Monash University, and "The Biola in the Riau Islands" short film documentary, directed by K.S. Kartomi Thomas, edited by S. Rossanno, produced by M.Kartomi at MAMU



Karen Kartomi Thomas

Geographic location

Bunguran Island, Natuna Islands, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

Collection date


Ethno/lingual group

Indonesian Malay/ Ranai and village surrounds, Bunguran Island, Natuna, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia

Collection type

video file, BETA recording