This is the story of three elders.
The first one walked barefoot through the rice fields in the mountains of Bumiayu, one of the sub-districts in Brebes Regency, Central Java.
Hundreds of ducks followed behind him.
The ducks looked adorable as they walked, squawking and waddling.
He is a duck keeper. He led the way while holding a thin bamboo stick with a red and white flag on its end.
When I stayed at his son's residence, I learned that he was almost 90 years old. With my Indonesian still stammering, I asked him:
"How was life in the Japanese era?"
"The Japanese are my old friends," he replied.
The 88-year-old woman is my friend's grandmother. She lives in Bandung, West Java.
Her grandchildren speak Indonesian, English and Chinese fluently.
As we ate dinner together, we chatted and laughed occasionally as we commented on her portion sizes, which had not decreased at all. She was also the one who decided and ordered what we should eat.
After the meal, I asked her the same question.
"I'm scared," she replied immediately. I tried to capture her emotions with my limited vocabulary.
She told me that when she was a child, she cut her hair short and dressed as a boy to trick the Japanese soldiers.
While strolling through Solo, Central Java, I came across a small tower at the end of the street.
An old man selling retail gasoline by the roadside approached me.
His skin is tan and wrinkled with age, but he still looked sturdy. He was wearing a yellow T-shirt.
He explained to me in Javanese about the tower in front of him, but I could barely understand him.
When we were about to part, he realized that I was Japanese. He looked very emotional and hugged me.
I hugged him back thinking why he was hugging me.
"Japanese people are my friends," he said.
Every time I asked that question, every time we had a dialog, I felt something was off.
Fear, and at the same time, the feeling that I was facing a very important situation.
Silence. I felt confused during and after listening to their story. Even now.
I see how humans should live day-to-day on this tropical island. I try to create something from that perspective.
What if I see myself from a distance? What if someone from Japan tried to bring something to this country, or vice versa, to get something from this country?
There were times when I consciously wondered if perhaps I had unwittingly repeated 'those times'.
In other words, what I have been doing as an artist could structurally overlap with the Japanese colonial period.
I finally decided to start confronting this dilemma, which had been weighing on my own mind and perhaps on the minds of others.
There was 'something unknown' flying over the skies of Bali.
From a distance it looked like a long cloth dangling and hovering in the air. Something I had never seen before.
It was a kite in the shape of a dragon. The biggest kite was said to be 150 meters long.
In Yogyakarta, an abandoned Falcon.
A Japanese Ki-43 fighter aircraft also known as Hayabusa (Japanese for 'falcon').
It was used during the Japanese invasion of Java. After three years of colonization,
it was repainted and used during the Indonesian War of Independence period.
One of the 12 remaining Hayabusa planes in the world is in the aviation museum in the city where I live now.
The Balinese dragon kite frame and the Falcon fuselage are roughly the same size.
I combined the Naga and Falcon into one.
I tried to imagine the scene when the kite was flying and painted it.
It feels like a new 'unknown' has been born, hovering languidly between the two countries and their histories.
It will be made in Indonesia, then transported and flown in the skies of Japan.
Can it be sent as a "gift" and be accepted by the people there?
The kite is made of light and fragile materials, but the history and memories piled up on it are very heavy.
Either way, it must be handled with care.
What had the Falcon sent from Japan to the island in 1942 seen?
It wasn't just the fighting.
The effects of the occupation, which lasted only three years, were so profound that they still linger in the daily lives of the Javanese.
Compared to the magnitude of the life transformation and trauma caused by the Japanese military's demands on Javanese society at the time,
this project is still small.
The 'Fragile Gift' project will attempt to symbolically return a lost eagle in the form of a dragon.
This is a "gift" that has passed through time for 80 years.
15 June 2022.