A series of film portraits and a new choreographic creation by Indonesian dancer/choreographer Rianto

In ‘Hijrah’ Indonesian choreographer and dancer Rianto dives deep into the history and culture of Sulawesi to uncover the diverse and complex approaches to gender that exist in the traditional cultural and dance forms of this island. Emblematic for this richness is the figure of the Bissu.

He/she was traditionally the spiritual and physical bodyguard of the Sulawesian kings. The Bissu, always transgender, was a highly respected figure, seen as the medium between the Gods and art, between heaven and earth. There are still some Bissus today who serve as masters of ceremonies at weddings and other celebrations, however they live more or less isolated and are – along with other related traditions – under growing pressure as religious politics and Islamic conservative forces gain power.

Living between Tokyo and Indonesia, born and raised in the small Javanese village of Banyumas – the home of the Lengger cross gender dance – Rianto embodies as no-one else a space for the in-between – the coming together of traditional and contemporary culture, and of male and female ‘Hijrah’ will be the continuation of his plea to value and give space for the in-between, to resist reducing the complexity of human beings and our society and culture into binary opposites.

As always, he starts from his own body and biography to fight universally for more awareness around these pressing topics. In his work the personal becomes political. In a world that consists of constant flux and movement, how much migration do we still allow in our own bodies? How much space do we allow ourselves to navigate between male and female? Could we embrace another way of looking at gender, as something which is not set, but rather fluid and alive?

Hijrah film portraits will premiere in  Europe and North America April/May 2021

Stage work set to premiere in 2022.

Hijrah is produced by Jala Adolphus for Turning World



Rianto- Choreographer

Garin Nugroho- Film Director / Indonesian Dramaturgy

Iskandar Loedin- Lighting Designer / Scenographer

Cahwati- Vocalist and composition collaborator

Karlien Meganck- Research collaborator and advisor

Jala Adolphus- Producer

Photographer- Joel Benguigui