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Faculty Project Spotlight: Dr. Kirstin Pauka and the Jaga Alam Project


Our first LuceSEA-UHCSEAS project highlight is the Jaga Alam Project, led by Dr. Kirstin Pauka, Professor of Theatre at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, Director of the UHM Asian Theatre Program and previous Director of our UHM Center for Southeast Asian Studies from 2014 – 2018. She is also the P.I. for K-12 school outreach with Balinese arts as part of our NRC grant from the US Department of Education.

The Jaga Alam Project is developing sustainable university and community-based performing arts projects that use traditional Balinese arts forms (theatre, puppetry, dance) to teach about environmental issues that affect both Indonesia and Hawai’i as island communities. This 4-year program brings Balinese visiting artists to Hawai‘i to collaborate with UHM faculty, students, and community groups in creating teaching and performance materials (e.g., play scripts, theatre pieces) whose themes address shared environmental problems with Indonesia, like deforestation, coastline destruction, or plastic waste. 

One of the central missions of our Asian Theatre Program is outreach to schools and other community institutions. We train our students to develop performances, lectures, outreach materials, teacher guides, and other resources that can be used in the classroom and for cultural enrichment programs. The Jaga Alam project takes the UHM Asian Theatre program in new directions by adding environmentally-themed material, and makes transitions-themed research accessible to the broader public (including K-12 students). Balinese arts forms are particularly effective in teaching SEA, because they engage audiences of all ages. Expanding our current SEA arts dossier to include environmental education offers a novel way to understand the global reach of locally visible projects, while also exposing local populations to SEA cultures and traditions.

We are completing the first segment, called “Lutung, the Messenger”, as video production of a traditional wayang kulit shadow puppet performance. It addresses issues like deforestation, forest fires, and reforestation efforts, from the perspective of indigenous animals living in the jungle. The video will be released to educators, along with additional resource materials including short video segments explaining Balinese music, puppetry, and dance. In September, we will host one of our Balinese artists to come to Hawai‘i to perform the shadow show live, in collaboration with the East-West Center Arts Program.

More info on Jaga Alam is coming really soon! 

More about Dr. Kirstin Pauka

Originally from Germany, Dr. Kirstin Pauka joined the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 1997 and is now Professor of Theatre and Director of the UHM Asian Theatre Program. Her primary area of specialization is theatre of Southeast Asia. She has conducted research on Randai theatre of Sumatra, and has published books, multimedia titles, and articles on Indonesian performing arts. She is a practitioner and scholar of martial arts and their relationship to performing arts in Asia. Dr. Pauka has produced and directed several Southeast Asian Theatre productions at UHM Kennedy Theatre, including the US premieres of English language productions of Sumatran Randai theatre, and Balinese Wayang Listrik (shadow theatre). The shows she directed have received multiple Po’okela awards over the years. Dr. Pauka’s teaching specialties are the performing arts of Southeast East Asia, especially Indonesia (Sumatra, Bali, Java).

In addition to her work at the University, Dr. Pauka has been a member of the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble for over 25 years and performs regularly with the Ensemble locally, nationally, and internationally.  She has composed and choreographed pieces for Taiko and dance. She was a recipient of the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts (SFCA) Apprenticeship Grant and the UHM Regent’s Medal for Excellence in Teaching. She is also a member of the Association of Asian Performance, Taiko Arts Center, and Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

Read more about Dr. Pauka on Honolulu Vibe, UHM Staff member page or go here. You can also see previous performances produced and directed by Dr. Pauka on our Youtube Channel.