Tabula Rasa

a film by Adriyanto Dewo

Friday, 13 December 2013 07:00

Cultural Advisor & Dialect Coach: Tom Ibnur

Portraying other people is the job of an actor. Portraying people with a background different from theirs, speaking a language that is foreign to them—all of that must be delivered naturally by the actors on screen. This cannot be achieved without the help of advisors, and Tabula Rasa is blessed to have Tom Ibnur as the Minangnese cultural advisor and dialect coach.


Tom Ibnur was born as Arison Ibnur in Padang on May 15th, 1952. His given name means “child of the sun” and he was later known as Tom when he made his name as Indonesia’s top choreographer. To date, he has choreographed more than 300 dance works that have been performed in Indonesia and also in many parts of the world.

Despite his life in dancing, Tom actually majored in Analytical Chemistry when he was studying Technology Industry Academy, Padang. Having danced ever since a very early age, his passion for the arts never went away and at the age of 27 he decided to pursue it by getting his diploma from the Jakarta Institute of Arts.



Tom has been around the arts scene for tens of years, relentlessly teaching and performing Indonesian traditional dances all over the world and is no stranger to awards and accolades. Most recently, in 2012 he received the Maestro award in Indonesian Arts by the Jakarta Arts Council. In addition to being a prolific choreographer, he is also the director of Zapin Centre, a establishment focusing on the study of Zapin, a form of dance performed by pairs accompanied by a traditional music ensemble that is popular in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Being a part of Tabula Rasa is an experience unlike any other for the maestro. “Maybe there are a lot of people are able to speak Minangnese, yet not many can comprehend the characters, expressions and views of the Minang people, and those are the things that I try to share,” Tom passionately explained. “The Minangnese pronunciations featured in the film is not too traditional; on the contrary, they are rather modern. However, they are still based on what is really practiced in the Minangnese society and I want to share that with the actors working in the film, so they will feel closer to the Minangnese culture and language themselves.”



Minangnese cuisine is renowned all over, yet there has never been a film that focused on it or the people related to it, and that’s one of the reasons why Tom finds Tabula Rasa incredibly interesting. Not only does Tabula Rasa talk about the Minangnese people, it also interconnects with people from a different region, in this case Papua. “I find that very unique,” said Tom.

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