In­done­sia’s her­itage on show in UK

A spe­cial re­port from Lon­don and Ox­ford on the In­done­sian Re­gal Her­itage pro­gram, to in­tro­duce In­done­sia to a global au­di­ence.

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Contents - by Keshie Her­ni­tan­ingtyas

Sit­ting cross-legged on the floor in front of the au­di­ence, Fa­jar, who wore a black beskap, or for­mal Ja­vanese suit, per­formed for just over a minute in a spec­ta­cle that in­trigued the crowd at the au­di­to­rium at Cor­pus Christi Col­lege at Ox­ford Univer­sity in the UK. Back on stage, one of the or­ga­niz­ers, the dancer and im­pre­sario Ati­lah So­eryad­jaya, stepped up to the mi­cro­phone. “Dance for me is to cel­e­brate love and to cel­e­brate life it­self. Danc­ing is a tra­di­tion that is pre­served by the royal palace as part of an of­fer­ing to the king. And thus dance be­comes part of our daily life.” It was all part of an ex­pe­di­tion deemed the UK Art and Cul­ture Trip, part of the In­done­sia Re­gal Her­itage pro­gram or­ga­nized by UKbased Ga­pura Lim­ited in Lon­don and Ox­ford, held from March 24 to 27. The pro­gram sought to in­tro­duce In­done­sia to a global au­di­ence. Ati­lah shared her knowl­edge on In­done­sian her­itage at Ox­ford that day with six other prom­i­nent lo­cal artists: Fash­ion de­signer Ghea Pang­gabean, Iwan Tirta Pri­vate Col­lec­tion cre­ative di­rec­tor Era Soekamto, batik ar­ti­san Benny Adrianto, mu­si­cian Otti Ja­malus, chef Petty El­liott and mem­bers of Rumah Pes­ona Kain, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that works to pro­tect In­done­sia’s tex­tile her­itage. Ati­lah, the grand­daugh­ter of the Ja­vanese no­ble­man Mangkune­gara VII, told the crowd how she grew up in the Mangkune­garan Palace in Su­rakarta (Solo), Cen­tral Java, and was taught to dance by men and women who ded­i­cated their lives to the court. “The palace acts as a fortress that pre­serves Ja­vanese cul­ture,” Ati­lah said, de­scrib­ing the soul­ful and del­i­cate royal dances that show­cased the spir­i­tual pow­ers of the per­form­ers. She then in­tro­duced a game­lan orches­tra from Solo, who would per­form with Peter Smith from the Ox­ford Game­lan So­ci­ety. Two women per­formed the el­e­gant Srimpi dance of the court, mov­ing grace­fully to the slow ac­com­pa­ni­ment of the game­lan and the voice of tra­di­tional Ja­vanese singers. In the West, the­ater au­di­ences look in a sin­gle di­rec­tion dur­ing per­for­mances, while Ja­vanese au­di­ences watch a pen­dopo cul­tural stage, based on a, or cir­cle, that puts the dancers in the cen­ter while re­main­ing open in four di­rec­tions, Ati­lah told the crowd. Ati­lah also spoke of a tra­di­tional Ja­vanese opera Lan­gen­driyan, cre­ated by Mangkune­gara IV. It was her in­spi­ra­tion for writ­ing and pro­duc­ing Matah Ati, an elab­o­rate stage pro­duc­tion widely per­formed in In­done­sia and beyond. Pre­mier­ing in 2012, Matah Ati tells of the hard­ships faced by poor Ja­vanese in the 18th cen­tury and a re­bel­lion led by a young girl named Ru­biyah and a Su­rakar­tan prince, Raden Mas Said. An ex­cerpt of the main pro­duc­tion,

Sam­paran Matah Ati, closed the event. “Sam­paran Matah Ati dancers use masks, as I was in­spired by my grand­fa­ther who col­lected masks from all over the ar­chi­pel­ago,” Ati­lah said. “I think his col­lec­tion is the most com­plete in In­done­sia, up in the hun­dreds of thou­sands.” Per­form­ers bite down on the masks to hold them in place, which Ati­lah says forces them to fo­cus and in­te­grate their faces into the show. This is even harder than it looks, con­sid­er­ing that dancers also some­times sing dur­ing the per­for­mance. In the story pre­sented at Ox­ford, Ru­biyah mar­ries the prince, who gives her the keris, or Ja­vanese dag­ger, that she uses to lead an army of women war­riors to over­throw the Dutch. The per­for­mance re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion. “I’m an In­done­sian and I’ve heard about Matah Ati,” Thomas, a stu­dent at the univer­sity, said. “I felt very lucky to fi­nally get the op­por­tu­nity to watch them per­form here in Ox­ford.” From tra­di­tional to the con­tem­po­rary Benny Adrianto, who cre­ates art ob­jects based on In­done­sian de­signs us­ing tra­di­tional tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als, opened his part of the sem­i­nar with a video. “I de­velop prod­ucts based on the In­done­sian tra­di­tional arts, such as batik, wayang golek [wooden pup­pets] and metal works, turn­ing them into a more mod­ern, con­tem­po­rary dis­plays,” Benny said in the video. “A clas­sic pat­terned tra­di­tional In­done­sian batik, for in­stance, can be de­vel­oped with a new color com­po­si­tion to dec­o­rate a lamp­shade, re­sult­ing in a lighter and more up-to-date style.” Benny is known for his clever rein­ter­pre­ta­tions of tra­di­tional crafts, such as us­ing nat­u­ral fibers from Kal­i­man­tan or Ban­ten, West Java, to make batik scarves. He’s also used turned ba­nana tree trunks into pa­per art to dec­o­rate lamp­shades. An ad­vi­sor for the In­done­sian Pavil­ion at the World Expo in Mi­lan in 2015, Benny speaks pas­sion­ately about his work. “By main­tain­ing the qual­ity of our prod­ucts, not only can we in­crease their value, but we can also at­tract more at­ten­tion,” he said. “Hope­fully we can help pre­serve our lo­cal tra­di­tions and cul­ture.”

Asked about the chal­lenges fac­ing ar­ti­sanal work­ers, Benny cited qual­ity hu­man re­sources and a lack of stan­dards. “I have to pro­vide long-term train­ing my­self in or­der to cre­ate good qual­ity hu­man re­sources,” he said, re­fer­ring to his work­shop in Cen­tral Java. One mem­ber of the au­di­ence asked Benny to col­lab­o­rate with col­leges to in­spire stu­dents to learn batik. When Benny replied he had done some­thing sim­i­lar in Thai­land, she en­thu­si­as­ti­cally replied: “Let’s bring it to Lon­don!” Rein­vent­ing her­itage fash­ion Up next was the well- known de­signer Ghea Pang­gabean, who has ex­plored the many faces of In­done­sian tex­tiles, from vi­brant Su­ma­tran fab­rics, such as tenun songket, l i mar and j umputan

pelangi to Ja­vanese mo­tifs that com­bine fa­mous wayang fig­ures with batik. “All the is­lands of In­done­sia have been my in­spi­ra­tion, but my first love was

j umputan pelangi Palem­bang– the tie- dye- and- stitch tech­nique from Su­ma­tra.” In­done­sia, she told the au­di­ence, was a blend of the in­flu­ences of many cul­tures, in­clud­ing those of China, Europe, In­dia and the Mus­lim world, all of who came to the ar­chi­pel­ago for spices. De­scrib­ing Su­ma­tra as one of the most cul­tured re­gions of In­done­sia, she then in­tro­duced a model wear­ing tra­di­tional bridal at­tire from Su­ma­tra that she had mod­ern­ized. “It has a Chi­nese in­flu­ence. The songket also looks like an In­dian sari. It takes six months to one year to make.” Tex­tiles in In­done­sia have sym­bolic and cer­e­mo­nial mean­ings, whether for birth, wed­dings or deaths, and many is­lands have their own unique tra­di­tions, she added. Ghea’s con­tem­po­rary ver­sions of tra­di­tional tex­tiles were then show­cased to the au­di­ence, with mod­els strolling the au­di­to­rium wear­ing hand­made Sumba cloth dyed with in­digo, grings­ing cloth cre­ated us­ing the dou­ble ikat method in from Ten­ganan in Bali, and wayang geber, which has the folk­tale of Dewi Sekar­taji painted on fab­ric. She her­self pro­gressed from hand-drawn fab­rics in the 1980s be­fore adopt­ing silk- screen print­ing in the 1990s and 2000s and switch­ing to dig­i­tal print­ing. “I still do the hand-drawn tech­nique but I also uti­lize newer tech­nol­ogy for faster and a more cost-ef­fi­cient pro­duc­tion–to make the prod­ucts more af­ford­able.” Art of In­done­sian fla­vor Chef Petty El­liott was the next pre­sen­ter. An ad­vo­cate of fu­sion cui­sine, as well as the of­fi­cial for­mal din­ing con­sul­tant for the Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Jakarta, Petty said that she started her ca­reer 14 years ago sim­ply to pro­mote In­done­sian cui­sine. “In­done­sia is the fourth-largest coun­try in the world, but no one knows about our cui­sine,” the chef said, adding that fu­sion food has been pop­u­lar in In­done­sia since the 15th cen­tury, thanks to col­o­niza­tion. “Each is­land has its own fla­vor,” she told the crowd. “Al­though Maluku is the one known as the Spice Is­land, the home of the most com­plex and in­trigu­ing fla­vors in cui­sine is ar­guably Su­ma­tra, since the re­gion used to host the big­gest port for spice trad­ing.” Su­lawesi was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing, Petty said. “In the north, the Euro­pean in­flu­ence is very strong, es­pe­cially from the Dutch and Span­ish. Most of the peo­ple are Chris­tians and the dishes use pork. In the South, by Makas­sar, 99 per­cent are Mus­lim, thus the cui­sine is very dif­fer­ent.” Petty also pre­sented images of some of her con­tem­po­rary dishes that pre­served her­itage recipes, such as corn frit­ters, sea­weed salad, a de­con­structed veg­etable salad and a Manado-style risotto. Asked about how In­done­sian food might go global, Petty said in­tro­duc­ing In­done­sian fla­vors was only part of the bat­tle. “To make it global is easy if we get sup­port from the govern­ment.” Petty con­tin­ues. “It can take two to three years. The Thai govern­ment did it 25 years ago; the Malaysian govern­ment did it 15 years ago. We need to push–and be bold.” When jazz meets ‘ salu­ang’ The uniquely ex­otic sounds of the salu­ang, a bam­boo flute fa­vored by the Mi­nangk­abau peo­ple of West Su­ma­tra, were also heard at the sem­i­nar, fea­tur­ing a live per­for­mance led by the singer and pi­anist Otti Ja­malus.

The salu­ang player, 54-year- old mu­si­cian named Adrizaldi, hails from West Su­ma­tra and is said to have cre­ated the

salu­ang him­self. The flute is made of bam­boo that is around three years of age and which is har­vested from high ar­eas and cut dur­ing the sum­mer, since bee­tles lay eggs in bam­boo dur­ing the rainy sea­son. Al­though a salu­ang may come in dif­fer­ent shapes and scales–and thus pro­duce dif­fer­ent sounds–the in­stru­ment is gen­er­ally three cen­time­ters in di­am­e­ter, three cen­time­ters thick and just over a half me­ter long. Re­flect­ing its eth­nic ori­gins,

salu­ang flutes typ­i­cally sport Mi­nangk­abau carv­ings, such as the tra­di­tional rumah

gadang, or big house. In the past, salu­ang were used dur­ing tra­di­tional per­for­mances, such as wed­dings. “It’s also used to ex­press sad feel­ings, such as when some­one ex­pe­ri­ences a tragedy,” Otti said. Fol­low­ing a very en­ter­tain­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Adrizaldi and Otti, who per­formed jazzy ver­sions of tra­di­tional In­done­sian songs, one mem­ber of the au­di­ence said he wished he could hear more unique tra­di­tional mu­si­cal in­stru­ments from In­done­sia used at in­ter­na­tional festivals, as he had only seen the al­ready pop­u­lar in­stru­ments such as the game­lan on the global stage. In­done­sia’s na­tional trea­sures Next up was the team from Rumah Pes­ona Kain, a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2005 to pre­serve and en­hance In­done­sian tex­tile her­itage. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s mem­bers show­cased sev­eral pieces from the ar­chi­pel­ago as well as na­tional trea­sures in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional Mu­seum of In­done­sia. Among the items brought by co-founder and president Ike Nir­wan Bakrie and mem­ber Sonny Tjahya were a beau­ti­ful songket Klungkung Bali that took one year to make, a songket Payakum­buh that is a her­itage piece once owned by a sul­tan, a South Su­ma­tran batik that showed a strong in­flu­ence from In­dia and China and pre­vi­ously worn by roy­alty and a kain dodot (un­cut batik cloth) from Java. A replica of the crown of the Ku­tai King­dom in East Kal­i­man­tan was also shown. “This crown was made in the 19th cen­tury dur­ing Sul­tan Aji Muham­mad Su­laiman’s era. It has a very in­tri­cate de­sign, made by a pro­fes­sional gold­smith,” Ike said. Sa­cred art of batik “Batik-mak­ing is a ac­tu­ally a med­i­ta­tion process,” Era Soekamto, the cre­ative di­rec­tor of the Iwan Tirta Pri­vate Col­lec­tion, said at her part of the sem­i­nar. “Batik ar­ti­sans must reach that perfect har­mony be­tween their mood, mind, tech­nique and the batik mo­tif in or­der to cre­ate high qual­ity batik.” Mo­tifs, she says, can con­vey sub­lim­i­nal mes­sages and phi­los­o­phy, as well as of­fer com­men­tary on the con­nec­tions be­tween God, hu­man and na­ture. “We’re not only talk­ing about hand-painted en­coun­ters,” Era said. “This was the high­est civ­i­liza­tion we had in the old days.” Era con­tin­ues. “We had more than 20 king­doms in the old days, more than six

kra­ton [palaces]. Much of their artis­tic her­itage is still be­ing pre­served to­day. Ev­ery move­ment of a tra­di­tional dance or art per­for­mances is part of our wor­ship of God. Batik is the man­i­fes­ta­tion of that think­ing.” As the na­tion’s most revered batik brand, Iwan Tirta is said to cur­rently pre­serve 13,000 batik mo­tifs. The brand’s col­lec­tion is di­vided into many cat­e­gories, such as Ja­vanese and Nu­san­tara (ar­chi­pel­ago), which in­clude re­gions like Bali, East Nusa Teng­gara, Su­ma­tra and Su­lawesi. “We’re cur­rently em­ploy­ing more than 600 ar­ti­sans who pro­duce up to 1,200 hand­crafted batiks per month. It’s quite an ac­com­plish­ment, since there’s a re­gen­er­a­tion is­sue, where we have to at­tract young peo­ple to man­u­ally make batik in­stead of us­ing gad­gets.” Era said that the brand con­sid­ered batik as some­thing more than fash­ion. “We want to be able to ap­pre­ci­ate batik more and we want to com­mu­ni­cate the sub­lim­i­nal mes­sage be­hind it–how batik can ac­tu­ally be a source of univer­sal wis­dom.”

Ike Nir­wan Bakrie and Sonny Tjahya from Rumah Pes­ona Kain show­case some prized pieces from the Na­tional Mu­seum of In­done­sia’s col­lec­tions.

Adrizaldi plays the salu­ang, a type of bam­boo flute, ac­com­pa­nied by singer and pi­anist Otti Ja­malus.

Mod­els show­case the lat­est from the Iwan Tirta Pri­vate Col­lec­tion.

A dancer sports a mask while pre­sent­ing Sam­paran Matah Ati

in South Bank, Lon­don.

Ghea Pang­gabean ( fourth right), dancers from Sam­paran Matah Ati and mod­els from the Iwan Tirta Pri­vate Col­lec­tion pose at Ox­ford.

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