Indonesian festival highlights vibrant culture
Best friends Devin Neugebauer and Nyson Rizqi have attended the annual Houston Indonesian Festival with their parents since they were pint-size.
Now in middle school and high school, the two volunteered at the festival’s first year at Jones Plaza on Saturday. Previously called the Indonesian Culinary Festival, the event started in 2014 to showcase Houston’s various diverse communities.
“I feel like the most important thing is learning about where you come from,” said Neugebauer, who attends Thornton Middle School. “Because if you don’t then everything is going to be forgotten throughout your family.”
The festival showcases Indonesian cuisine such as Rendang, a meat dish served during ceremonies; traditional music and dance performances; and a fashion show featuring batik, cloth that has been dyed using wax. A Balinese welcoming dance performed by the Putri Mandalika Dancers from Florida served as the traditional entrance for ceremonial events.
Rizqi, whose parents are from Indonesia, volunteered and attended to support his sister, a dancer who performed the traditional Saman dance from the Aceh province of Sumatra.
“It’s important to keep the culture alive,” said Rizqi, who is homeschooled. “I remember talking to someone and they didn’t even know where Indonesia was.”
Neugebauer’s mother, who is Indonesian, was a food vendor at the event.
“The events are really fun and it’s all about learning your culture,” Neugebauer said. “I just think it’s amazing that we started out so small and now we can rent out the whole Jones Plaza.”
Neugebauer and Rizqi both belong to Indonesian North American Muslim Youth (INAMY), a religious nonprofit that promotes the Indonesian culture, history and the principles of Islam. They said one of the reasons they like being a part of the organization is because it is a way to be surrounded by other Indonesians.
“I’m here to show support, and I honestly haven’t seen this many Indonesians in a long time,” Rizqi said. “Especially because there’s other Indonesians (here) from the church community and the Muslim community, which I don’t see much.”
Nana Yuliana, the consul general of the Republic of Indonesia, said the festival showcases the prevalence of the economic relationship between the United States and Indonesia, which has the fourth largest population in the world.
“We want to showcase our culture, beautiful products and we want we strengthen economic cooperation between Indonesia and Houston especially,” Yuliana said. “We export to Houston, but Houston also exports to Indonesia.”
Yuliana said one of the challenges is showing the community the economic relationship between Houston and Indonesia, such as with companies like Chevron.
“Houston is an international city,” Yuliana said. “So, the presence of Indonesia here will bring support and strengthen Houston as a city.”
The festival continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Consulate General of Republic Indonesia.
Lenny Nofalina cooks beef curry during the Indonesian Festival on Saturday at Jones Plaza. The festival features traditional food, songs and dancing.