Event Report – Jalan Bersama 2018: Celebrating Indonesian Diasporas in Australia

Jalan Bersama 2018, a gathering of Indonesia Diaspora on Sunday, 12 August 2018 held in the Botanic Garden


            Sydney – The annual Indonesian Diaspora Network gathering this year taken place in the Royal Botanical Garden under the theme Melangkah Bersama Merajut Merah Putih. Indonesian Consul General for NSW Heru Hartanto Subolo and Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Yohanes Kristiarto Legowo have inaugurated the event alongside IDN NSW President, Hendra Wijaya. Around 150-200 people attended the event, the atmosphere was merry and rousing with Indonesia attributes such red and white domination colours and batik to be seen. The walk purposely held just a week before Indonesia Independence Day to celebrate the National Day whilst the main aim is to gather the member of IDN as a day to silaturahmi, get to know each other and ties the shared bond.

Inauguration moment of the event, an honour shared between IDN, the Ambassador, and the Consul General

            The event started at 9 AM with an opening speech from IDN NSW President, then the attendees were grouped into smaller troops before starting the 1.6 km route circling Botany Garden. The initial 20-30 minutes walk expanded into an hour walk with many pauses taken for photo sessions and courteous talk between Mr. Subolo, Mr. Legowo and attendees. The windy and chilly morning didn’t seem to affect the mood and enthusiasm of everyone. The familiar Indonesia nuance was spotted easily: a lot of smiles and introductions, jokes to be heard frequently, selfies in every few steps, and national songs sang along the walk. The walk was improvised to Opera House where it wasn’t included in the initial plan, the few first groups cheerfully took photos and waved their Indonesian flags in front of Opera House and soon, few visitors who are familiar with Indonesia cultures joined the group and asked for photos.

A glimpse of the cheerful event featured countless smiles and jokes


  Once everyone got their muscles loosened down, fun activities such as games and flash mob were carried out. Ular Naga, a game played by 20 to 30 people who divided snake children and the dragon children was an effective game to break the ice amongst the groups. Screams and laughs were shared within the short 5 minutes before the flash mob was taken place. Papuan folk song Sajojo, Ende’s original song Gemu Famire, to Indonesian Pop song Lagi Syantik were played and got everyone danced along.

A flash mob lead by Indonesian zumba instructor

            At the end of the event, fundraising for the victims of the Lombok Earthquake and prays were sent as support for the misfortunes. Before the event was ended, PPIA from the University of Sydney grabs the opportunity to share information about their event Nusantawa which hold on September 8th. Nusantawa is a creative event of Indonesian students from USYD, the event which will be presented by duo MC Darto & Danang, stand-up by Gilang Gombloh and Adjis, and performances from Glenn Fredly hoped to reach more people in order to introduce Indonesia show business. All in all, Jalan Bersama this year rekindled the spirit of semangat amongst Indonesian diasporas in Australia.            

Ubud Food Festival returns in 2018!

Read the full media release here.

The UFF today announced a sneak peek of the world class chefs, culinary heroes, and outstanding innovators who will join this year’s three-day program of high-energy cooking demos, decadent special events, in-depth discussions, and hands-on masterclasses with the F&B industry’s best.

From 13–15 April, 2018, UFF will welcome almost 100 speakers from across Asia and beyond, plating up pioneering culinary insights and ideas and fearless flavors, all energized by the theme ‘Generasi Inovasi’. The theme is inspired by Indonesia’s young, tech-savvy population, which is driving the nation’s booming innovation economy and transforming the entire spectrum of the nation’s food industry. From Sri Lanka to Jakarta, Sydney to Seoul, Byron Bay to Bali, the first lineup reveal is testament to Indonesia’s rising status on the world food stage.

The first Sri Lankan chef to receive Michelin status, Rishi Naleendra, was Chef de Partie at Tetsuya’s in Sydney before establishing Cheek by Jowl in Singapore. He’ll be joined by Australian Chef-Owner Sam Aisbett of Singapore’s Whitegrass, which was awarded its first Michelin star last year. The stars keep shining with Chef Jun Lee, whose Soigné restaurant in Seoul was awarded one star in 2016 and 2017.

With a mission to bring Indonesian food, culture and art to the world, UFF welcomes the return of MasterChef Indonesia judge Rinrin Marinka, as well as the beloved Queen of Indonesian cuisine, Ibu Sisca Soewitomo. Ibu Sisca has dedicated her 50+ year career to nourishing Indonesia’s food industry, and holds a warm place in the heart of the nation’s top chefs and food lovers alike.

They’ll be joined by Hans Christian, Chef de Cuisine of View Restaurant by Fairmont Jakarta, who prides himself on elevating Indonesia’s culinary scene, and Andrian Ishak, whose Namaaz Dining has been described as Indonesia’s first molecular gastronomy restaurant, and sits among the top of Jakarta’s fine dining establishments.

Proving that the nation’s capital can rightfully take its place among the world’s top dining destinations, Indonesia’s leading English-language F&B publication, FoodieS Magazine, has launched the inaugural Jakarta’s Best Eats Awards and Guide. Appearing at UFF will be the Award’s Best Chef and Best Pastry Chef, announced in March.

The Food for Thought stage, home to the UFF’s in-depth discussions with industry leaders, will welcome some of the nation’s top innovators tackling environmental problems and improving supply chains. Among them are David Christian, Co-founder of Evoware, a startup producing food packaging from biodegradable, chemical-free farmed seaweed, Thor Yumna of TaniHub and TaniFund, successful Indonesian startups empowering farmers and improving agriculture, and Helianti Hilman, Founder of JAVARA Indonesia, which works with over 52,000 farmers across the archipelago, selling over 700 artisanal organic products for the domestic and export market.

“This first round of speakers is but a tiny taste of the fantastic feast we’ll be serving up from 13–15 April,” said UFF Founder & Director Janet DeNeefe. “With world class chefs from across the region, and incredible innovators improving the lives of farmers and producers on who we all depend, we’re proving that Indonesia now has its rightful place on the world food map.

“We are also showing the world that now is actually a brilliant time to come to Bali,” DeNeefe continued. “It’s quieter, cleaner and more peaceful. As the source of Bali’s iconic rice paddies, spectacular landscapes and  extraordinary local produce, the Agung volcano is reminding us exactly what makes this island so magical.

“Without Agung there would be no Bali as we know and love it. So why not come and join our Festival Family and see why so many travelers have embraced the campaign #IaminBaliNOW?

“In the words of the revered Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroh, head of PR at Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency, ‘Nature is telling its story’. We hope you’ll be joining us to hear Indonesia’s inspiring innovators tell theirs.”

For more information, read the full media release here.

Messages of youth empowerment and inspiration at AIYA Victoria ‘Basa Basi’ event

For today’s youth, the challenges connected to the Australia-Indonesia relationship are plenty. How best to confront these obstacles imposed by sometimes rocky governmental relations?

Luckily, AIYA Victoria recieved valuable input at their recent Basa Basi event from two experts in bilateral relations on the theme Strengths, challenges and opportunities for young people in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Kurniastuti Lestari shares a rundown of these messages of youth empowerment.

Speakers Dr Howard Manns and Dr Made Utari Rimayanti with AIYA Victoria President Sam Shlansky. Photo: Evelynd

Late last month, Basa Basi, as organised by AIYA Victoria, endeavoured to make a strong impression on the attending youth that every young person CAN make a difference to be the solution for their country and to have a significant role in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The speakers for this exciting event included Dr. Howard Manns, a course coordinator and lecturer for the Masters of Applied Linguistics program at Monash University, and Dr Made Utari Rimayanti, a medical professional who is now studying a Masters of Public Health at the University of Melbourne. Attended by university students from both Australia and Indonesia, the three-hour discussion managed to be a helpful and engaging eye opener for the lucky attendees.

Photo: Evelynd

In the discussion, Made encouraged youth to change common habits of complaining to the government and blaming them for slow progress in dealing with problems faced by the country today. He urged them instead to come up with solutions to these problems, as even the smallest actions they make can have an impact. Indonesia in particular has a significant youth population, meaning that if every young person managed to make the most of their potential to be part of the solution, the Indonesian Government’s target to foster a golden generation for Indonesia, and thus make a significant difference to the nation by the year 2045 or beforehand, would be achieved.

Howard stated that young people face many challenges, especially in reaction to social media. Social media on the one hand puts people into contact with a plethora of wonderful and diverse views, but on the other hand can also expose them to phenomena with a more negative influence, indicating a number of drawbacks more evident than ever. In dealing with this, Howard encouraged youth to maintain a positive attitude about the critical issues between the two countries. By maintaining this energy about such topics, they can more effectively take action rather than wasting their time and energy on negative habits, which will not get them any closer to possible solutions.

Photo: Evelynd

The fact is, youth can indeed have a influential role in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia. As one Australian student who had never been to Indonesia and had never learned the language explained, she nevertheless has been introduced to Indonesian cultures by her Indonesian friends undertaking study in Australia. This has made her interested about knowing more about Indonesia, even attracting her to attend the Basa Basi event.

There was an intriguing question from an Indonesian student about whether education (in this case, the study of Indonesian as a subject) can have an important role in the bilateral relationship. Sadly, the number of Australian students studying Bahasa Indonesia at school and university has been decreasing. Howard suggested that this is triggered by the fact that education institutions need to make sure that such programs will at least break even, as it would otherwise be difficult for them to be convinced such programs should continue.

Photo: Evelynd

Howard further explained that one possible solution is to make Indonesia a hot and popular topic in Australia. Yacinta, a lecturer in Indonesian studies at Monash University who also attended the discussion, added that Australia has become one of the most favoured countries chosen by Indonesian students in which to undertake postgraduate study. Therefore, it is expected that Indonesian youth will be able to contribute toward making Indonesia more popular and appealing in the eyes of Australian students, thereby making the latter interested in learning more, especially Indonesia’s languages and cultures.

This will, consequently, help enhance and maintain a good and positive relationship between the two countries.

Read about another recent Victoria-based event about the Aus-Indo relationship here.

TemuLawak: PPIA Victoria celebrates Indonesian independence with comedy musical ‘Oh! Batavia’

Seventy-two years of Indonesian Independence were celebrated on stage before a sold-out audience at Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne in late August. A queue totalling more than 800 was seen outside Melbourne Town Hall. Tickets were sold out ten days before the event, showing just how enthusiastic audiences were to enjoy this year’s TemuLawak, or Teater Muda Langkah Awal Merdeka 2017.

A comedy musical drama entitled Oh! Batavia was presented by the Indonesian Students Association (PPIA) in Victoria and showcased a collaboration between nine Indonesian Student Association branches, with total committee involvement numbering 111 people. TemuLawak 2017 officially began with a welcome speech by Dewi Savitri Wahab from the Consulate-General of Indonesia in Melbourne, followed by a medley of traditional songs from the TemuLawak crew.

Photo: PPIA Victoria

Oh! Batavia‘s historical theme informed the audience about the traditional lifestyle of society in the city of Batavia during the war against colonialism in early 1930s. The drama not only touched on the war against the colonisers, but also various Indonesians’ perspectives in the era along with a touch of humour and educative values.

The 100-minute show was accompanied by live music and dance performances, with a total of 40 students being involved in the drama. The three main roles were Terang (played by Hanna Melissa, University of Melbourne), Putra (Bara Adiarto, Monash), and Kuping Kiri/Goda (Axel Prasetio, Monash).

The backstage crew also put in a huge effort to make the event a successful one, and consisted of a planning and production team, a music crew led by composer Vanessa Tunggal, and a dance crew with Arnesia Ranggi as head choreographer. All elements in the drama were produced by students in Victoria, including its choreography, script and musical arrangements.

Kevin Joshua, Project Manager of TemuLawak 2017, said: ‘Oh! Batavia presents the value of diversity and nationalism as well as the spirit of independence, in accordance with the message from Bung Karno, the first President of Indonesia: “Nationalism cannot flower if it does not grow in the garden of internationalism.”’

TemuLawak 2017 was organised with the generous support of its sponsors: YNJ Migration, Bunyip Tour, Central Equity, RACC, Panca Prima Maju Bersama, Da Trans, The Space Dance & Art Centre, Vodafone QV, Buka Lapak, Meetbowl, Kapal Api, Y-Axis, Kaya Yoga, Garden Giggles and Atmosphere Church. Media partners included Buset, OZIP, SBS, Radio Kita, Buletin Indo, Cicak2, Radio PPI Dunia, InfoPensi, AIYA, Meld Magazine, Love & Hate Radio and Kopitoebruk.

Want to find about more about PPIA Victoria? Learn about exciting activities throughout the year on Facebook and Instagram.

Read about another recent Victoria-based event about the Aus-Indo relationship here.

High-profile speakers motivate at Jakarta youth leaders seminar: recap

The Australian Embassy recently held the Australia Indonesia Youth Leaders Seminar in Jakarta, where attendees, including AIYA Jakarta’s Felix Sihombing, heard from speakers Dino Patti Jalal, Noke Kiroyan and Derval Usher who presented fascinating and noteworthy TED-inspired talks to the assembled Australian and Indonesian youth.

Photo: Felix Sihombing

Speaker #1: Pak Dino Patti Djalal

Pak Dino is quite well known in Indonesia, as he was previously the presidential spokesperson for former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and was later the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States. After his time in the political space, he founded the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI). His presentation was on “Looking Beyond the Bumps in the Road: Promoting Strengths in a Broad Relationship”.

Pak Dino clearly understands how Indonesia must see Australia. As someone who has observed the bilateral relationship between the two countries for a long time he clearly sees the shift in the narrative about Australia within Indonesia. Back in the 1960s when the New Order regime had just begun, the narrative in Indonesia was that Australia was a western country that would try to divide Indonesia for its own benefit. But today the narrative is different, as every country wants to have stable neighbours around them and it is in Australia’s interest to see Indonesia succeed as any unrest in the country would negatively impact its neighbours.

What surprised Pak Dino was that he still sees the old narrative among students in some universities that he visits. Regarding this, he urged youth to see the bilateral relationship differently unlike people from previous generations. His message for youth from both countries was clear: it is time to look beyond bumps in the road and promote the strengths of both countries for a strong relationship.

Speaker #2: Pak Noke Kiroyan

Photo: Felix Sihombing

President of the Indonesia-Australia Business Council (IABC), Pak Noke is also the managing partner and chief consultant for Kiroyan Partners. His relationship with Australia started when he began handling various companies from Australia to increase trade between both countries. His presentation at this event was entitled “Emerging Opportunities to Tighten Economic Ties” and his main point was that both countries are dependent on each other.

Indonesia will continue to keep importing wheat because it won’t grow in tropical Indonesia, as well as import other high quality goods such as beef. Indonesia will also continue to send students to Australia, as it is one of the best education providers in the world. On the contrary, Australia will continue to import clothes, shoes and other Indonesian goods, and Australians will continue to travel to Indonesia as tourists. However, trade between Australia and Indonesia has not grow much for some years. How has that happened?

What hinders us the most is the existence of an invisible barrier: the lack of understanding of what is needed by our neighbour and a lack of understanding about each other’s regulations. He believes that with better understanding, we can lose this barrier and strengthen economic ties. Hence, there is huge opportunity for young entrepreneurs from both countries to export and import in the future.

Speaker #3: Ibu Derval Usher

Photo: Felix Sihombing

Ibu Derval is the head of Pulse Lab in Jakarta, a company which focuses on analysis of digital data on a large scale to give real-time results that can be used to address various issues. The Pulse Lab became a partner with the government as the results of their studies have potential to aid the government in making decisions.

In her presentation “How Big Data is Addressing our Big Issues”, Ibu Derval explained the interesting and growing field of studies of analysing large amounts of data in a short time. The collected data could be as simple as social media posts or take the form of tap-on tap-off data in a busway service.

So how can collecting small data make a big impact? This large-scale data analysis using small data sources could give real-time results that can be used for faster reaction times when issues arise. Such data analysis is not static compared to more traditional data collection methods which take a much longer time to compile results.

As an example, Bu Derval and her team obtained the price of vegetables in local markets in Nusa Tenggara Timur by crowdsourcing, where they asked people to take pictures of the vegetables and state the items price. They compared market fluctuations in vegetable prices to determine the overall cost of goods in real time using social media. By doing that, they can create the formula that predicts the vegetable prices in the future. Other interesting studies that have been conducted include collecting data of people entering and exiting the Jakarta city busway with the ultimate aim of helping to design a better transportation system for the city.

Such an analysis is achievable right now with current technological advancements. So how is it related with the youth? It turns out that most of the team members who work with Derval are youth themselves! This demonstrates our role in shaping important projects to make breakthroughs in addressing big issues.

Read the Indonesian version of this article here.

These young Indonesians are innovating for impact at the Indonesian Ideas Conference

The University of New South Wales’ Indonesian Student Association of Australia (PPIA) is bringing young Indonesian’s together to innovate at the inaugural Indonesian Ideas Conference (ICON) on Saturday 27 May.

PPIA have crafted ICON to be a conference where participants can challenge their limits and become the best version of themselves. PPIA’s mission is to motivate and inspire individuals to dream and to take on every opportunity they encounter.

With an exhilarating conference theme “Imagine the Possibilities”, ICON is a space for students and young professionals to see what happens when they disrupt norms, break the status quo, and undertake extraordinary action. All in the name of creating social impact.

In line with ICON’s social mission ICON is donating all profits from the event to the Jakarta-based orphanage Rumah Harapan or “Hope House”.

Who will be there?
ICON will bring prominent figures from across Indonesia including entertainers, musicians, peace builders, tech superstars and social entrepreneurs together with young professionals and students. These well-renowned leaders will share their knowledge, experiences and ideas to will inspire the next generation of Indonesian’s to make an impact to society and create a better world.

Acclaimed entertainer and the founder of the famous household clothing brand Damn! I Love Indonesia, Daniel Mananta, will speak about how to make a nationalistic impact in modern Indonesia.

Hear from Alamanda Shantika, one of the key thinkers behind major Indonesian company and app GoJek and founder of own tech-academy BINAR Tech Academy. Alamanda will discuss how she coded, designed and built the Gojek app from the beginning while at the same time worked on people’s development and built the company’s capacity. Alamanda will also share insights on her work at BINAR Tech Academy where she continues her pioneering and socially conscious tech work

Kick Andy host, Andy F Noya, is a household name and he has inspired millions of Indonesians by raising awareness of social issues in Indonesia. At ICON Andy will provide insights on how to become a successful social entrepreneur and influence change in modern Indonesia.

ICON will truly inspire with, Noor Huda Ismail, a Jihad-terrorist journalist and founder of The Institute for International Peace Building in Indonesia, speaking on how he has dedicated his life to fighting terrorism and creating peace. Noor’s work has included directing a film called Jihad Selfie a documentary that unfolds how teenagers are being recruited into ISIS.

Award winning Isyana Sarasvati will provide insight on how she mastered piano, electone, flute and saxophone to became one of the most popular young composers and musicians in Indonesia today.

The ICON conference isn’t just talks and workshops it is equipped with various attractive and spectacular appearances to entertain conference participants.

Join ICON for a dynamic day of discovery and inspiration as well as networking and social events. These exciting reflections, stories and lessons are not to be missed.

ICON is a testament to the ongoing success of Indonesian’s studying, working and living in Australia.

If you want to know more about ICON or the inspiring young Indonesian’s behind it at PPIA, you can find more information on their website.

Or if you are keen to be part of Indonesia’s next generation of innovation – head along to ICON on Saturday, May 27, 2017 from 15.00 – 20.30 at Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of New South Wales (UNSW). Register here.

For any ticket enquiries contact our ticket officers:
William Tjoa +61412476964
Yohanna Allenzia Hendrawan +61414848665

The Age of Bones: Q&A with Playwright Sandra Thibodeaux

The Age of Bones is a play that follows the journey of young boy from Eastern Indonesia who goes fishing but fails to return. The production is a joint effort between Satu Bulan Theatre Company (Indonesia) and Performing Lines (Australia) and speaks honestly, and with humour, about the Australia-Indonesia relationship. With a number of upcoming performances across Australia, AIYA recently heard from playwright and co-producer Sandra Thibodeaux about the play’s genesis, production and audience reception.

Image: Performing Lines

Where did the idea for The Age of Bones come from?

When my own son was about 15, I came across the story of the Indonesian boys who were jailed in Australia for working on asylum seeker boats. They had already been in jail for about a year, and the story hadn’t even surfaced until then. I was shocked at the story and the silence surrounding it. The thing that struck me most was that the boys’ parents hadn’t been told where they were. They assumed the boys were drowned at sea.

So I wanted to get to the heart of this narrative, and try to show  through a play  the perspectives of the boys and their families. The resultant work is fictional, although it draws from real life. In The Age of Bones, a young boy, Ikan, leaves his parents to go fishing one day, and doesn’t return.

While the core narrative is obviously sad, I like to use touches of comedy where I can. There is a fair amount of political satire in the play, and the cast have brought in their own touches of physical comedy. Laughter helps to soften the political messages and intensify the weight of the sadder scenes.

How does the unique underwater setting influence the visual aesthetic of the play?

I was reluctant to use realistic scenes in the jail and courtroom these can be quite heavy and difficult to access, particularly in a bilingual context. I suppose it was given to me on a platter  we know Australia as ‘Down Under’, so why not set the Australian scenes down under, beneath the waves?

So the Australian scenes are quite fantastical. The characters take on aquatic qualities, becoming sharks and fish, and so on. The judge is a grumpy old octopus. The shadow puppetry, music and video all work together to take us under the water. There is a sense of strangeness that echoes Ikan’s alienation in a foreign land.

What does the play hope to illustrate about Indonesia, Australia, their peoples and nations?

I hope the play helps to foster a deeper cross-border relationship. We’ve chosen to tackle a sensitive topic  this might seem counter-productive to the task of creating regional harmony. However, I believe that it’s important to have open, honest dialogue about these sensitive topics  ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. Last year’s productions in Indonesia received a very warm response  I think the Indonesian audiences appreciated our attempt to have this kind of dialogue. They seemed surprised and, perhaps, touched that Australians would be concerned about the lives of young boys in eastern Indonesia.

At our 2015 reading in Darwin, an audience member commented that it was interesting to see the asylum seeker issue from another perspective that of an Indonesian boy co-opted into working on one of the boats. I think The Age of Bones provides another angle, and gives insight into the lives of people in Nusa Tenggara a place that is really not far away from Australia and, yet, is worlds away in economic development and the choices that this brings.

One reviewer has said The Age of Bones is a reminder that “people cease to see others as human beings but instead as machines, with only bones to work and perpetuate foreign capitalistic ideals.” How prominent was social or political comment for you during the playwriting process?

There is always a political framework informing a play or a film, even though this framework can sometimes seem subtle. Mine has been overt, and is concerned with the way we view our regional responsibilities, the treatment of displaced peoples, youths in detention, and the necessity of looking at issues through a global, rather than national, lens.

The above quote is very moving. The play has a second narrative wherein an older male character, the narrator, is nearing the end of his journey. Bone-weary, he observes the loss of his strength, his memory and sight. He has worked hard, often rescuing people and retrieving corpses from the sea. What is he left with? Fond memories of a few months spent in Australia where “people were nice”. Have we lost our ability to engage with our neighbours outside of the capitalist imperative? I hope not.

What was it like working with cast and crew from both Indonesia and Australia?

The play has had a lengthy genesis with quite a few artistic exchanges occurring. This has placed us in a good position for the productions. Last year, we commenced shows in Indonesia, performing in Lampung, Bandung and Tasikmalaya. As mentioned, the work was warmly received and we have many fond memories of traveling around in a bus with 22 team members!

Cross-border, bilingual artist collaborations are always challenging. People arrive at the stage with their own understandings of what it means to create ‘good theatre’. Part of the learning curve for everyone has been to let go of those preconceptions to allow for a third space  what we might call an Austronesian theatrical space.

The Indonesian and Australian team members have all been extremely hard-working, patient and good-humoured  in Lampung, we sometimes worked without electricity, in the rain, and at very late hours. I have never met people more patient and more inventive than Indonesian actors! Our opening production featured a mid-point black-out. I had a few moments of panic, thinking we’d better stop the show, before the Indonesians simply resumed their places and carried on, aided by torches. I was very impressed. This year, we’ve adopted a few new Australian team members who have brought into the mix a fresh wave of enthusiasm, brilliance and love. This augurs well for the productions that will be staged in Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and  my home town  Darwin.

Discover more about The Age of Bones, including performance times and locations, on the Performing Lines website.

Cry Jailolo and Balabala: Q&A with Eko Supriyanto

Internationally renowned dancer-choreographer Eko Supriyanto is originally from Solo, Central Java. His credits run from The Lion King on Broadway and Madonna’s World Tour to Peter Sellar’s Le Grand Macabre and John Adam’s Flowering Tree. Over four nights at Sydney Festival next month, EkosDance Company will present the companion pieces Cry Jailolo and Balabala, both of which were conceived in the small coastal town of Jailolo, on the island of Halmahera, Maluku. We spoke to the extremely eloquent Eko about this little-known region of Indonesia, and the power of dance vocabularies to encompass both tradition and contemporary realities.

What was it about Halmahera and Jailolo that compelled you to create Cry Jailolo and Balabala?

I like challenges – it’s part of the way I work. When I returned from the US to Solo I was continuously working with Solonese dancers, Javanese themes, etc. By 2011 I was looking for new challenges, new ways of thinking, new ways of creating work beyond the context of Java. It was at this point that the regent of West Halmahera extended this great invitation to create a piece for Jailolo Bay Festival in May 2013. I was grateful and privileged to be given time to research and work with 350 local youth in Jailolo between 2012-2013 for the Festival. It was during this time that I discovered the new world of diving. From this time, research and the subsequent connections, Cry Jailolo was born in 2013 and in 2016, Balabala. These works are new contemporary dance pieces based on local movement vocabulary arts. The works and processes have formed my discourse of Silent Tourism.

Cry Jailolo. Photo: BNG Bernie Ng, courtesy of Esplanade Theatre on the Bay

Dynamite fishing is a common problem in Eastern Indonesia, a region which is relatively neglected in terms of infrastructure development and legal regulation. How does Cry Jailolo explore the problem?

Cry Jailolo is partly my reflection on the destruction of the underwater world in West Halmahera, including dynamite fishing. It is also about the military history and social conflict between Muslims and Christians in the area. Perhaps it’s something of a social reconciliation that focuses on youth and the community. I believe it is time now for the Indonesian government to look towards a holistic approach to the development of Eastern Indonesia.

How does your love of diving influence your choreography?

Diving is now part of my dance vision and exploration. For the last two years I have been researching this new world. The state of anti-gravity, a new space for intelligence of body movement. A space for new exploration and challenges. This will be reflected in my new solo dance – to conclude the trilogy of dancing Jailolo – titled SALT, which will be premiered in Europe at the end of 2017.

While the Cry Jailolo ensemble is male, the Balabala ensemble is female. How did your working practices differ between the two groups, and the two works? What is most different about the companion pieces, and how do they complement each other?

Cry Jailolo is more community-based, the social encounter of the underwater world, the communal rave and the optimism of Jailolo youth. Balabala is more individual. It is a gender-based work and has a more philosophical approach. The piece addresses the space held by women in Eastern Indonesia; the young girls take on the dominantly male war dance of the Cakelele – deconstructing gendered hierarchies.

How are the multiple roles of women in Indonesia explored in Balabala?

The piece addresses belief in the nine directions of life for women: husband, kids, kitchen, bed, community, mountain, ocean, religion and self. This philosophy is combined with the Pencak Silat approach to nine directions – both the roles and directions are combined to explore what strength means for these young women. I ‘dis-construct’ the male war dancers of West Halmahera dances as a physical approach to movement.

Balabala. Photo: David Fajar

While the traditional dances of Java and Bali are familiar to many Australians, those of Eastern Indonesia are not. How do the traditional dances of Maluku differ to what audiences may be familiar with?

Indonesian culture and arts are so diverse; there are so many dances and traditions to be explored and introduced to the outside world. It’s not so much about introducing Australian audiences to that which they are unfamiliar with, but more about offering an experience through the youth of Jailolo, who embody the history of the region and pave the path for the future. I believe dance is a universal language with thousands of vocabularies – I believe that dance can speak of context, history, tradition and contemporary relations – it creates direct experiences and connections. Thus, traditional dance or movement can be brought into the contemporary context, with understanding of history and traditional practices within a new way of looking – beyond the form itself – opening the ideas and dialogues of understanding.

What are you hoping to stimulate in Sydney Festival audiences? What are you hoping the companion pieces will tell them about the people of Jailolo, about Eastern Indonesia, and about the melding of traditional culture with contemporary realities?

I hope to stimulate a deep discussion on Indonesian contemporary dance and its relation to tradition. To argue that Indonesian contemporary dance is always based on its traditions. What is important is how we define the meaning of tradition. Traditions that encompass a deep conversation on the diversity of Indonesian arts and culture, which includes maritime culture. Not only the classical court dances of Java and Bali and the agricultural societies, but also the world of the ocean and fisherman. I wish to express my views that dance is about movement and physicality. It’s not ornamental nor purely conceptual. For me, body movement is entwined with deep connections to history, tradition and contemporary contexts. It is an expression of lived experience. I hope that with this great opportunity to present at Sydney Festival, my works will stimulate dialogue on Indonesian contemporary dance and the diversity of arts and cultures.

EkosDance Company present Cry Jailolo and Balabala at the Sydney Festival from 7-10 January. For more information and for ticket bookings call 1300 856 876, or head to the Sydney Festival website. For the EkosDance Company’s site, click here

Exciting and dynamic: Australia Indonesia Business Week

Perth, Western Australia is tightening its belt and is now looking North, beyond the mining boom and beyond WA to our vast neighbour, Indonesia. The bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia has enjoyed a relatively positive period over 2016 and by most accounts, that trend will continue. Over the last few weeks numerous Indonesia-focused events infused the city with splashes of batik and the scent of clove.

From 11 to 15 November, Perth played host to the Australia Indonesia Business Week. A five-day program comprised three key events, the Indonesia Business Summit (11 Nov); Indonesia Trade Fair 12-13 November); and the Australia Indonesia Business Council Conference (13-15 Nov).

The Indonesia Business Summit – Towards a New Chapter of Indonesia and Australia Economic Partnership – was a single-day event with a multitude of sector-specific panels from Aquaculture to the Digital Economy. The event had a strong attendance and whilst identifiable outcomes may be hard to come by, the continuation and transparency of dialogue is indicative of a bright business relationship between Australia and Indonesia.

Indonesia Trade Fair saw the coming together of 50 businesses from throughout the archipelago present public displays at the Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre. It was a vibrant and fun two-day event, free to the public and exceptionally well organised and presented. It was an opportunity to expose West Australians to Indonesia beyond Bali.

Pak Ade Sarwono, Consul General of Perth speaking at the AIBC Conference, with Bruce Gosper, CEO of Austrade, to his right. Photo: Australia Indonesia Business Council

At the two-day AIBC Conference – Breaking Barriers and Building Bonds – in cooperation with their numerous sponsors the AIBC held constructive, open and engaging sessions centred around the IA CEPA (Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) and the  Turnbull-Jokowi era.

The conference team comprised members of the Australia Indonesia Business Council Youth Professionals and executive members of the Australia Indonesia Youth Association Western Australia Chapter. Chapter President Stewart Palmer, Chapter Vice President David Scholefield and Chapter Secretary Fiona Bettesworth (also AIBC YP) worked closely with the AIBC team to deliver a worthwhile and informative conference for over 270 delegates. This included the Honourable Paul Grigson Ambassador of Australia to the Republic of Indonesia and His Excellency Nadjib Riphat Kesoema Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia.

Australian Indonesia Business Council Youth Professionals and AIYA WA Chapter Executives. Photo: David Scholefield
Australian Indonesia Business Council Youth Professionals and AIYA WA Chapter Executives. Photo: David Scholefield

Over two days, a number of panel sessions were held to inform, deliberate and produce meaningful dialogue between business leaders and government officials. Key note addresses were delivered from the likes of His Excellency Dr Bambang Brodjonogoro, Chairman of BAPPENAS, the Honourable Colin Barnett MLA, Premier of Western Australia, with panels led by the Honourable Chris Bowen MP, Shadow Treasurer, Australia and the Honourable Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Australia.

The conference was held only days after President-Elect Trump claimed victory in the US election. An entire panel was dedicated to exploring how the change of leadership in the US would affect business in Australia and Indonesia, with the primary focus of the panel being the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement). Honourable Kim Beazley, former Ambassador of Australia to the United States said, “the TPP is dead.” Discussion was frank, thoughtful and practical at a time when many are disillusioned at the state of global affairs.

Whilst many of the panels dealt with changing political landscapes, others focused entirely on the IA CEPA – identified as a key piece of legislation for both nations. The panel, entitled IA-CEPA: How the Negotiations Are Progressing, offered an insight into how significant the free trade agreement between Indonesia and Australia is, with comments given on the speed at which the negotiation is progressing and the push – particularly from the Jokowi administration – to ratify this agreement sooner rather than later.

The Indonesia Business Week proved to be exciting and dynamic. Governments and businesses are preparing and adapting to global political changes, and the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia, no stranger to tumultuous times, seems tinged with a rosy glow.

All panels are accessible for viewing through the Australia Indonesia Business Council Facebook page.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2016: a feast of Indonesia-focused content

From human rights and politics in Asia to the role of activism and art, Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2016 (UWRF16) traversed five days of enthralling panel discussions, dynamic performances, readings, film, poetry, exhibitions, workshops and food, cementing its position as Southeast Asia’s leading festival of words and ideas.

In its 13th year, the UWRF again saw strong attendance figures of over 30,000, and significantly greater diversity in ticket sales, with Indonesian audience numbers up by 31.5% from 2015. Eminent historian and Festival stalwart Ian Burnett remarked during the Festival: “There is no country more diverse – culturally, ethnically, linguistically – than Indonesia.” The following is a wrap-up of the many Indonesia-focused UWRF16 highlights.

Guests arrive at the UWRF Gala Opening. Photo: Anggara Mahendra, UWRF
Guests arrive at the UWRF Gala Opening at Antonio Blanco Museum. Photo: Anggara Mahendra, UWRF

Indonesian literary luminaries Seno Gumira Adjidarma, Dewi Lestari and Eka Kurniawan delighted fans and snared the attention of unfamiliar listeners. Fearless environmental and human rights activists Agustinus Wibowo (East Java), Emmanuela Shinta (East Kalimantan), Bayu Wirayudha (Bali) and Shandra Woworuntu (West Sumatra) shook audiences to the core. The remarkable resilience of human trafficking survivor Shandra Woworuntu, whose organisation Mentari helps fellow survivors reintegrate into the community and find meaningful work, brought many to tears. After her in-conversation with revered journalist Janet Steele, an audience member tweeted: “Incredible session, a heartbreaking and inspiring story that needs to be heard.”

Shandra Woworuntu
Shandra Woworuntu. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja, UWRF

The 16 Emerging Indonesian Writers selected from 894 entrants to be included in the Festival’s annual Bilingual Anthology – a treasure trove of Indonesian writing and essential Festival souvenir – were a prominent force throughout. Many of these rising stars lauded the linguistic diversity of Indonesia – and the urgency to preserve it – writing and speaking in Minang, Madurese and Balinese. Emerging Writer Deasy Tirayoh said at the launch of the Anthology, “Ubud Writers & Readers Festival shows us that Indonesian writers can rightly stand alongside the global greats.”

Emerging Indonesian Writers at the launch of the annual UWRF Bilingual Anthology of Emerging Indonesia Writing. Photo: Anggara Mahendra, UWRF

Dalam Bahasa Indonesia was an extremely engaging panel for speakers, and learners, of Indonesian. Moderated by writer, actor and musician Ketut Yuliarsa, it featured much-loved Indonesia commentator Elizabeth Pisani, esteemed literary and academic translator Jennifer Lindsay (the long-time translator of Goenawan Mohamad’s essays), and Gemi Mohawk, a poet from Palembang, and one of the Indonesian Emerging Writers.

The panelists discussed the origin and rapid evolution of Indonesian, with Jennifer Lindsay addressing the marked increase in the number of Indonesians whose first language, or co-first language, is Bahasa Indonesia, rather than the local language of their mother or father. “There is a depth to Indonesian that wasn’t there in the ‘70s,” she remarked.

Elizabeth Pisani and Jennifer Lindsay. Photo: Keyza Widiatmika, UWRF

Indonesians’ rampant device and social media addiction was unraveled in the panel Screen Addicts. Moderated by writer and journalist Michael Vatikiotis, it also featured Pisani alongside Dewi Lestari and Triyanto Triwikromo, the 2015 Tokoh Seni Pilihan Tempo. Triwikromo was decisively negative about social media, claiming “We are entering a different kind of war. A war of thoughts, of ideas. It’s virtual but we take it literally.”

Dewi Lestari declared that Indonesians’ screen addiction is a “national problem”, lamenting sadly, “I don’t look at the trees and sky anymore. My screen keeps occupying me. It has become the everyday scenery.” She did, however, speak at length about the huge benefits of social media marketing for her books, and that she has witnessed “a lot of positive social communities arising from social media”, even comparing her Twitter communities to arisan [a neighbourhood lottery gathering].

Screen Addicts panel: Dewi Lestari, Michael Vatikiotis, Triyanto Triwikromo and interpreter, and Elizabeth Pisani. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja, UWRF
Audience members take notes during Screen Addicts. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja, UWRF
Audience members take notes during Screen Addicts. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja, UWRF

Intrepid and incisive independent Indonesian cinema has long been a pillar of UWRF. As well as the Film Program, which was a mini Indonesian film festival in its own right, there were two panel discussions devoted to it – Camera Obscura, which analysed Indonesia’s film industry, and Cinematic Indonesia, addressing cinema’s role in shaping and narrating Indonesian identity. The film screenings and both panels attracted major audiences.

Bringing celebrity status to the Festival were firebrand Indonesian auteurs Slamet Rahardjo, Djenar Maesa Ayu, Richard Oh and Joko Anwar, along with wunderkind filmmaker Wregas Bhanuteja. At just 23 Wregas received the Leica Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film at Cannes for Prenjak (In the Year of Monkey). Wregas was a firm Festival favourite – the showcase of his short films was packed and over the course of the Festival he probably snapped at least 100 selfies with adoring fans!

Capacity crowd at indie cinema Betelnut for the showcase of Wregas Bhanuteja’s award-winning short films. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja
Wregas meets fans after the screening. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja, UWRF
Wregas meets fans after the screening. Photo: Wirasathya Darmaja, UWRF

No UWRF wrap-up would be complete without a special mention of the veritable army of 300 volunteers working tirelessly across all areas of the Festival – as MCs, photographers, venue supervisors, technical support and as writers’ liaisons. The vast majority of them hail from across the archipelago, and many return year after year having formed lasting friendships.

UWRF16 volunteers. Photo: Anggara Mahendra, UWRF
UWRF16 volunteers. Photo: Anggara Mahendra, UWRF

At the closing night ceremony Janet DeNeefe noted that the UWRF – at 13 years old – is now a teenager. “It has truly found its feet in the international literary festival environment,” said DeNeefe, “while staying strong to its commitment of raising up regional voices alongside recognised names. This is evident in the increased audience diversity which, in line with the wider goals of Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati, to which the UWRF belongs, we’re incredibly proud of, and we look forward to building on this in the future.”

DeNeefe continued, “I applaud the brave artists and speakers who joined us this year, and the audience – from young Indonesian students to our UWRF stalwarts – who helped create the powerful, magical space for which the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has become famous.”

Be sure to keep an eye on the AIYA Blog in the lead-up to UWRF 2017 for special discounts on UWRF tickets for AIYA members, or perhaps you’d even like to volunteer! For more info about the Festival head to the website