Papermoon are just one of many performers taking part in the festival. (Photo courtesy of Papermoon )

Indonesian Artists Launch Their Own British Invasion

JULY 22, 2015

Jakarta. The Frankfurt Book Fair that takes place in Germany in October this year is not the only time where Indonesia will step into the spotlight on an international stage. A month before the fair kicks off, a vibrant festival called "Discover Indonesia" will be held in three cities throughout the United Kingdom: London, Glasgow and Cardiff.

Billed as the largest showcase of Indonesian performing arts ever presented in the UK, "Discover Indonesia" is curated by Cryptic, a Glasgow-based producing art house with international recognition.

“I have always been struck by the variety and richness of Indonesian culture and heritage, much of which we rarely have an opportunity to experience here in the UK,” says Cathie Boyd, artistic director of Cryptic.

“In presenting 'Discover Indonesia,' we bring together under one umbrella event some of the most exciting creativity the region has to offer and in the process further develop this work and these important cultural links for future years.”

Together with a number of partner organizations, the diverse program, presented in all three cities, includes performances and works by visual artists, traditional dancers, theater performers and writers. With an emphasis on performing and visual arts, combining both traditional and contemporary formats, "Discover Indonesia" aims to explore opportunities for cross-cultural learning and international dialogue.

“'Discover Indonesia' is [an] ambitious project, creating a relationship stretching from Glasgow, Cardiff, London and onto Indonesia,” says Leonie Bell, director of arts and engagement at Creative Scotland, the public body which supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of the country.

Indonesian artists Jompet Kuswidananto and Jim Allen Abel will showcase their works “Grand Parade” and “Uniform Code,” respectively.

Jompet, born in 1976 in Yogyakarta, is no stranger to presenting his works abroad. After the success of his exhibition in Amsterdam, he will bring his “Grand Parade” — a unique spectacle of light, sound and movement — to the UK. One of Indonesia’s most talked-about artists of the past years, Jompet explores issues of Javanese cultural transformation as well as the Indonesian era of “Reformasi” — which came after the fall of the repressive Suharto regime.

Jim Allen Abel explores the idea of how a uniform is often used to obscure the existence of individuals and their distinctive roles in constituting a bigger entity. He became interested in the topic after conversations with his father, who as a teacher and therefore civil servant, gave up his individuality and merged with others to build a “civil servant corps.”

Another highlight of "Discover Indonesia" is a performance by Yogyakarta’s renowned puppet theater Papermoon. Founded in 2006 by Maria Tri Sulistyani, or Ria, and Iwan Effendi, the creative duo have shown in their productions that puppet theater is more than just child’s play.

Not shying away from exploring controversial themes of Indonesia’s history, Papermoon’s productions are whimsical, yet bold, and always thought-provoking. Ria and Iwan try to engage with their audiences on-site and often perform on the spot at bus stops and local markets, as they strongly believe that their art form should be accessible to all different groups of people.

Papermoon will present “Mwathirika” during the Discover Indonesia festival, which tells the story of a family living in times of political turmoil, set against the backdrop of the anti-communist purge in Indonesia in 1965.

Writer and poet Goenawan Mohamad will also travel to the UK to be part of "Discover Indonesia" by joining several discussions. Music performances by Yogyakarta’s Senyawa and Kande from Aceh, as well as a film festival celebrating the work of independent film-maker and sound explorer Vincent Moon and a festival introducing Indonesia’s culinary treasures round off the program.

“I welcome the showcase and discovery of a broad range of cultures,” says Soryia Siddique of Glasgow City Council in anticipation of "Discover Indonesia."

“Learning about cultures through art, music and food offers a unique way of embracing diversity and experiencing traditions and colourful cultures from across the globe. This festival offers us an exciting opportunity to experience what Indonesia has to offer, in all its color and variety.”