Kridha Hambeksa's Ramayana dance at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta in Pasar Baru on Tuesday. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)

Relying on the Kindness of Others: How Art Collectives Survive in Indonesia


FEBRUARY 06, 2020

Jakarta. Communality remains the one thing to sustain art communities in Indonesia, allowing them to survive amid dearth of sponsorship and a government too busy papering over cracks in its funding programs with increasingly empty "creative industry" neologisms. 

Bram Kushardjanto, a member of the Kridha Hambeksa dance troupe, told the Jakarta Globe many art collectives in Indonesia have to really bend their back just to keep alive.


"Finding a sponsor is very difficult," Bram said, arguing that the government doesn't offer enough incentives to private companies to give funding to the arts.   

"In other countries, the US for example, a sponsor can claim their funding as tax deduction. That's why many multinationals have their own arts foundations, including Chevron and Ford," he said.

"But we don't have that system here. Even professional art organizations struggle with funding," he said. 

Kridha Hambeksa staged a performance of the classic Ramayana dance at Gedung Kesenian Jakarta in Pasar Baru on Tuesday.

The dance took its inspirations from a famous Indian epic that tells the story of the warrior Rama trying to steal back his wife Shinta from the demon king Rahwana.

This is the dance troupe's fourth performance of the Ramayana since 2011. This year's show involved more than 170 dancers, but only five were professionals.

The troupe also hired 24 orphans to join the production.

"None of the Kridha Hambeksa members is a professional dancer. I myself am a consultant in public policy," Bram said.

"This time we decided to involve kids from orphanages to make the arts more inclusive. We feel it's our responsibility to teach and encourage other non-professionals like us to enjoy 'serious' art, like dance or the theater," he said.

Bram admitted the troupe members' double lives as business professionals often help them to attract sponsors for their shows, including the Ramayana.

Playing the Audience

Contemporary artists in Indonesia often also struggle to attract attention — let alone funding — since local audiences often prefer traditional art to modern art.

Bram said many artists get discouraged since they feel they're not appreciated enough.

"People don't truly look for quality shows. There are so many other factors at play. It makes things even harder for the artists," Bram said.

Audience in rural areas also consider traditional art as part of their daily lives, and consequently often refuse to pay to see a performance.

"in some areas in Indonesia, performers don't even get paid," Bram said.

He said there might come a time when Indonesian artists might prefer to perform overseas to earn more money.

"For small-scale shows it's definitely possible," Bram said.

For now though, Kridha Hambeksa will continue to collaborate with local communities since they're the ones who have helped it to survive this far.