Celebrating Indonesian multiculturalism in Copley Square, Boston!
By Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta*
Copley Square became well known in the world on April 2013 when a bomb killed and wounded many people near the finish line of the Boston marathon. The educated society of Boston was shocked, but quickly, the authorities found the surviving culprit and put him behind bars. Now Boston has returned to normal.
|Some of the Organizing Committee from PERMIAS Massachusetts|
On Saturday, September 14, 2013, students from the Indonesian Student Union (PERMIAS) in Boston held an Indonesia Festival in Copley Square to give a new experience to the people of Boston. For the first time in New England, from 10 AM to 6 PM, Indonesians celebrated their cultural inheritance in Copley Square. Only one month after the Boston Marathon bombing, Indonesian students from many different universities in Boston gained the confidence of the city government to use Copley Square as the venue in which to celebrate Indonesia as part of the world’s cultural heritage. The Festival was attended by more than 5,000 spectators.
The Festival was opened by the Cultural Attache of the Indonesian government in New York. Financial support came from large companies that sell Indonesian products abroad, such as Indocafe, Indomie etc. Indonesian people from various parts of Eastern United States sent their ambassadors to showcase customs with their ethnic clothes. The opening event was supported by Communities of Kawanua, Minahasa from North Sulawesi in New Hampshire. Showcased robes and headdresses were reminiscent of the stunning costumes used by Native Americans. Four different dancing groups performed more than 10 dances that represent the diversity of cultures in Indonesia.
|Communities of Kawanua, Minahasa from North Sulawesi in New Hampshire performanced the ritual of opening.|
Indonesian women living in Washington DC area did not want to miss the event. They paid for their own plane tickets to Boston to enliven the Indonesian festival. Those women are the members of the House of Angklung. 30 volunteers performed an extraordinary “angklung” concert. Angklung is a bamboo set of musical instruments. The Guinness World of Records notes the House of Angklung performance on July 9, 2011 in Washington DC in which 5,182 people of varying nationalities played Angklung. The House of Angklung group at the New England Indonesia festival was very popular because both Indonesians and Bostonians could dance to the rhythm of the music. Songs such as Keroncong Kemayoran and Stay with Me prompted longing for Indonesia both for Indonesians who are far from home and for Americans who want to visit Indonesia for the first time.
|House of Angklung|
Santita Dwi Putri, a volunteer from Voice of America, was the Master of Ceremony. She orchestrated the art performances beautifully. Different artists performed dances, such as Jaipongan dance from West Java, dances from West Sumatra, dance Silat (martial arts) and many others. The festival also produced a fashion show featuring works of Indonesian batik such as the textile design artist, Indra Aris. She is a Bugis born in Yogyakarta currently living in Los Angles, California. Another highlight was the appearance of young musicians from Jakarta who are studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the best music schools in the United States. Their wonderful music made up for the audience’s disappointment that the famous group, Sheila on 7, canceled their attendance because they could not get a visa in time from the U.S. government.
|Mothers and daughter on the fashion show|
The audience did not want to leave the show. The stage was arranged facing a large field covered with carpets of fresh grass backed by the magnificent building of the Boston Public Library. Indonesian multiculturalism is not only for the people of Indonesia. Indonesia belongs to the world. That was one meaning conveyed by the festival. Several foreign-looking artists also showed their skills. Among them, a beautiful dancer from Japan named Shoko Yamamura danced the “Pendet”, a welcoming dance from Bali. Two of the men playing in the “gamelan” orchestra were Americans.
|Japanese dancer, Shoko Yamamura performanced “Pendet”.|
Many people visited the stand of Wonderful Indonesia to ask whether the areas they want to visit in Indonesia are safe. Many Americans already know Bali but are shocked to discover that there were so many different regions of Indonesia that are rich with different cultures. For some, the only thing they know of Indonesia comes from popular movies such as “Eat, Pray, Love.” Boston is a city of education, culture and research with many famous universities such as Harvard, MIT and Boston University. The city attracts people from all over the world. For a few of these people, the Indonesia Festival opened their eyes to another world beyond their borders. Let us hope that if they visit Indonesia, they will find it even more rich and complex than a Saturday afternoon festival in Boston.
* Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University.