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Democratic Management of Pluralism after 1998 Reform in Indonesia: The Case of Arts H. Marco Kusumawijaya, Jakarta Arts Council,

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Presentation on theme: "Democratic Management of Pluralism after 1998 Reform in Indonesia: The Case of Arts H. Marco Kusumawijaya, Jakarta Arts Council,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Democratic Management of Pluralism after 1998 Reform in Indonesia: The Case of Arts H. Marco Kusumawijaya, Jakarta Arts Council, International Symposium “Cities, Cultures, Languages” Mannheim, September 17-19, 2008

2 Summary After the fall of Suharto's authoritarian regime in May 1998, Indonesia has been experiencing fundamental changes in managing pluralism. State-sponsored oppression is no more. The military is under controlled. Openess is relatively wide. Freedom of expression is relatively guaranteed. However, horizontal conflicts openly increase, often with violence, as the state got weakened and unsettling conditions remain. Religious fundamentalists compete with seculars in reshaping Indonesian future society. Several cases in arts are exemplary of these conflicts. There are several strategies being worked out and promoted by civil society groups. But the future is yet uncertain.

3 Indonesia: Multinational Heritage

4 Indonesia: multi-national heritage Pre-colonial heritage: Not just multicultural, but multi-nations. population of 230 millions, more than 300 ethnic cultures and languages. more than 17,000 islands. Main islands: Sumatera and Riau, Java, Borneo/Kalimantan, Sulawesi, the larger ones of Molucca Islands, Irian Jaya (Indonesian Papua), Bali, and Nusa Tenggara. The Acehnese secessionist movement is an echo of multinationality, as Aceh was not just an ethnic culture, but a nation in its own right with a fully developed and mature governance system since the 15 th century. It was the last brought under the Dutch colonial rule. It was also the last brought into Indonesian united republic. The boundaries of the majority of Indonesian current provinces and lower administrative units coincide with cultural and political boundaries of the past kingdoms and sultanates. Conflicts in Molucca Islands are the result of disturbed ethnic, territorial, and religious equilibrium.

5 Indonesia: a history of secular vs. non-secular Islamists, within a context of rich non-revealed/abrahamic, indigeneous spirituality

6 Indonesia: a history of secular vs. non-secular Islamists The struggle between the secular and non-secular Islamists has always coloured Indonesian history. After communism was banned in 1965, state recognises only 5 “formal religions” (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism), but with monotheistic bias. Even the Buddhists and Hindus had to invent singular “God” to justify their religions. Believers of some native religions were forced to convert into the five religions. During Soeharto’s time, the non-seculars Isamists who want Islamic state, were suppressed, as so many other segments in society. They all have surfaced again after his fall. The struggle continues. Although it is true that most Indonesians are moderate Moslems, and do not want an Islamic state, the persuasion persists and the persuaders are militant, sometimes also violent. With weakened and decentralized governance, and no clear, strong vision of a better future, alternative options (including islamic state) attract weary citizens.

7 Hotel Indonesian Roundabout, 1997-…: discovery of new public spaces and media Activism in Indonesian Art World

8 Indonesia: Activism in Art World… The first modern poster in Indonesian: a war propganda poster against the Dutch, by Indonesian painters (Affandi and Sudjojono, the founders of Indonesian modern painting) and poet (Chairil Anwar, the founder of Indonesian modern poetry), in 1945. Artists and arts proponents: freedom of artistic expression is part of pluralism, which is the basis of Indonesian integrity as written at its national emblem (Bhineka Tunggal Ika : Unity in Diversity). Indonesian arts activism: universalist and nationalist universalist in its motivation and holding to the freedom of expression, nationalist in its political strategy and explicit arguments. –The consensus that we call Indonesia is based on this very fact of recognised diversity. Cultural liberty and freedom of (artistic) expression is within the nature of Indonesian nationhood.

9 Jakarta

10 Population: 8.5 million night time, 11 million nighttime. With long history of centralism in Indonesia, Jakarta attracts migrants from all over the country. For many reasons—education, carreer, city lights etc—people from all over those islands have to migrate to Jakarta to climb the social, economical, and political ladder. Does Jakarta has its own native ethnic groups? –Jakarta’s so-called natives—the Betawi’s—are hybrids of different dominant heritages (Arab Betawi’s, Javanese Betawi’s, Malay Betawi’s, some Chinese Betawi’s, and others). –Long history of ownership of large pieces of lands all over the metropolitan region. –Their arts are also hybrids of Malay, Chinese, Arab and other elements, but in ways distinguishable from other Indonesian ethnic cultures that are also mostly hybrids. –non-Chinese Betawi’s are claiming more native identity and political privileges. –Lost of lands ownership causes bitter marginalisation. –Special measures: Condet Preservation Area; also a special Betawi Cultural Council (Lembaga Kebudayaan Betawi). Other ethnic cultures are practiced mostly as internal affairs within the respective ethnic groups. The chinese have only recently (after 1998) been allowed to practice publicly their languages and written characters, arts and culture. During Soeharto’s regime (1965-1998) those had been forbidden; while they were also asked to change their chinese names into Indonesian.


12 Recent Experiment by Jakarta Arts Council 3 events of ethnic musics and performances: The Betawi, the West Sumateran (Minangkauan) and the Batak. active multiculturalism and pluralism. Collaboration with available organisations of respective ethnic groups. Each event took place in the area where most members of each group are familiar and/or are near too. The response to those events shows enthusiasm of openly celebrating ethnic cultures not as an exclusive claim or demand for privilege, but as an active pluralism to offer the best of each to all.

13 Jakarta Arts Council Established in 1968, first in South East Asia. Promotes both traditional, ethnic and contemporary arts. Launches contemporary arts that are based on remix or reconstructed ethnic arts, launches the artists to national and international levels. Its members were elected by and among artists, arts/cultural activists and intellectuals. Under Soeharto’s regime (till 1998): –It thrived as the most radical place for freedom of expression. –Renowned artists and intelectuals are banned from performing or speaking in its programmes and venues, or are imprisoned without trial after their performances or speeches. –Systematic interventions to also curb its role. Nevertheless, it remains a place of resistance, a rallying point also during the movement that ended the regime in 1998. It defends and expands pluralism and freedom of artistic expression by both organising arts events and advocating good policies, and opposing bad ones. A new chalenge: religious fundamentalism as a very real threat to freedom of expression within the context of multiculturalism and pluralism.

14 Cases: Arts Against Fundamentalism

15 Cases: Arts against Fundamentalists Bill on Pornography The bill is scheduled to be passed on Oct.14, 2008. No public debates in Parliament. Despite oppositions. The bill was is sponsored by Islamist political party Prosperous Justice Party and Indonesian Ulemas Council and proposed to the parliament in 2005. It has been used to impose certain interpretation of Islamic values into Indonesian life. The bill defines pornography as: any man-made work that includes sexual materials in the form of drawings, sketches, illustrations, photographs, texts, sounds, moving pictures, animation, cartoons, poetry, conversation, or any other form of communicative messages (article 1). It also can be shown through the media to the public; it can arouse lust and lead to the violation of normative values within society; and it can also cause the development of pornographic acts within society. A.o: It discriminates and criminalises female victims and certain ethnic cultures. Arts are implied as ”exempted pornography”. The bill failed to specify child pornography, and to differentiate among the age groups in their access to pornography. Article 9 and 11, which regulate the actors and models, criminalize the victims. Article 21 allows any groups or individuals within society to take part in preventive actions. These articles will justify hardliners in taking the law into their own hands. Artists and art/cultural activists are among the most ardent protesters of this bill on the basis of Indonesian diversity and pluralism, which imply freedom of multicultural and artistic expression. My predecessor, the former chair of Jakarta Arts Council is among the leaders in this opposition. The bill is a threat to Indonesia’s integrity and plurality. Regions with non-Moslems majority, such as Bali, North Sulawesi, and Papua have voiced planned disobedience and even secession. The struggle back home in Jakarta is gaining its momentum as we are speaking in this symposium.


17 Cases: Arts against Fundamentalists Judicial Review of the Law on Film (censorship) In 2007 young film directors, actors and activists, supported by the Jakarta Arts Council, brought the Law on Film to the Constitutional Court (which was founded only a few years after the 1998 reform movement), requesting a judicial review, especially on clauses on censorships which are done in old fashioned way by cutting scenes deemed obscene by an arbitrary council, whose members are never democratically nominated and chosen, but are only appointed by government after consultation with limited groups. The censors are mostly biased to certain interpretation of Islamic values only. Some members of the council mobilised violent Islamist organisations to intimidate the young directors and actors, within and without the court room. The court eventually decided in favour of the request, and ordered the government and parliament to draft a totally new law, not just replacing some clauses as originally requested, within three years. We are now starting to draft the new law ourselves (meaning: Jakarta Arts Council and progressive groups within civil society, especially those working in film industry) (recent new law on tax deduction and exemption excluded arts. Legal drafting is a weak point in parliament and government)


19 Cases: Arts against Fundamentalists Agus Suwage’s Pink Swing Park at CP (Visual Arts) International Biennale 2005 City/Culture. Agus Suwage’s works (paintings and installations) have been collected by museums all over the world In 2005, only a few days after the exhibition opened, his work at the Biennale was protested by a group of Islamist fundamentalists on the ground that it mocked Adam and Eve in the Eden and contained obscene photographs. The work is in the form of a room surrounded by scenic wall papers with digitally modified nude photographs, but with vital organs covered in different ways. A pink swinging becak (tricycle) in the middle of the room. It was supposed to say something about the lost of paradise in our contemporary cities. The exhibition was closed ahead of schedule. The artists and the chief curator (I was one of his three assistant curators) were reported to the police. The police eventually dropped the case. But the case has frightened many galleries, art venues and events.

20 Conclusion People in the arts have been working with several strategic methods: –allying with other civil society groups, especially the progressive ones; –mobilising public interests and opinions on Indonesian nationalism of “Unity in Diversity” –using the new state agencies (such as the new Constitutional Court) and legal framework in general; –Do-It-Youself, such as in drafting new laws; –active protests and lobbies to decision makers (in parliament as well as in governments); –creating more works on the issue of pluralism and multiculturalism as ways to sensitise the public, etc. However, arts have also been on the defensive side from time to time, to face attacks (sometimes violent) from religious fundamentalists. the future: nothing is certain yet, as Indonesian learn how to manage multiculturalism and pluralism in democratic ways. The fighting spirit of the arts side, however, is soundly and strongly grounded on both universal values and nationalism.

21 Don’t bomb my city! Conclusion:

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