Sun, 03 Sep 2000

Give traditional culture ample space: Sultan

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia should make space for both traditional and modern cultures to prevent it losing humanitarian values, Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X said on Saturday.

"Providing ample space for cultural activities is important to keep the people smooth and compassionate. Without cultural activities, a violent society will emerge," he told attendees at the opening ceremony of the two-day Yogyakarta's Arts and Culture Festival here.

"It's also important to keep hold of our old cultures and traditions. Because nations and people who don't have traditions of their own are lost nations and their people doesn't posses souls," he said in a prepared speech.

Organized by native Yogyakartans living in Greater Jakarta, the festival, being held at the Indonesian Manpower Foundation (YTKI) Building on Jl. Gatot Subroto in South Jakarta, was designed to commemorate the 253rd anniversary of the Yogyakarta palace.

The governor, who is also the sultan of the Yogyakarta kingdom, also said he disagreed with the gap between royal and popular cultures.

"Royal cultures can be transferred to the people and popular cultures can be adopted by the palace. There are interactions between both cultures which can then synthesize into a new form of culture," he said.

"It's also untrue that the palace is the center of cultural activities. The difference is not in the hierarchy but rather in the performances," added the sultan.

Also present at the opening ceremony was Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso and the head of the Jakarta-based diplomatic corps, Palestinian Ambassador Ribhi Y. Awad.

In his speech, Sutiyoso said he appreciated art festivals like this one and hoped other provinces would soon send cultural teams to promote their local cultures.

"We have diverse arts and cultures from our provinces. They can stage their arts and cultures here for promotion. I hope this festival will attract other provinces to organize similar festivals of their own," he said.

"The cities (Jakarta and Yogyakarta) have had a relationship since the 17th century when Sultan Agung, Mataram's first king, invaded Batavia to get rid of the Dutch.

The relationship became stronger when the capital moved to Yogyakarta from 1945 to 1949, he added.

Sutiyoso pointed to several places in Jakarta related to the Javanese kingdom, such as Matraman and Kampung Jawa in East Jakarta.

The ceremony was highlighted by a parade of palace soldiers, grebeg maulud processions and artisans from the four regencies and one mayoralty that comprise Yogyakarta.

Bantul regency performed a Reog dance followed by Gunungkidul with a Campursari dance. Kulonprogo regency then treated attendees with a Jatilan performance, with an Angguk dance from Sleman regency close behind. Yogyakarta mayoralty topped things off with a Bancak Doyok humorous dance.

After the opening ceremony, both governors then visited the exhibition stands featuring a wide range of Yogyakarta handicrafts, such as batik, pewter and leather goods, shadow puppets, blangkon caps, and Yogyakartan culinary treats.

Visitors were interested to see a stand displaying hand-made guitars painted with batik motifs.

"We don't mass produce these batik guitars. Most of them are custom made and sell for export at between US$1,500 to US$2,000 each," Haryo Sasongko from the stand told The Jakarta Post.

"The Jimmy Hendrix museum in Seattle, Washington, has one of our guitars," he boasted.

"We also sell cheaper guitars for Rp 1.5 to Rp 2 million ($180 to $245) for youngsters," he added.

The event also features a Yogyakartan blangkon master, Wagimin Darmo Wiyono, who is exhibiting his talents in making the cap.

"I usually sell the caps for Rp 50,000 to Rp 90,000. The price depends on the cloth and the quality of the work," he told the Post.

Unfortunately, the venue for the exhibition is not large enough to accommodate all the exhibitors and visitors, giving it a crowded and hectic vibe.

An all-night long wayang kulit performance, a fashion show presenting a century of Yogyakarta court dresses from Hamengkubuwono VII (1877-1921) to the present and a royal wedding ceremony are also scheduled. (nvn)