More than 200 students and community members came out Saturday night to celebrate and support Indonesian culture with Indonesian speakers, performances and dance. The annual event, held and organized by the Indonesian Students Association at the University of Michigan, was held in Rackham Auditorium and drew students with cultural demonstrations and a sense of community.
The ISA, also known as Persatuan Mahasiswa Indonesia di Amerika Serikat, is a national organization that serves to unite Indonesian students in the United States with chapters in almost every state.
Rosmalawati Chalid, the consulate general of Indonesia from Chicago, also came to the event, where she spoke on behalf of Indonesian people and shared with the audience facts about the identity and backgrounds that make up the diverse country.
She stated the country has more than 300 ethnic groups speaking about 700 languages and emphasized the presence of a variety of religions being practiced, a majority of which, however, are predominantly Muslim. Furthermore, she reflected on the similarities between the political climates in both the United States and Indonesia, emphasizing the importance of embracing diversity to ensure the future of these nations.
“Looking back now at history and also in current political situations in Indonesia, tolerance and respect for diversity is key if Indonesia wants to prosper,” Chalid said. “We have to work hard to nurture the culture of tolerance, the respect for diversity, the respect for differences among the population if we want to prosper as a nation.”
The culture night kicked off with a performance from glow-sticking group Photonix, traditional Indonesian dances and the Chinese YoYo team Revolution. Audience members also got to see a reenactment of the Rara Jonggrang, an Indonesian folktale that originated from Central Java in Indonesia, which aims to explain the origin of the Ratu Boko Palace, Sewu temple and the well-known Durga statue.
According to LSA senior Lindendeary Himawan, president of the University’s PERMIAS chapter, the event took much longer to plan than in years past because of their meeting with the consul general — with Saturday night taking more than a year in the making instead of the usual three or four months.
The master of ceremonies for this year’s ICN was Rackham student Handi Kurniawan. He emphasized the importance of celebrating Indonesian culture by pointing to the sheer size of the nation’s population and diversity of ethnic backgrounds that make up its national identity.
“I think Indonesia is a country on the rise,” Kurniawan said. “In terms of our significance, we are the fourth-most populated country in world after the United States and not many people know about it.”
He also spoke on the similar political climate both Indonesia and the United States are facing in terms of acting as nations who represent a diverse group of identities and ethnic groups.
“The division and hate is prevalent not only in the U.S., but also in Indonesia,” he said. “We are committed to embrace diversity because our motto is ‘Unity in Diversity.’ So it is very important that we keep promoting our culture.”
Himawan described how even though he feels the University is supportive of the organization’s efforts and mission, the Indonesian identity on campus isn’t celebrated as often as other nations.
“I feel like the University is supportive,” Himawan said. “But in terms of an Indonesian identity, one thing that might be kind of problematic is that a lot of us aren’t very … proud or patriotic of it. We sometimes feel like we are a lesser country compared to others such as Singapore or Malaysia.”
Engineering senior Austin Tsao, a member of the Chinese YoYo team, attended the event after opening the show with the club. He talked about the popularity of the art form among different Asian organizations groups and discussed the positive relations between predominantly Asian student organizations on campus.
“I think it's really cool to see cultures mixing with other cultures and promoting our craft and sharing it with other people on campus,” Tsao said.