A hint of Indonesia among Dutch students: Javanese dancing and the Sora Sirulo

By Naomi Ploos van Amstel (Leiden)


It was at the seventh of April that Studentenvereniging Ontwikkelingssamenwerking Leiden (SOL) organized a Country Focus in the theme of Indonesia! SOL is a student association for development cooperation in Leiden, Holland. Its aim is to make students aware of global (social) issues and developments, to engage them, and to show them ways in which they can contribute with their own unique study background. This is by organizing lectures from NGOs, visits to organizations and embassies, movie nights, and, in this case, a country focus.

The country focus is meant to provide an overview of a country’s context and culture, because every situation brings other challenges and approaches in terms of development cooperation. This time the focus was on Indonesia: a very diverse country where many developments take place at this very moment. That is why the evening existed of several components:

It all started in one of the university buildings in the city center, where a group gathered of seven interested students of different study backgrounds and countries: all curious about what the evening would bring. First there was a Javanese dance workshop, given by dr. Clara Brakel and her dance group Kuwung-Kuwung. She and her group explained and showed some basic movements of a Javanese court dance, and soon the students were standing in a colorful outfit, trying their best to copy the dance they had just seen and which seemed to be so easy at first sight. It wasn’t. However, they didn’t give up and they witnessed some other dances which even got more difficult, graceful and distinguished, including one from India.

By the time the workshop was finished, it was time for the second part of the evening (and certainly not the least important): food! Since food is such a culturally diverse happening, it is a means by which cultures can be easily shared. Therefore, several Indonesian dishes had been prepared by the committee, such as gado gado, rice, tempeh, cassava crisps, and spekkoek.  For many of the visitors these were totally new flavors, which all of them very much enjoyed. The cultural exchange had begun!

Still finishing the last bites of the dinner, the final part of the evening had been started: Juara R. Ginting came to tell the students about the Sora Sirulo and its value to the Karo people. After explaining a bit of the historical background of the Karo, he elaborated more on the moment the Sora Sirulo was founded, and the impact this had – and still has – on the Karo identity. This example perfectly showed the current possibilities of the media, functioning as a means to empower people all over the world…

After some last questions, the evening finally had come to an end.  Satisfied and inspired, everyone headed on towards their homes. And even though it was just a hint of the Indonesian diversity, the evening certainly contributed to the participant’s understanding of this colorful country!

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