Culture Ministry Honors 24 for Preserving Indonesia’s Fading Arts
The government on Wednesday honored traditional artists, including the last living performer of a sacred Central Javanese dance, for preserving the dying cultures of their regions.
Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik recognized 24 individuals, including six “maestros” aged between 69 and 89, who had worked since their youth to keep their traditions alive.
One of them was Dariah, 83, from Banyumas, Central Java, whom the minister said was the only surviving person knowledgeable in the Lengger Lanang dance, which she performed at the awards ceremony.
“Indonesia has so many artists who have dedicated themselves to preserving and reviving their culture,” Jero said. “They do it simply because they love it.
“Therefore, it is the government’s duty to give them a reward for what they have done to the country.”
Another maestro, 75-year-old Katija, was awarded for preserving the kakula , a traditional brass percussion instrument from Central Sulawesi.
Throughout her years promoting the artifact, however, she has used a wooden version of the instrument because the metal version was expensive, according to Katija’s nephew.
“She only learned to play a homemade kakula, which is made from the wood of ketapang [or Indian almond tree],” the nephew told the minister on behalf of Katija, who does not speak Indonesian.
Prizes — a certificate and Rp 1.5 million ($175) in cash for each winner — were also handed to six famous artists, including poet Gerson Poyk and Sundanese puppeteer Asep Sunandar Sunarya.
Singer Franky Sahilatua and actress Tuti Indra Malaon were honored posthumously.
In another category, six art enthusiasts from across the archipelago were noted for their work in preserving a variety of art forms, from batik to the metal instrument Gong Sibolong.
The remaining winners were high school students who “contributed to dance and music.”
“[Their examples] show that in order to establish and preserve their own culture, they need to have strong passion and they must never be too tired to share their knowledge to young generations,” the minister said.
Jero added that no price could be put on the winners’ contributions to society.
“Even though they do not get paid as traditional artists, they have continued doing so,” he said. “Hopefully, this award can motivate the younger generation to get involved in preserving Indonesian culture because our country is rich in it.”