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Cultural fair, workshops highlight Indonesia

<p>Four dancers preform for the crowd at the Indonesian Culture Fair.</p>

Four dancers preform for the crowd at the Indonesian Culture Fair.

Indonesian culture filled The Westhampton Green at 6 p.m. Sept. 21, inviting passersby to the space with traditional food, coffee, music, dance and martial arts. 

For the first time in a decade, students and community members enjoyed the open-air performance of Balinese music and dance by the gamelan Çudamani ensemble. Andrew McGraw, professor of music, met the leader of the ensemble in the 90s, and since then he visits them when he travels to Indonesia, he said.

The event was a collaboration among on-campus and off-campus organizations to highlight the diversity of the country that consists of over 17,000 islands. 

“Sometimes very small countries get a lot of attention on a college campus,” McGraw said. “This kind of ensemble and really this kind of culture is past due for recognition.”

Senior Kianti Oengky, who is Indonesian-American, said she was excited to reconnect with her roots and see an event focused solely on Indonesian culture rather than as a part of a larger event about Asia.

“I have never been to an Indonesian restaurant here before, so just being able to experience that here in Richmond was really nice,” Oengky said.

Junior Janice Budiman expressed a similar sentiment. Budiman transferred from George Mason University this semester, and said she felt the fair had made campus more welcoming.

“It’s like really hard for [people of Indonesian descent] to get the opportunity that we have right now,” Budiman said. “Who really knows about Indonesia, right? Like it’s every other Asian country but Indonesia. That's why like I feel like today was really special for me.”

University of Richmond’s Music Department, the Office of International Education and the Office of Scholars and Fellowships teamed up with the Asian American Association of Central Virginia, the community gamelan group Raga Kusuma and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to give information about different aspects of Indonesian culture. 

Indonesian Culture Fair

A student talks to a woman at a booth at the Indonesian Culture Fair.

“It’s very wonderful to be here to let people know more about Indonesia,” said Nita Putri, an embassy representative who was offering attendants Balinese and Sumatran coffee, coffee candy and jasmine tea drinks. “After the pandemic, we hope people will visit Indonesia.”

COVID-19 travel restrictions made it difficult to plan the event because the ensemble has 25 artists who had to get visas to come to the U.S., McGraw said. 

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Following Çudamani’s performance, the group taught music and dance workshops in the Westhampton Green. Attendees also participated in a martial arts workshop. 

In the music workshop, the musicians taught participants how to play metallophones, bronze gongs and drums; In the dance workshop, dancers showed participants the precise body and hand movements and face expressions; In the martial arts workshop, participants learned different stances and watched the demonstrations. 

Senior Sabrina Borneff enjoyed the dance workshop, she said. Borneff was interested in attending the cultural fair because she applied for a Fulbright fellowship to teach English in Indonesia, she said. 

In addition to the cultural fair and the workshops, Indonesian activities will take place throughout the week. Çudamani put on a sold-out performance of “Water-Tirta,” a production that celebrates the importance of water in Balinese culture, at 7:30 p.m on Sept. 22 in the Alice Jepson Theater. The Raga Kusuma will host another free music workshop at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26 in North Court.

These events will not be the last UR students see of Indonesian culture as the Raga Kusuma meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays in North Court. 

“Students should really consider all of the study abroad opportunities in Indonesia,” McGraw said. “They should consider coming by the community group anytime. One of the nicest things about it is the snacks.”

Contact multimedia and investigative editor Jackie Llanos at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu.

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