Celebrating Diversity in Indonesia with the British Council

In March as part of our work to share, collaborate and raise awareness of inclusive practise throughout the world, Epic Arts and We Are Epic Director, Anthony spent four days in Jakarta, Indonesia.
 
Working with the British Council in Jakarta and over 30 Inclusive Arts organisations, Anthony delivered facilitated a series of workshops and discussions to engage and inspire collaborations between the sector leads. Here is a short blog about his adventure.

 Making Some Noise in Indonesia!

Arriving in Indonesia, I was quite prepared for the sights, smells and crazy driving. After spending 3 years living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia I’m used to the usual things associated with big Asian cities. However, I did find Jakarta took the traffic jams to a whole new level!

After weeks of planning with the team at the British Council I was clear about the aim of the next four days. I was very excited to hear from Indonesias next generation of artists and organisations about their feelings and attitudes towards inclusive arts. I was particularly interested in hearing the differences and similarities between the sector in Indonesia and what I was used to experiencing in Cambodia. From reading the recent research it seemed that there was lots of cross over, especially with regards to some of the political and religious barriers.

Day 1 – Meet the Inclusive Artists of Indonesia

What struck me more than anything during my whole trip to Jakarta was the realisation of how big Indonesia as a country actually is. I knew Indonesia was made up of different islands, but wow! Over 16000!

Bringing together the artists, leaders and arts organisations from all over the archipelago is kind of a big deal, and I felt very honoured to have been able to participate in an event that brought together this group of people for the first time.

As I listened to each of the participants introduce themselves I knew that the trip had already been worth it. It was evident that this meeting of great minds was going to have a legacy far longer than the next four days.

I was invited to the lead the workshop to talk about and celebrate diversity to a group who I could see already had a richness and understanding of diversity! Admittedly, perhaps not with regards to disability but the room was full of different faiths, cultures and languages all discussing their successes and challenges.

Our local facilitator, Masslamet explained to me about one delegate This man speaks my local language, I mean, we all mostly speak Bahanese but this guy, he speaks my local tongue.I have to admit I thought to myself, “what can I teach to these people? they already have fantastic inclusive attitudes.”

The participants did go onto explain to me that they needed to see more role models, examples of best practise and as I was able to refer them to many, I did end the day feeling pretty useful!.

Day 2 – I love it when a plan comes together!

By Day 2 we hit the tough stuff! Jakarta has a huge event approaching in October in the form of the Asian Para games. Ruth Gould from Dadafast and I were trying to act as Catalysts, encouraging and nurturing the raw enthusiasm of the participants and trying to channel their ideas into the barebones of a cultural offer that could stand alongside this huge sporting event. With many references to the UK cultural Olympiad and the impact that offer had as part of the London 2012 Olympics. What do you need in order to develop this?was the main question of the day and we were urging some of the talented leaders step forward and take on the responsibility of working with the British Council to sharpen this offer.

We decided together that it was important to Make some noise! and so a working group was formed to take ideas forward. I got a real buzz from thinking Id played a small part in putting together this crack team of doerstogether. I cannot wait to see what they put forward for October.

Day 3 – Changing Perceptions in the Mainstream 

The British Council team provided an open forum for the 

working group assembled the day previously to lobby to the media, ministers and officials of the Para Games.

Together we pitched that, the upcoming games was an opportunity to come together, to celebrate the diversity of the country. That with their help a platform could be created to demonstrate the richness and diversity of Indonesias arts sector in a way that is not tragic, patronising or second rate but that is thriving, alive, interesting, innovative and distinctly Indonesian.

Day 4 – Out and About

On my final day in Indonesia we went to visit two participants who were busy putting up artwork for their weekend exhibition. One artist, Hanna Madness was exhibiting as part of a fundraiser for a charity supporting people with learning disabilities. Hanna, who describes herself as an Arts and Disability Activist with random personality – Manic Depressive – Schizophrenic, explained to me how she was looking forward to her upcoming residency with UK Artist Vacuum Cleaner as she would use it to diversify the style of her work. A perfect example of how some of the partnerships created as part of the UK/IN season were really paying off!

My Thoughts

After spending four days in the company of some very talented and driven people, I have no doubt that the future of Inclusive/Disability Arts in Indonesia is an exciting one. I left feeling proud to have been apart of the first baby steps of a movement that I think with more exposure to international artists, increased access to role models and high quality practitioners will snowball an Inclusive Arts sector to be very proud. I do hope I can continue to support the working group and I will follow their journey to the Para Games with great interest. The natural diverse make up of island cultures could see Indonesia leading the way and teaching the other members of ASEAN a thing or two.

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