Colorful BatikThere are about 17,508 islands comprising Indonesia, which is home to 238 million people. The country is scientifically known to have started its beginnings as a people around 1.5 million years ago. Indonesia’s rich culture is a product of its interactions and trade with western and eastern nations. Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, and Malay greatly influenced the culture of modern Indonesia.

Indonesia’s national motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which means “Unity in Diversity.” It is a concept that identifies the nation. A shared identity was developed. Where religious pluralism is encouraged, ethnic diversity is well-entrenched and one national language binds its people. Throughout the country, there are three basic guiding principles: gotong royong or mutual assistance leads to musyawarah or consultations, which enables one to arrive at mufakat or a consensus. The Adat law, which still governs the rites of passage and social life of Indonesians, is also instrumental in providing equal rights to women in the country.

LANGUAGE AND RELIGION

Indonesia has more than 700 living languages. But the whole country is united by one single, official language – Bahasa Indonesia. On the other hand, Javanese is spoken by the majority of Indonesians as their mother tongue, although it does not have an official status. The country tolerates religious pluralism. Islam is practiced by 86% of Indonesians, although the country also recognizes Confucianism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

LITERATURE AND MUSIC

Ethnic Malays are fond of interactive, impromptu verbal poetry compositions known as “pantun.” Traditional music in Bali and East and Central Java is called “gamelan.” Popular during political campaigns is “dangdut.” “Keroncong” is Portuguese-inspired music while West Timor has its “sasando.” Bamboo instruments are used in West Java to produce “angklung” and “degung” music.

DANCE AND DRAMA

Most of the dances in Indonesia are based on mythology, with traditional dances usually depicting scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana, which are of Indian origin. Traditional dances from Java and Bali include “legong,” “kecak” or the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the “barong” and the trance dance called “kuda kepang” or “jatilan.

”Indonesia is famous for its shadow puppet theatre called “wayang kulit” that also showcases events culled from mythology. The folk theater of West Sumatra’s Minangkabau tribe performs the Randai during festivals and ceremonies. This form of wayang kulit incorporates many art forms, including silat martial art, drama, dance, singing and music. While wayang kulit showcases leather puppets, “wayang golek” uses wooden puppets, although the stories and legends they depict are the same.

BATIK

Indonesia is very well known for its batik cloth, which uses a manual wax-resist dyeing technique to create beautiful designs. The melted wax is either stamped onto the cloth with a copper stamp or hand-drawn with a hot wax pencil. Thailand and Malaysia also produce batik cloth but the color combinations and designs from Indonesia are quite unique and spectacular. Hand-woven cloths with silver and gold threads as well as intricately-designed cottons and silks are produced in Bali and other provinces.

 

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