Understanding that education goes beyond academia, the organisation Belantara Budaya Indonesia focuses on the continuation of Indonesian culture, providing free traditional dance and music classes across the generations.
It was started ten years ago when Diah Kusumawardani set up Belantara Budaya Indonesia (BBI). In an era of widespread technological and digital adoption, Diah was worried that fewer Indonesians would cherish and want to preserve their own culture. With this, she was motivated to find a way to spread her own love for her own country’s customs.
Thus, Diah jumped into action and opened a safe, friendly place to expose children and teenagers to traditional Indonesian dance, and music. This was the birth of BBI, a non-profit organisation centred on building up young interest in the arts.
“Initially, I wondered whether there would even be students willing to join such a school. There are so many cultural influences in this day and age, all very popular and attract younger generations, I felt this put a risk on us losing interest in our own culture. At that time, I campaigned through social media, made pamphlets, and came to community groups, and it got a good response. I then set up a free music and dance class, first at the Museum Kebangkitan Nasional [Museum of National Awakening] which aims to revive enthusiasm in national customs and traditions among the youth. There were 50 children, this was back in 2013. Now there are 6,000 students in 17 schools in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Bandung, Cirebon and East Nusa Tenggara”, explains Diah.
Currently the school remains complimentary, but all the teachers are paid a full salary. Diah shares that in the first three years a lot of this was funded by her personally; but afterwards, companies were seeing the value of her work and began to collaborate with BBI for their CSR programs, helping in its continuation.
BBI accepts people from various ages and backgrounds, currently teaching students from 3 to 70 years old, all of whom are passionate about learning not only Balinese and Javanese dances, but also dances from Papua, South Sulawesi, North Sumatra, West Sumatra and more. Those who like music can learn Javanese gamelan and angklung. These Jakarta classes are held every Saturday from 10am to 12pm at Jakarta National Museum and Museum Kebangkitan Nasional. But, Belantara Budaya Indonesia has to expand beyond the echo chamber and speak to contemporary audiences, and so have started teaching in malls as well -AEON Mall Tanjung Barat, every Friday from 3 to 5 pm and AEON Mall Jakarta Garden City, every Monday from 4 to 6 pm.
It seems the passion is growing, as the BBI students themselves organise regular annual activities, including cultural campaign ‘Tunjukkan Indonesiamu’ (Show Your Indonesia), held every August; and musical drama to celebrate Hari Kartini in April. They are also invited to perform at the Presidential Palace and at other prestigious events.
Providing opportunities for children with special needs, BBI has also opened special schools for the diffable (differently-abled) students and down syndrome students in two of its schools in Depok and Bogor.
“BBI wants to show that non-formal education is also important, apart from preserving culture, it can also hone self-confidence and stimulate economy. We don’t just provide free dance and music schools, but imagine those 6,000 students buying traditional clothes, accessories, and masks. It automatically gives a good impact for the economy from upstream to downstream. We also revive the craftsmen of said goods. We influence people to buy Indonesian arts and cultural products. For the future, we are creating a generation that has a good character, the students from BBI will be Indonesia’s next ambassadors.” said Diah.
In 2017, five years after BBI was established, Diah also created an exclusive community, Perempuan Pelestari Budaya (Women Preserving Culture).
“How can children get to know their culture if their own mother doesn’t introduce and teach them? Parents must also play a role in preserving culture. Here we have many programs, ranging from talk shows and seminars with specific topics, such as discussing the philosophy of batik and weaving to learning to wear traditional fabrics and buns, to making royal herbal medicine ceremonies. And, these women who are mostly educated and professional are potential buyers of art and traditional craft. What we emphasise from this community is that we implement a membership that has an understanding of Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) and has indeed the spirit of Pancasila.” Diah stated.
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