70th anniversary of Indonesian independence a weeklong celebration in Philly

    On a beautiful summer evening on Monday, red and white, the colors of the Indonesian flag dominated the courtyard of Philadelphia City Hall. Red represents courage; white epitomizes purity. A diverse crowd of around 400 people of all ages, including hundreds of Indonesians from all over the city, gathered to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indonesian independence, kicking off a week of festivities.

    The event opened with “The Star Spangled Banner” and the Indonesian anthem “Indonesia Raya.” After the flag ceremony, performed by the Indonesian Student Association in Philadelphia, festivalgoers were also able to enjoy Rejang, a Balinese welcoming dance; Yapong, a cheerful West Java dance; a fashion show of traditional costumes; a dangdut dance competition; and Poco-Poco, the traditional Indonesian line dance.

    On Aug. 17, 1945, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands. The declaration met opposition from the Dutch rulers, followed by four years of unrest and diplomatic meetings. Finally, in 1949, the Dutch officially recognized the Indonesian independence, but it was not until 2005 that Dutch accepted Aug. 17, 1945, as the official date.

    Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, is 86 percent Muslim — and the largest Islamic country, though it is a secular state. Indonesians are separated by seas and clustered on islands. The largest cluster is on Java, with some 130 million inhabitants (60 percent of the country’s population) on an island the size of New York State. Sumatra, much larger than Java, has less than one-third of the nation’s population. Ethnically, the country is highly diverse, with over 580 languages and dialects — but only 13 have more than one million speakers.

    The present-day culture of Indonesia is an outcome of the interplay of old-age traditions from the time of early migrants and the Western thinking brought by Portuguese traders and Dutch colonists. The famous dance dramas of Java and Bali are derived from Hindu mythology and often feature fragments from the Hindu epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.

    That diverse cultural experience is reflected in the 2nd Indonesian Week, organized by the Indonesian Diaspora Network of Greater Philadelphia and supported by the mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs. All week long there have been many exciting events from South Philly to Center City. The Indonesian flag-raising at Philadelphia City Hall last year was the first time ever that an Indonesian flag was raised at a city hall in the United States. Last year Indonesian Week was attended by more than 3,000 people.

    On behalf of Mayor Nutter, Deputy Executive Director Fernando Trevino welcomed the Indonesian community to City Hall. He stressed that, from its inception, Philadelphia has been a welcoming place to people from many walks of life, including Indonesian immigrants.

    Ghafur Darmasaputra, the Indonesian consul general in New York officially opened the event and praised the City of Philadelphia for its effort to strengthen its multicultural affairs and for its strong support to the Indonesian community. “Diversity makes the U.S. a strong country and Philadelphia a strong city,” he said.

    On Friday, Aug. 14, a music and dance event, “Sepanjang Jalan Kenangan,” will take place at Love Park from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. And on Saturday, Aug. 15, Bethany Miracle Center, 1709 S Broad St., will host a food festival, bazaar, and free health check-up from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Indah Nuritasari is a NewsWorks contributor the chief editor of Indonesian Lantern, the voice of Indonesian community in America. She can be reached at nuritasari@yahoo.com.

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