(dan apa yang kita ambil dari suatu tempat)
Don’t Forget To Bring Back Souvenirs
(and thoughts on what we take from a place)
Jangan Lupa Bawa Oleh-Oleh Ya takes its starting point from ‘oleh-oleh’ (the Indonesian word for ‘souvenirs’) and muses on what it is we take and understand from another place – as a tourist, an artist, a researcher, a colonial power. Alongside personal souvenir stories of the artist and friends in Indonesia and abroad, this exhibition includes a playful assemblage of familiar and not-so-familiar oleh-oleh from Yogyakarta, and new research on the archipelago’s colonial past.
Alfira O’Sullivan / Aria Pradifta / Arjuni Prasetyorini / Bianca Gannon / Bridie Gillman / Chandra Nilasari / Eko Bambang Wisnu / Eleonora / Forrest Wong / Ida Lawrence / Johannes Tapalan / Kate O’Boyle /Maryanne Tucker / Meitika Lantiva / Meliantha Muliawan / Miftahush Shalihah / Munif Rafi Zuhdi / Natasha Gabriella Tontey / Okui Lala / Rizal Eka P / Tanya Vavilova / Yosep Arizal / Zico Albaiquni
Read the texts (pdf)
When I visit my family in my dad’s kampung near Solo, they often send me back to Jogja with a cardboard box full of souvenirs, oleh-oleh, secured with plastic raffia – fruit, peyet kacang and cumi-cumi (homemade savoury snacks), cakes, salted duck eggs (laid by my uncle’s ducks, salted by my uncle’s wife). I myself feel very insecure about choosing oleh-oleh to take to my grandmother’s, uncles’, aunties’ and cousins’ houses – what can I possibly bring that will communicate how much I love and respect them? Sometimes I don’t bring anything, because the fear of failure is too overwhelming.
Things I’ve brought in the past:
- souvenir cakes from Jogja and Bali
- biscuits, sugar and tea bags
- coins from Australia
- textas, coloured pencils, drawing books and picture books for my young cousins, nieces and nephews
- a dark-coloured ‘batik’-print sarong from Beringharjo Market in Jogja for my grandmother as suggested by my father (even though my grandmother lives in a village famous for its batik and she herself makes batik tulis for a living, the most expensive and detailed kind of handmade batik)
- fruit (my relatives probably have the same trees in their yards)
- calendars from Australia (that don’t have any of the Indonesian public holidays, and usually start the week on a Monday – unusual for Indonesia – so are therefore somewhat useless, apart from the twelve pictures of native Australian wildflowers)
- handmade things from the craft shop in my Australian grandmother’s town (that are totally impractical in an Indonesian climate – think woollen crocheted baby booties)
- pencils, pens, tea towels, shirts, stickers, key rings and toys with the word ‘Australia’ written on it (but made in China).
At different times throughout history, the islands that make up present day Indonesia have been colonised and used as trading posts by many nations — including Portuguese, Dutch, British, Spanish, French, Japanese and Australians [in some areas of Bali (late twentieth-century to the present day)]. New research however reveals the region’s colonised past extends much further back in time — to that of colonisation by various ancient Greek empires and city-states, from circa 450 BC until well into the first millennia AD. Evidence of this can be found in the ruins and restored remains of Greek temples — appropriated into Dutch colonial administration centres or, more recently, into shops, museums, medical clinics, homes, hotels and beauty salons.
These Doric, Ironic and Corinthian designs — in cities and villages across the archipelago — were fashioned by the ancient Greeks in memory of their Parthenon, Temple of Zeus and Erechtheion.
Indonesians who reside in such restored buildings must endure the malicious legacy left by these ancient oppressors: a leaky roof when it rains, mould on the walls of the bathroom, and an abhorrent electricity bill due to the need to air condition the entire building.
Interestingly, while many of these buildings stand out like a sore thumb in the urban and rural landscapes of contemporary Indonesia, the story of ancient Greek-Indonesian interactions has only come to the attention of archaeologists, linguists and anthropologists in recent months.
Linguistic evidence also supports this theory of ancient interactions between Hellene colonisers and the people of present day Indonesia. As this short list illustrates, the traces of undeniable cross-cultural influence and exchange remain in the modern language usage of each of the two nations. [Refer to table in above image]
It is therefore not surprising to find that certain rituals, artefacts, cuisines and cultural practices in Indonesian cultures can be found still in modern day Greece, including such notable examples as:
- very large attendance at wedding ceremonies
- steel variations of the angklung, the bamboo musical instrument originating from West Java
- sambal petai (stink bean chilli sambal) which is eaten in the northern parts of Greece, close to the Bulgarian border, especially on Kamis Pahing (every fifth Thursday, according to the Javanese calendar)
- batik, using motifs derived from a combination of classical Greek geometries and the Cirebon mega mendung (cloud) motif
- dangdut koplo.
Since the release of this new research, the historical political decision to acknowledge only five religions within Indonesia — Islam, Hinduism, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism and Buddhism — is now interpreted by some as a deliberate attempt to stamp out the lingering spiritual practices of Greek pantheism which, as recently as in the mid-twentieth century, were most widely practised within Indonesia in West and Central Java and the northern coastal towns of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Sumba and Sumbawa.
Created during a one month Artist in Residence at Redbase Foundation, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
English to Indonesian translation: Yosep Arizal
Wall text layout: Anjali Nayenggita