Katia Chaterji and her Community Engagement Project with Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Padangpanjang

Photo 7The organizing committee of Semester 7 Karawitan students, Dr. Ediwar, and Katia Chaterji

In early December, students and teachers from across five campuses in Sumatra took a break from their exams to gather in Padangpanjang, known locally as Kota Hujan and Kota Serambi Mekah, on the campus of Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Padangpanjang. Here, approximately 180 students from ISI Padangpanjang, ISBI Aceh, Universitas Andalas, IAIN Bukittinggi, and Universitas Negeri Padang met as part of a 1-day seminar, Locating the Spirit of Melayu in the Contemporary Moment, to hear about and discuss the role of Melayu identity in their current art practices and in the future of their field. Besides students, others in attendance included campus lecturers, staff, and employees of Dinas Pariwisata Sumatra Barat.

This seminar, held on 3 December 2019, was a joint collaboration between AMINEF, the Karawitan Department at ISI Padangpanjang, and 40 undergraduate students in their seventh semester enrolled in a Seminar Planning course required for their major.

Photo 1Students, instructors, and staff begin to file into the conference room in the Rektorat building at ISI Padangpanjang at the start of the seminar

This seminar addressed two themes that are pertinent to students today. Firstly, this seminar aimed to interrogate the meaning of Melayu identities as reflected in the visual and performing arts. This theme is particularly important at ISI Padangpanjang, where the institutional mission has recently shifted to promote Melayu Nusantara by the year 2030 (Mewujudkan Seniman dan Ilmuan Seni Budaya Melayu Nusantara Tahun 2030).

ISI Padangpanjang is the only ISI site to offer an extensive Melayu arts program, and as such, its students, alumni, and instructors are at the head of defining how Melayu-ness may enter their work and in what ways. Our second theme involved professionalization and career development. Many students on campus have expressed anxiety over career trajectories in the arts and arts management in an increasingly digitizing world. In gathering with peers from different departments and different campuses, students had the opportunity to vocalize these concerns in an open environment and seek advice from others. This seminar also had built-in professionalization building for the Seminar Planning students, as the students themselves were tasked with organizing and actualizing our vision for this one-day event (with instructor guidance).

Photo 8Keynote speakers and opening speakers from Karawitan. From L-R: Rika Wirandi (ISBI Aceh), Dr. Sulaiman Juned (ISI-PP), Emridawati (ISI-PP), Dr. Silvia Hanani (IAIN Bukittinggi), Ediwar (ISI-PP), Halim (Ketua Jurusan Karawitan ISI-PP), Muhammad (Sekretaris Jurusan Karawitan ISIPP), Katia Chaterji (University of Washington, AMINEF)

The seminar opened with a morning session with five keynote presentations by Ediwar, PhD (ISI Padangpanjang), Dr. Silvia Hanani (IAIN Bukittinggi), Katia Chaterji (University of Washington, AMINEF), Rika Wirandi, M.Sn (ISBI Aceh), and Emridawati (ISI Padangpanjang), and was moderated by Dr. Sulaiman Juned (ISI Padangpanjang). Their presentations ranged from federal and provincial laws regulating cultural heritage and art preservation to Melayu music programming in local elementary schools; from historical trajectories of Melayu as a cultural identity to traditional Acehnese music and its preservation.

Photo 2Grup Rapa’i Daboh Bungong Jempa Ban Timoe from ISBI Aceh perform traditional Acehnese rapa’i for their peers

Seven students from ISBI Aceh opened the afternoon session with an exciting performance of rapa’i, Acehnese drumming, and singing tradition, by Grup Rapa’i Daboh Bungong Jempa Ban Timoe. In this performance, the lead singer improvised lyrics to address their new friends from West Sumatra. The afternoon session divided the participants into smaller groups, each led by one of the previous keynote speakers. In these breakout groups, the keynote speakers facilitated an in-depth discussion to hear from the students directly about their reaction to the topics discussed earlier and their own creative thinking about what their role as arts practitioners and managers may look like in the future. In these breakout sessions, students brought up topics like post-graduation career possibilities, how to engage a wider audience for traditional Melayu arts, and the role of technology in the arts and preservation world.

Photo 5Students discussing the main themes of the day’s seminar in small groups

Photo 4A breakout discussion group led by Rika Wirandi, M.Sn (ISBI Aceh)

Photo 10Small discussion group led by Emridawati (ISI-PP)

Photo 9A breakout discussion group led by Katia Chaterji (University of Washington, AMINEF)

Photo 6A student from ISBI Aceh summarizes her group’s discussion at the seminar’s closing ceremony

Photo 3After a morning of presentations, students broke out into discussion groups to discuss the main themes of the day’s seminar

While only lasting one day, this seminar was met with a lot of enthusiasm on the ISI Padangpanjang campus. Dr. Ediwar, Karawitan instructor and director of this seminar, reflected that all participants were invested in discussing the importance of preserving Melayu culture in the face of a globalizing world. He explained, “The preservation of Melayu culture must be designed in such a way as to be able to survive and thrive in a constantly changing society.”

With an open channel to current students, this seminar successfully provided a space to hear pressing concerns and potential resolutions from the next generation of arts practitioners. The seminar was hopeful and collaborative, and we believe that the discussions started at this seminar will continue to fuel future research projects and seminars both on and off-campus!

Many thanks go to AMINEF for making this event a reality, and to the Karawitan Department at ISI Padangpanjang for supporting the efforts of their semester seven students as they envisioned and actualized this seminar.

Katia Chaterji conducted research titled “The Transmission of Islam to Maritime Southeast Asia: Performance and Identity in Sumatra” as a 2018 Fulbright US Student Researcher.

Last Updated: Jan 10, 2020 @ 11:06 am

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