November 05, 2012
On a recent weekend, Jakarta's largest Chinese community was busy as it celebrated the 50th anniversary of Fat Cu Kung Bio, one of the Konghucu (Confucian) temples in West Jakarta's Chinatown, and the fifth annual Chinatown Art Festival.
The festival, which took place on October 20th and 21st, featured many non-Chinese cultural performances, including Ondel-Ondel, the traditional puppet show of Jakarta's native Betawi people, and Reog, the famous dance drama from Ponorogo, East Java.
"We invited them to join the festival because Indonesia's culture is not comprised only by the Chinese community. The country is rich with local cultures and we want to celebrate the diversity in the event," Awi, the head organiser of the festival, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
About 100 groups from all over Indonesia participated in the festival, including groups from other Chinese temples, mostly performing the barongsai (lion) and liong (dragon) dances.
It took three months to organise the event, Awi said. Local residents helped with food supplies and space, since the festival was centralised around the temple located on narrow Kemenangan Street in Glodok, Jakarta's Chinatown.
A Catholic school across from the temple, Ricci School, pitched in, lending its playground for the display of performance materials, including palanquins to carry rupang, the statues of the Confucian gods.
"Local housewives helped supply foods. Many of them are Muslims. So you can see tolerance is the key. The event is from us and for us. It belongs to us," said the local community group leader.
Awi said he believes people in Jakarta are very aware of the importance of tolerance, as evidenced by the peaceful Jakarta gubernatorial election won by former Solo Mayor Joko Widodo, and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. Basuki, nicknamed Ahok, is the first ethnic Chinese Indonesian elected as the deputy mayor.
The festival reached its highlight when participants and performers joined a march and carried statues along a 10km route around West Jakarta that started and ended at the temple.
"The march is hoped to bring good luck to everyone in the near future as Fat Cu Kung is believed to be the God of Luck to the four directions: north, east, south and west," Awi said.
Luck came for Darsono, who has been selling toys in Jakarta for the last five years. Darsono brought along dozens of liong replicas to sell. He bought the toys in Cirebon, his hometown in West Java, for the special event.
"I usually sell other toys like cars and pistols. But on special occasions like this, I sell toys related to the event. Liong represents Chinese culture. That is why I sell them. I earn more in an event like this," said Darsono who earned profit ten times higher than usual.
Awi said such festivals boost the local economy.
"People sell foods and toys during the event to visitors. Hotels are booked. That means it contributes to the city's income," he said.
That is why Awi hopes the city government will pay more attention to such events.
"They can start putting the festival in the city's annual tourism event calendar, just like they do in Singkawang of West Kalimantan," he said, referring to a city on Indonesian Borneo whose population is mostly ethnic Chinese.
By doing so, the government would also help keep the tradition alive, Awi said.
"It is our responsibility to conserve our tradition and culture to pass it to our children," he said.