Celebrating the Global Local on the Indonesian Street
Street parades have long been prominent in Indonesian public life, marking national celebrations, displaying political and military strength, fostering citizen pride. But since the ending of the New Order regime in 1998 they have blossomed in frequency and variety, as public space has opened up to popular participation and global cultural influences flood in.
In the context of devolution of political control to the local level, celebrations of local identity take pride of place, in parades and dramatic enactments displaying the distinctive features of the particular city or town – the multicultural pluralism of Yogyakarta, Solo’s batik cloth artistry and industry, Surabaya’s brave defence of the nation in the Indonesian Revolution; the surprising contemporary fashion success of the East Javanese town of Jember. Here representations of ‘the local’ take diverse and dynamic forms, as the familiar assumes new dimensions in engagement with a global imaginary.
In Yogyakarta young people incorporate hip hop moves and rap music into their displays of jathilan horse dance and huge effigies of wayang(shadow) puppets appear alongside figures of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse paraded by cartoonist groups; Solonese batik cloth is sewn into glamorous western-style evening gowns combined with spectacular hats; the Jember Fashion Carnaval (JFC), commemorating the founding of the city, while oriented to ‘global fashion trends wrapped in Indonesian cultural heritage’, is said to rank fourth in the world after the New Orleans Mardi Gras Carnaval in Rio, and Fastnacht in Cologne.
This paper explores the meanings and functions of the local/global mix for different participants in these events – young people rejoicing in the simultaneous esteemed traditionality and funky trendiness of their local dance forms, local officials garnering political and cultural capital, tourism operators and media interests vigorously spreading publicity.
I then look at several performed expressions of alternate perspectives – a dramatic representation of the Indonesian street as a site of struggle between competing groups with global reference as added threat; site specific productions in locations far from major throughfares engaging deeply and seriously with local myths.