“The secret to success is not perfection. It’s diversity.”
– Isabelle Rossellini
The quotation from Norman Lewis I used in my introduction refers to “Indonesian values”. I have heard about these for as long, 26 years, that I’ve lived here and have yet to hear tell of, let alone read, a cohesive analysis.
For a start, no-one seems sure how many islands there are in the archipelago: the estimates range from 7,508 – 18,306 or so islands which span 5,400 kilometres (3,400 mi) eastward from Sabang in northern Sumatra to Merauke in Irian Jaya.
As for ethnic groups, this page lists 90, but not the sub-divisions. This page of demographics states with some confidence that there are “numerous ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups, some of which are related to each other“, and this one merely boldly states that “there are over 300 Ethnic groups in Indonesia.”
More than 700 living languages are spoken in Indonesia, with Indonesian as the only official one, and Javanese the most widely spoken ‘unofficial’ language.
I won’t attempt to enumerate the religious beliefs, including atheists, of the nigh on 250 million Indonesians, but to quote Norman Lewis again, would note that “difficulties arise not only from differences of language, but of minds.”
What those numbers estimated above demonstrate is that any effort to ‘govern’ through homogenisation is doomed to fail. There is no generic set of values, whatever SBY thinks. Recently, when stepping into the condoms controversy, although recognising that condoms reduce the risk of HIV infections, he tweeted the following:
“Eastern culture” … eh?
But what, some of you may be wondering, has this got to do with “Creative Economy”?
Note the homogenisation which a missing ‘s’ implies.
In October 2011, the former Minister of Trade Dr Mari Pangestu was appointed to the newly created position of Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy.
“The concept behind this new ministry is to link the goals of promoting Indonesia as an international tourism industry with that of regional development through tourism spending. As tourists enter the country with disposable income, they will be inclined to spend money on handicrafts and pieces of art as well as experiencing the local Indonesian culture through eating at restaurants and seeing performances of music, theatre and dance among many others.”
“Eating at restaurants.” Really? That, in my local vernacular, is stating the bleedin’ obvious.
In a seminar in Jakarta on December 7th, Mari said, “Indonesia includes 14 national economic aspects in its creative economic sector. China and South Korea only include four aspects.”
Memo to Mari: Less is more!
I’ve looked for the 14 “economic aspects”, but can’t find them listed, and nor can the Global Business Guide, but they suggest that the main areas are fashion, crafts, advertising, design, architecture, broadcasting, publishing, music, and software development. I can’t see them listed on the government website either, and that it is riddled with spelling mistakes doesn’t augur well for the message either.
And all these links are dead.
Furthermore, there are very few activities in their showcase which are specifically ‘Indonesian’: most are links to individual activities.
What I do like about the website is that they accept criticism. It says so here, on a page of charmingly incomprehensible English.
In his indonesiakreatif.net are still in the stage of improvement and development, which we will continue to do for the creation of ideal home jointly owned stakeholders particularly Creative Economy Indonesia. The reform will also be carried out on networking showcase, creative and social media directory Indonesia Creative. We are very open to all forms of criticism and suggestions, discussion, as well as a aims to strengthen the contribution of the predicate Indonesia as a nation of creative nation.
Still seeking information about creative economic aspects, I found this interview in which Mari expounds at length on the culinary arts, something she keeps harping on about so I assume she’s a gourmand.
“For culinary, like other creative industries, we have too many Indonesian foods. Through long discussions with many stakeholders, we have chosen 30 iconic Indonesian culinary items. (Fried rice anyone?) Hence for now, we will focus on these 30 items. We have prepared materials with standardized information and recipes that can be easily replicated and be used during Indonesian events by embassies or restaurants. These are few concrete plans that are ready for implementation and there will be more to leverage off Indonesia’s varied cuisine as a defining feature of any visitors’ experience of the country.”
Last Saturday, she visited Tanjung Karang, “a tourism village” in Central Sulawesi to launch a campaign to promote 900 (really?) tourism villages (Desa Wisata) in regions across Indonesia to persuade more foreign tourists to visit. She said Tanjung Karang village had the potential to become a popular tourist destination because “it has various culinary delights, such as grilled fish, and hand-carved handicrafts that can generate benefits for the local economy.”
Grilled fish and fried rice are generic foods here, in much the same way that fish and chips represent Britain and hot dogs represent the USA. But surely no-one goes through visa hassles in order to seek out those culinary delights.
Whatever, Minister Mari Pangestu likes to remind all and sundry that Indonesia was the first country to have a ministry which handled creative economy, a sector whose main basis was human resources that had unlimited sustainability.
My concern, as expressed to me by quite a few folk involved with tourism and the “creative economy”, is that all they get is talk, but no relevant action. I mentioned this in a post suggesting that the recent World Culture Forum was a complete nonsense.
Without a supportive infrastructure, there is little point in having a central government department promoting nasi goreng and grilled fish even if they fit within the guidelines of this logo.
Creative Indonesians are not “human resources”, commodities to be traded, but without the resources and infrastructure that one would expect from the government department charged with providing them, they may not have the “unlimited sustainability” Mari Pangestu suggests they have. And therein lies the problem. She suggests and she may listen, but doesn’t respond to initiatives from outside, from the creative Indonesians she is expected to serve. She has her sinecure while they have her insincerity and their insecurity.
Far too many folk, friends, family, acquaintances and strangers alike, have told me that they have received no help whatsoever from the ministry. A tour operator from the UK is expected to stay in a half-star hotel when his clients want 4 or 5 star service; the hotel just happened to be owned by the bureaucrat organising the local hotel inspections.
Global Indonesian Voices says bluntly: “Despite of its potential to be successful globally, the Indonesian music industry seems to receive little support from the government.” Furthermore, as Florine Limasnax points out, “there is no appreciation whatsoever about copyright,” and this does not serve the interests of the musicians she manages.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend, a former A & R manager with a major international music company now resident in Indonesia, sent an email to Mari about his hope of staging a music business conference. She replied, saying that she would appoint someone to talk to him. He hasn’t heard anything since.
MoonJune Records proprietor Leonardo Pavkovic in New York has single-handedly given international exposure to Indonesian jazz-rock musicians such as Dewa Budjana, Tohpati and Ligro. Reza Ryan told me that it took them two years to produce Chapter One, by Yogya group ‘I know You Well Miss Clara‘, which was released on MoonJune this year, and they funded the recording costs themselves.
Perhaps Monoponik said it best in this satirical artwork submitted to the Ministry’s ‘showpiece’ page.
Footnote:The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) recently released their 2012 ‘Integrity Survey’. The Tourism & Creative Economy Ministry ranked the lowest of the 20 central government institutions. KPK research and development director Roni Dwi Susanto said the results showed that the ministry remained a hotbed for bribery attempts, especially in its advertising and entertainment sector.