By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Most people have heard about the first-class, resort island of Bali. Few know it’s just one of the 17,508 islands that make up the country of Indonesia. Equally less known is this Southeast Asian nation’s location on a globe — between Malaysia to the north and Australia to the south, and its population of over 250 million people, the fourth most populous in the world.
The Indonesian Student Association at the University of Washington (ISAUW) and Indonesian college students from around western Washington hope to raise the general public’s awareness of not only their country, but also the rich craftsmanship and arts of their culture.
Billed as “the second largest Indonesian festival in the nation,” ISAUW’s “Keraton: Indonesian Festival” took place under gray skies at the UW’s HUB Lawn on May 28.
It began in 2013 with just 800 people in attendance. Approximately 3,000 attended last year and this year, initial estimates put attendance at around 8,000.
“When they come here, we just want to make sure they go back with something they will remember,” said ISAUW President Alisson Hartono, a UW senior majoring in early childhood education.
The theme of ISAUW’s fourth annual festival: taking a look back at Indonesia’s history.
UW junior Levana Tirtaguna, ISAUW’s head of marketing and communications, said, “We’re trying to make this event really traditional and going back to our roots.”
Majoring in finance, she’s been a member of ISAUW for three years.
Born in the capital city of Jakarta, Tirtaguna said about other Indonesian
immigrants like her, “I really hope that this event will make them remember their culture, not only to relieve their craving for Indonesian food, but also to socialize with more Indonesians, enjoy the performances, and appreciate the culture.”
Free admission and free on-campus parking were offered for the six-hour-long event, as well as many traditional Indonesian dishes.
YouTube star Jason Chen was this year’s featured performer. Tirtaguna said, “He has a really good voice.”
Dance performers included students from Green River Community College and UW associate music professor Christina Sunardi, who performed a traditional dance called Tari Gunung Sari.
Permias Bellingham, an Indonesian student organization from Whatcom Community College, traveled 90 miles south to the festival to perform a traditional dance called Tari Saman.
“We want to have everyone together because we feel that togetherness is very important for us,” Hartono said. “They were also interested in collaborating with us because of the culture itself.”
In addition to Green River Community College, Indonesian community college students from North Seattle, Shoreline, and Edmonds volunteered as ushers, photographers, and vendor workers at the event.
Hartono said, “They are very, very, very important to us. Because without the volunteers, I wouldn’t say any of the (12) vendors can actually sell their food.”
Regina Rachel Poniman, one of the festival’s volunteers, enrolled at Shoreline Community College in the fall of 2015 and studies psychology there.
“I have a passion to interact with people, getting to know more people. Just by a simple hello, I want to do that,” she cited as the reason for volunteering at her first Keraton.
She says many Indonesian immigrants are not that aware of their own culture. “So, I think this is a very good event for not only us to gain awareness about it, but for other people, the Americans and the students here.”
“I think it’s very important to know more about Indonesia than just Bali and batik (the art of decorating cloth using different colors of dye and wax).”
For more information about Keraton: Indonesian Festival, go to isauw.org/Keraton2016.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.