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15 March 2015

The Rainbow City - Part 2

Continue to read Shona McCarthy's reflections on turning Yogjakarta, the Rainbow City in Indonesia, into a city of festivals

Indra Kurniawan

Festival Kesenian Yogyakarta 2014

I know something of Yogyakarta now and it was uplifting to learn about a place from its cultural leaders whose passion and love for their own city is palpable. Given a place at the policy table, these are the people who could write a brand narrative for Jogja that would be authentic and real. One described the city as a house to which all return and call home. They spoke of it as a rainbow city full of newcomers and fusions of culture, a city of well-being and welcome where friendliness and time is valued over deadlines and hustle. Most of all I liked the symbolism of tea, central to life in Yogyakarta, meeting, gathering sharing over a cup of tea and the warmth and openness that comes with it.

One though kept coming back to me during my time in Jogja with both the Festival directors and the government officials. There should be a regular platform for cultural practitioners to be able to contribute ideas and creative thinking to policy creation, particularly in areas such as branding, tourism, social cohesion, education, health and wellbeing, transport infrastructure, public realm.  A forum where curators and producers could contribute as respected equals and invited for their intellect and ability to think imaginatively. A different forum from the traditional funder/funded divide.

On one hand you have this incredible resource of smart experienced creatives who passionately believe in their city and its cultural wealth and are already working tirelessly to promote the place, provide a platform for its talent and make connection to the wider world. On the other hand you have government officials grappling with issues of how to brand a city, how to improve its infrastructure, how to improve life for its citizens, how to provide the best experience for tourists and encourage them to stay…..

A place at the table, multi-disciplinary solutions to complex problems, conversation, communication…..

To sum up my all to brief first experience of Yogyakarta, friendship and welcome, the art of hospitality and conversation perfected, a refreshingly relaxed attitude to time and structure, that takes a little adjusting to for a time-strapped westerner, but is altogether more human.

I now know a little more about Indonesia generally and Jogja in particular, most definitely a City of Festivals. Having had that taste I am eager to return and next time I’ll be sure to coincide with some of those great festivals and reconnect with Neni and Seto, Aan, and Yopei, and all of the creatives who give the place such a cultural vibrancy.

I pay tribute to the British Council, an organization for whom I have great respect, the world over providing spaces for global exchange, conversation, learning and mutual understanding.