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It. Ages us via the president. This is a series of interviews with experts on AIDS in the players designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series of the noted author and award winning broadcaster Ligue Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. The part of Asia we are talking about on this program is Indonesia in Asia before 1945 when it was proclaimed as an independent nation and Indonesia. Before that was known as The Netherlands eat indeed and belonged to Netherlands because in Indonesia today is a country of almost a hundred million in population. It's the fifth most populous nation on earth. It has an area of about 600000 square miles and it's more than 10000 miles away from New York City. It's a
country which is growing in its nationalism all sorts of political events have taken place and I think we're fortunate in order to know more about Indonesia don't have a dog guest on this program. Mrs. Clay I hope because Mrs. Holt has been studying Indonesia since 1930. She is recognized as one of the foremost experts on Indonesian culture and art. She's the author of a book called Art in Indonesia. Continuity and change. I very much recommend it to you not only for the beauty of it topography and the splendor of the illustrations but the wealthy authority of its text. Mrs. Holt is a research associate at the days of the Southeast Asia program at Cornell University. Now Mrs. Holt that must be seen like a tame life compared to your life in Indonesia. You first went to Indonesia I believe in 1930 as part of an around the world print. That's correct but you stayed more or less for 80 years what held you there.
Well obviously there were fresh look came from New York City at the time in journalism working for the old might regret the New York World. It was a revelation to life. So badly as the Balinese temple the rituals and the dances and gradually also to become acquainted with the incredibly deep and subtle culture of Java especially also the classical dance forms which held me first I think we might point out that Indonesia is composed I've read of about 3000 islands that you say you've never done of them but among them the best known to us and Bonnie Sumatra and but all these put together are now considered one nation. Indeed so personally I visit the travel a great deal in practically all of Java and in Bali also in so moch
and I had a chance to visit a few small spots in now known as Kalimantan and made also an exploration craft in the south of the island now known as. So love this sea which formally was so late. That's a bit before we get to the next question I don't want to ask you about the comfort or the discomfort of living there because Indonesia is near the equator and has a monsoon equitorial climate which is not too comfortable is it. Right you are right there on their equator and a large beautiful island. And as far as comfort and discomfort they are very acute. Probably problem for tourists did not bother me because you are to learn and everything is very exciting
and there is so much natural beauty that all the landscapes in the world relate to being compared with what you see in these tropical islands at this difficult to find equally beautiful path. Yes I've read that there are no more beautiful islands in the world perhaps some of the Polynesian islands like he might compare but I'm not sure I've been to those but but not to Indonesia misses home but this is when it is a huge task to try to compose one's thoughts about the arts in the culture of Indonesia. And since you've been studying this since 1938 How did you arrive at the invasions which your book presents. Your book is divided into three parts one is called the heritage the next the living traditions and modern art. You felt that was the best way to tackle the subject. Indeed indeed. Their heritage is the
glorious class when the kings of Java used to build magnificent monuments. Sacred Sites monasteries Hermitage is the monuments to the deceased kings. It is like the antiquity which is important and glorious but it has no relation anymore to contemporary life. That is the heritage of the past which figuratively speaking is the great museum of the past. Then they're out of the living traditions. Those traditions are a continuation in content particularly. But taking on different forms are they hard to show which included among other things the great the great epics from India that are Miandad them I have bought out that all of which live on
to the present day in the performing arts. There is also traditional music a wealth of inherit traditional art forms. They continue to the present day and great overlap and co-exist side by side with an entirely new development which is quite new post-war which is the birth and development of what I call modern. And the fact that Indonesia all these islands we now call Indonesia have been subjected to various conquerors various religions give it I think a form of such diversity that I am awful that you who are able to make these divisions probably if you arrived at them with great difficulty but nowi you clarified the situation very well with this. Yes but I must immediately warn everybody that at the center of all studies about in the inevitably
stands the island it is the most populous. In fact perhaps the most populous part on point of view of density of population. And also if there's riches and documentation of the past the richest in its cultural life compare with many of the other Iowans jabber as you have pointed out and Vali out of best on Sumatra is next best known partly because of its natural resources. And even in my book in Avatar bully Java and Bali and then a bit of crud remain in the center of attention to cover in detail all the islands and all the regional cock ups. There are over two hundred forty languages and dialects in Indonesia. And the styles in the ox may be just as diverse as the languages is an impossible task.
In the final of the three of the world's major religions have had a foothold in Indonesia blues influences they are tremendously at the great majority of people there. Muslims are they not. Yes they are Muslim and of course much has been written about that and the depth of Islam in Indonesia and the differences between their Near Eastern Islamic countries and the variety of religious live Islamic lives which has emerged in Indonesia in Indonesia. Everything is changed. When India had exercised its cultural influence and the art of India that's India. That's the Indonesian everything was transformed. Similarly Islam through what I am sure that even today very whatever Western influence will impress upon the world will eventually
take on very different colors and different mood and different tone of voice. That's what the Chinese say very often don't they about their own culture that no matter what influences whatever visit China China would prevail. But you had a Hindu ism and Buddhism Mohammedanism right here in Indonesia and that's how to profound effect upon the arts. I guess both creative and performing. What I wanted next Mrs. Hope was this since you next returned to Indonesia in 1955. That is 17 years had elapsed. You saw very different things because there was the Japanese occupation from 42 to 45 the proclamation of independence in 45. But the real independence that is national international recognition didn't come until 1950. You must have seen a different group of islands a different Indonesia. Well I have certainly seen a tremendous change when I landed in the Navy and you're caught there.
Seventeen years later with all of these important events intervening I came to a new Indonesia quite obviously and I must say that the first thing that struck me enormously just the sending from the airplane and looking at people's faces the kind of open active participating and their direct expression that I found immediately among the officials of the airlines who deceived us was something un heard of and unseen in the years before independence had been achieved. There was a confidence in the people but obviously citizens are no longer subject. And at that moment the very first few hours after landing in 1955 I realized. That the word pretty dumb is not the math that is really makes a difference.
I don't know how to Kano when he was present at the time but you you had a certain number of meetings with him. Yes I met the then president Sukarno several times. It was exceedingly helpful and generous. But because I believe since he is a great lover and has huge collections of paintings all of which he placed at my disposal for photography and study what were your impressions of him. If you perform them on you know in such a short time. Well it was quite obvious that he was a man very conscious of his role and destiny with history and the verdict of history probably constantly being kept in mind. He was also. Quite apart from being a statesman very conscious of being male of the women when he had dealings with
them. He made you feel very much at ease and obviously very much enjoyed the opportunity to show his generosity and for less than what I was doing that was in 55 courses everybody knows by now it was what 1965 65 that he was deposed. He still lives in Indonesia. I understand he's not wrong. It's not exactly on the house arrest but he has no power. Well he's more or less tolerated. The reason for that we can't go into on this program. But at the time did you see in him any fears this might happen or was he as I've heard quite arrogant without any doubt about his behavior. I wouldn't use the word ad again. Let's say confident that I've heard the word arrogant however applied to him. Well that's somebody else's opinion. Yes your opinion was one that there was a
confidence and. Certainly a conch shells and those are power and disguise. Now if you haven't been in the media since 1955 I left in the Navy in 1957 and 57. You maintained strong contacts with Indonesia have you gone on to other studies. No I'm still in the field. It's Indonesia wouldn't let go. Or perhaps you were I'm still in job a news woman and in a previous reincarnation that's possible I don't know. But but you are about very much at home I must tell you when I first came here. Yes sometimes that happens. I get maybe only in one country in our lifetime. Aside from the one in which we have on PBS and recognition that is very true it's quite a mystery as a planet. May I ask if you have such an attractive accent I believe you were born in Latvia.
Yes. Now to return however do Indonesia. There are well there are many things that one could say about the arts they are now. And that is your special field. Would you say that the arts seem to be practiced in a different way from how they were when you were there in the 30s I mean has the dance changed much acting changed much painting. Well there is a hole out. I mean a progresses beginning with that evolution. A tremendous search for the new status in all the odds but really active. The painters and they have the proper address because they not only from the traditional in the nation they have also departed from the first effects of Western influence which was expressed mainly. In the rather it Billick landscape painting
now the a bit like landscapes the beautiful indomie the MT fields and the sea. And beautiful scenes of women and market places. That was all very sweet and it Billick and was sold to produce quite successfully. But the artist with a capital who developed them after the revolution they were searching for it and paddle a new wave of expression and very striking of course is the emergence of the individual the individual actors known by a name and having his name relative I had that very famous or respect that and even that my. At any rate the artist nowadays has a recognized place in society of which he did not have before because everybody was model less than actors and a crap Saman. And also the unprecedented.
Challenge she sobbed to the subject of pain from the Billick landscape of the 20s. We turn to the revolutionary scene. We turn to the individual who is being a pain that in a poor crook that our great mentors Sound Portraits. And this concentration on the individual seems to assert I am as an individual and next to it the very opposite. You feel another question which relates not only to the individual but the whole nation which is who I am. But it is a political nationalism an idiology creeping into the work. The banking for example which has dominated the Soviet Union's painting that same for so many years in business they have to be respected when artists go to work.
Well this pressure did not emanate from the state but there was pressure to emanate from political parties at a time when I was doing my field work between 55 and 57. Many of the artists organisations were very strongly influenced by communist organisations certainly social or socialist realism has been preached and practiced in Indonesia too and. The many of the artists associations that proliferated the word heavily by political ideology that's art in its organisation as Vic was politicised organizationally but how about substantially while substantially the Army in as much as think the clearest the clearest pressure to influence was to socialist realism. Now Mrs. hold over you haven't been in Indonesia recently but you say you keep
strong contacts there. I wondered whether you got any impressions about the current leader in Indonesia. Your General Suharto who as most people recall took the country over in his efforts before a communist coup d'etat he successfully followed that has taken the country over and I've heard it said that a military man he is doing quite a good job for the civilians. Now is that the impression you have a family of what you heard. I have heard that too is that the generals who have those not that that but Cully military a potential dictator that he certainly is strong or all of the civilian element in government is that he could have abused the power from the book but hasn't and also that I'd rather not competent to get us these things because it's strange to be a little bit divorced from politics when you are dealing with such
pleasant things as the arts. Yes and it would be fine if we could be within it but the two are open when together and it's hard to escape them. There is no denying that the policy the act policy even of a state could make a tremendous difference. But strangely enough as often happens in Indonesia there are operational policies which actually acquire proclaimed. And this cuts are not necessarily seeping through. That being employment is the most important policy that was implemented I think was the effort of the government to bring together the various regional cultures do organize let's say meetings of dancers from various regions so they could learn about each other and yet
I think that is this quote unquote crossed that the legislation process gone so they would learn from each other. Then there was an idea that may be with government support one could invent a national style all Indonesian nationals. Do you think there is a possibility of that Mrs. Hope. After all the diversity is tremendous among the various island or is there more similarity than most of us realize the diversity is enormous and I think in the NE US all that are for it and it would be a great mistake and I don't think even it's feasible to create an Indonesian Stadol national status in whatever branch of it. But you say that effort is being made. I think it was the conscious car policy of the government and I certainly know. That presidents of Crabbe not himself was
deploring the fact that a certain work of art was quote unquote not enough. Yes well that's what happens when countries become self-consciously nationalistic and there is that design had to say this is Indonesia American or Russian. And if you say how wasteful to to put some things aside in favor of others. Well it is not putting something aside but I do think that it is an impossible effort to try to create a doctor. But surely it will either develop or it will not out of the. General threat that live among the artists themselves. The stronger they will get a consciousness perhaps of the total nation. Maybe in time something will develop that will be clearly not original but could be identified as Nevertheless that because the Indonesian that I could not foresee but I do know that it is impossible to create that artificial It is as pose of all the forms of human
activity the arts can least take regimentation that how right you are I mean it is how would you say that the performer and the performing artist in Indonesia the dancer or actor musician has always enjoyed great respect traditionally because in some countries it is that they in the United States. I don't think you come into a zone until perhaps the past few decades. It's very different and I don't think you can compare the two. Their greatest dancers let's say in a job. Where probably some of the princes and the prince records were not doing it professionally. Proper pressure already there were popular and certainly they did not have a very high status that. The opposition today. I mean the development is that there are bad schools let's say and that is a very respectable thing for all classes of relation to become that of
the arts. Even if they're not forced into recognizing the independence and the nationalism of Indonesia I suppose in due time will reflect it. Have you begun to see evidence of this though already. No I would not say so. And. It seems to me that even the national identity for which Indonesia is playing is not yet Chris alive and it would be completely pretty much sure to expect the Arabs already to reflect something that is in the making and which cannot happen within a short span of time. This story is a long long process. I thank you very much for joining us on this edition of the Aid Society present. I tell our audience that you have had the pleasure of listening to Mrs. Clair home.
Mrs. Hope is one of the many experts on the subject of Indonesia especially its culture and art. She is the author of a book called Art in Indonesia a beautiful book subtitle continuities and change. And Mrs. Holt is research associate at the present time the Southeast Asia program at Cornell University and this is Lee Graham saying goodbye with the suggestion that Ethan east and west is west. But the time has come for the twain to meet. You have just heard the ages of society presents with Lee Graham. This program is produced by members of the staff of the age of society and educational nonprofit nonpolitical organization which was formed in 1957 to improve Asian American relations. This transcribed feature of your city comes to you through a public service grant of the age of eight. If you would like to comment on this program or would like further information about the work of the ages as they are how you
can become a member please write to Mrs. Lee Graham WNYC New York 100 0 7. We hope you enjoyed this broadcast and we invite you to join us again next week at the same time for another edition of the ages a society presents. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
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Asia Society presents
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
Talk Show
Global Affairs
Race and Ethnicity
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:26:46
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Chicago: “Asia Society presents; 2,” 1968-12-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024,
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