(En anglais seulement)
T. Sima Gunawan , Contributor, Jakarta email@example.com
If you happen to travel in Europe and tell the people there you are Indonesian, it is likely they will take pity on you, be cautious or be indifferent.
The first group of people might take pity on you because they think Indonesia is an underdeveloped country, while the second group of people believes Indonesia is a place with many terrorists. The others are indifferent because they don't know anything about Indonesia.
The poor image of Indonesia disturbs Johanna Lederer, who was born in Malang, East Java, and has lived in Paris since 1968. Two years ago, along with several other people who share the same concerns, she set up Pasar Malam, a French-Indonesian association aiming to promote friendship and understanding between the two nations. "Indonesia has a very weak image in France, especially after the bombings in Bali and Jakarta. In France, it is viewed as a Muslim state with many extremists," Johanna said during a visit here in November. "We want to promote Indonesian culture in the widest sense, including the social aspects, politics, culture, arts, science, commerce and tourism," she said.
The association regularly holds special theme events, followed by dance performances and a buffet dinner of Indonesian cuisine. It also issues a monthly publication on the association's activities and news about Indonesia. Once a year the association organizes a special exhibition to showcase Indonesia's rich cultural heritage. Pasar Malam has 70 active members who pay an annual fee of 25 euro each. Some of them have been to Indonesia, while others have only heard about the country, but they all have a great interest in Indonesia. The events organized by the association attract an average of 500 people. "They come with a great interest even though most have never set foot in Indonesia. They are very eager to discover the many different aspects of Indonesia," said Johanna.
Among the events held by the association were an art exhibition by Taring Padi, a group of young artists from Yogyakarta, a talk by Tjiptaning, whose father was a communist, and a presentation by a French archeologist on the ancient Javanese kingdoms. "The most successful event was the presentation on the Javanese kingdoms. Even the children were fascinated. I think because it is all about humanity," Johanna said. In an effort to boost the organization's activities, Johanna came to Indonesia last month to establish a better network of Indonesian and French people here who are interested in promoting Indonesia in France. They include sculptor Dolorosa Sinaga, playwright Ratna Sarumpaet, film director and artist Jajang C. Noor, researcher Asvi Warman Adam and journalist Goenawan Mohamad. Johanna was quite happy with the positive response she received from people and their enthusiasm to lend a hand with future Pasar Malam programs. Before leaving, she bought numerous books about Indonesia as well as many items she could not find in France, like angklung (bamboo musical instruments) and Indonesian brown sugar. "We have brown sugar in Paris, but it is too refined, it doesn't have the deep sweet taste like what you have here... " said Johanna.
Johanna, whose great grandfather was Dutch, is so interested in sugar because she grew up on a sugar plantation. Her father owned a sugar plantation and Johanna, now 53, still remembers her childhood playing in the fields among the sugar cane. At the age of 12, her parents sent her to the Netherlands to study and five years later she went to Paris, where she studied American literature at Sorbonne University. Johanna works as a translator and also teaches ballet. She began to study dance at the age of four, learning both traditional dances and ballet. When she was in Holland, she continued to study Balinese dance and ballet, and passed the exam to be a dance teacher at the age of 17. But she doesn't teach Indonesian dance. "Indonesian dances are more difficult. They involve all parts of the body. For example, you move your eyes in accordance with the movement of the shoulder. And you have to study it from the time you are very young," she said. She also likes writing poems and fiction. "I am fascinated by the power of words," she confessed. She recalled as a child reading 1001 Nights and being fascinated by the idea that a life could be saved by telling stories. She has written two novels but has been unable to find a French publishing house willing to publish them since they are written in English.
Johanna - whose mother is from Manado, North Sulawesi - is fluent in English, French and Dutch, and speaks a little Indonesian. This, however, does not make her happy because she feels she does not have a mother tongue, and although she is a French citizen, she feels that she is not really French. "My five children are French, but I am not," said Johanna, whose husband is a physicist. Such feelings inspired her to write a third novel about displaced children, and also gave her the idea to establish the French-Indonesian association.
"This association can create a link between the lost country where I spent my first 12 years and France, my new country," she said.
source : Le Jakarta Post