Indonesian culture is extremely diverse. Every overseas visitor recognizes and appreciates that at first glance.
The various parts of the archipelago have produced different cultural realms, each of which developed in its own way.
For Indonesians these cultural differences can sometimes be confusing.
If a nation is not only spatially but also culturally fragmented, how can it develop a feeling of unity? Where may it find the common ground for a national identity?
For the initiators of Padu Padan Lintas Kepulauan (Mixing and matching items from across the archipelago) fashion is definitely one medium through which to show how different Indonesian cultures can unify into a sum that is larger than its parts.
After the closing notes of the Indonesian national anthem faded, the catwalk in the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Mulia, South Jakarta, served as the stage for a very Indonesian fashion show June 5.
The creme de la creme of fashion designers were gathered to promote their way of mixing and matching Indonesian fashions. Among them were Carmanita, Chossy Latu, Denny Wirawan, Ghea Panggabean, Oscar Lawalata, Resnha Sapto, Samuel Wattimena and Susi Lucon.
"Tonight`s presentation goes further than anything we`ve done before," said Maya Suharnoko, chairwoman of the organizing committee. She was hinting at the great variety of cultural references in the show to come.
"We have tried to present the exchange of variations in Indonesian culture on all levels in a bigger way," she said. "Indonesia is not an inanimate thing -- it moves and develops."
Around 350 invitees were shown compositions that consisted of designs with influences from all over Indonesia, with sparkling accessories attached to colorful gowns.
"We can`t help the glitter, that`s the way people wear it in the village," said Maya. "People are very conscious of the way they look, even at a rural level. They are proud of their fashion," she added.
Nonetheless, some doubt might have still remained on whether a villager from North Sulawesi could afford to wear a sparkling gold belt buckle to keep her silken batik evening gown in the right place.
The audience at Hotel Mulia was enthusiastic, anyway.
"Why not take an Aceh scarf and combine it with a Balinese sarong?" asked Ghea Panggabean after the show. "I take advantage of the diversity in Indonesia. Our country has so much to be proud of and we should preserve traditional Indonesian dress," she said while explaining her designs.
"We want to make Indonesian fashion adaptable and practical for modern society," said Maya.
Whereas the creation of national identity and feeling was part of the conceptual motivation for the show, it is obvious that reality is still quite far from this unity.
"For me, culture is wealth and we should make use of it," said Oscar Lawalata, adding that he thinks the national identity should be more prominent.
He added, "For the young generation especially, the focus is too much on the West and so they neglect Indonesian culture. They think culture is something for the elderly."
But the 21-year-old knew whom to address to foster change: "This is partly the fault of the government, too, because they haven`t put in enough effort to developing our culture and making it interesting for the young."
Source: www.thejakartapost.com (19 Juni 2007)