Enjoy Indonesia’s incredible arts scene
Southeast Asia is well regarded amongst travellers for the richness of its cultural art. Nowhere in the region has as robust or impressive of a cultural arts scene as Indonesia, though. Throughout the archipelago, whether it be in the form of performance art, traditional batik painting, wood-carving, or sculptures, art is pretty much omnipresent. Indonesian culture places a heavy emphasis on using arts as a means of connecting with their heritage and, even from a very young age, locals can be seen engaging in activities related to maintaining this tradition. The intricacy and skill involved in their work is famed throughout the world for its aesthetic beauty. Consequently, Indonesia is probably the best place in Southeast Asia to go if you’re interested in seeing, experiencing or buying traditional art.
The profound Hindu influence and mystical nature of Balinese culture makes the island of Bali one of the country’s foremost destinations for traditional art, particularly in Ubud. Streets throughout the city are lined with skilful artisans who work at their incredible crafts in plain sight of visitors and from anywhere in the city, you’re never more than a few meters from a temple, monument, shrine or arts gallery. While walking around during the day, you’ll also observe performers practicing or preparing for traditional dance performances that take place in the evenings.
The next best place to experience traditional art in Indonesia is the former capital of Yogyakarta in Central Java. Something in the air of Yogyakarta seems to inspire creative minds, as art seems to saturate every corner and every surface throughout the city- from carefully designed street art and graffiti to iconic shadow puppets known as wayang kulit, which adorn many shop windows.
As is probably the case in any creative centre, there is a proliferation of live music found throughout the city on any given occasion. One of the city’s claim to fame is the continuation of a type of traditional music known as gamelan. Gamelan orchestras involve ensembles of bronze percussion instruments including gongs, xylophones and drums combined with wind instruments and vocals to produce what is likely to be Indonesia’s most exotic and iconic form of traditional music. Allusions to gamelan orchestras can be found on reliefs at Borobudur Temple, so the genre dates back to at least the early eighth century.
Enjoying the arts of Indonesia is something that can be done any time of the year. However, if you want to see the Indonesia’s thriving arts scene at it most prolific, time your visit to coincide with any of the major festivals in the country. In the days and weeks leading up to these festivals, people can often be seen in fervent preparation of them- it’s the perfect time to see just how their ornate artistic creations are made!
Incredible traditional creations can be bought for surprisingly cheap prices in Indonesia. Batik textiles and shadow puppets are particularly attractive items to buy as souvenirs due to the ease at which they can be packed in your bags and brought home.