Happy 74th Birthday Indonesia! (3)

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Saturday, August 17th, I celebrated Indonesia’s independence day at the State Palace. Not everyone gets an opportunity like this so I was very excited. It was a grueling but wonderful day.

Hyang Dadas art team, a dance group from Central Kalimantan was scheduled to perform at the Palace for the president and 13 thousand guests. Dayak Dreams was there to cover their story. The first order of business was on the night before the performance. We arranged for an interview with Dr. Guntur Talajan, Head of the Culture and Tourism Office of Central Kalimantan Province. They were booked with the BIG Hotel in Central Jakarta.

The BIG Hotel Was our second interview venue for the day, so we were already somewhat tired when we arrived. Around 6:00 pm, four huge buses arrived and within a few moments, at least 200 members of the dance team filled the hotel lobby and restaurant. It was interesting to watch them work. Within 45 minutes they managed to bring in all the equipment and still had time to sit down for a boxed dinner.

Their youthful enthusiasm couldn’t hide the fact they were tired. Still, they managed to smile for the camera. 6 teenagers collapsed due to exhaustion at the first rehearsal. Three young ladies were carried in to the hotel lobby because they were unable to walk. Meanwhile, We waited for our interview with Dr. Talajan. It didn’t happen. He had a lot to attend to and had no time to spare until morning.

The next morning, the team prepared for their performance. They were well organized—it was clear they had done this before. The buses filled quickly and there was standing room only. We were on the third bus and it was packed. We stood for the 30 minute ride. Many in the group became sick because of the constant stopping and going of Jakarta traffic.

After arriving at the palace grounds, the team, along with Hundreds of other young performers and their organizers ate lunch under a gigantic canopy. The Hyang Dadas art team weren’t the only performers. A group of dancers from East Java were also there to perform.

The Javanese were fascinating to watch because of their traditional white mime-like masks painted on their faces. At least 10 of the young Javanese ladies had passed out. Some of them took to screaming, which seemed to me more like panic than pain. Others were carried on stretchers to a medical tent like injured soldiers in battle. As far as I know, they were not seriously injured.

After lunch, the Dayak team assembled in a narrow street, which led to the parade grounds. They were they second performers, following a marching band. Their costumes were stunning with complementary colors and a variety textures. Some of the young ladies were dressed in gold with towering head-dresses adorned with Hornbill feathers. Others wore red dresses with Dayak tattoo-like designs, blazing red sashes and customary head feathers.

The majority of the male performers wore costumes that puzzled me. They wore long white ankle length dresses with wide shoulder straps. The headdress looked more like a white tiera. Thin mustaches and beards were painted on their faces. The dresses were slim in the waist and clearly not something to wear to a fight.

Maybe it’s because I lack sophistication, but I found it a bit odd. It certainly was not traditional. Perhaps that was the point. It appeared to me that art was placed above traditional culture.

Not all the males wore the same costume. Some had typical Dayak warrior like costumes. Others had masculine costumes with black and gold vests, red loin cloths and a hornbill headdress with tall feathers. However, they played a lessor role in the performance.

In spite of the odd costume, they put on a performance befitting the great nation of Indonesia. The dancers performed with remarkable confidence and without error.

For me, the most emotional moments were during the lowering of the flag and it’s presentation to the president. I felt a great sense of pride, even though I am a guest and not a citizen.

This part of the ceremony included S-L-O-W moments while we watched soldiers march with a half-speed goose-step. Being a former military man, I understand how important protocol is, so I patiently watched and enjoyed the moment.

Happy Birthday Indonesia, may you have many more to come. <<

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