Retno Wulandari  06 June 2017 12:30

In the midst of increasingly-popular modern dances, traditional dances start to be forgotten. It is sad to see fewer people, especially the younger generation, know and are keen to enjoy traditional dances, such as classical Javanese dances. But nine wonderful ladies are determined to change that.

One of the incredible nine is Yusi Ariani, who initiated Purwakanthi, a community for classic Javanese dance enthusiasts who want to learn original Javanese dances intensively. “I have a special attachment to Javanese dances,” she said.

Yusi has been dancing since a young age. She first learned classical Javanese dance at the age of eight, as part of curriculum at her school in Semarang. She never stopped until high school, when she moved to Jakarta and could not find the “right” place to dance. The fact that she stopped dancing was heart-wrenching for her and the urge to start dancing again grew unbearable.

Purwakanthi on stage performing Gambyong Dance © 2017 Wulandari

“Having to stop dancing made me sad. It felt like something was missing. But thank God I managed to start dancing again several years ago and it felt like I found myself again,” Yusi recalled. “In 2012, I met Mbak Martini (Purwakanthi’s dance coach) and in 2013 initiated Purwakanthi. I was on stage again and I that’s how I rediscovered my life.”

Purwakanthi made its debut on stage in 2013. At that time, there were only nine dancers, including Yusi. “We started small and we were lucky to have Mbak Martini to teach us all we need to know about classical Javanese dance. That was four years ago, and before I know it, we have 75 members already by now,” Yusi told Brilio. “Currently we have performed 20 times, including twice at the International Dance Day commemorations. Currently, we’re preparing for a big event in 2018. It’s amazing to know that I have so many new friends in such a short time.”

Purwakanthi dancers. © 2017 Wulandari

Prior to Purwakanthi, Yusi and her friends used to perform in various dance events. But, according to her, dancing in such events has its downside: the dancers only dance based on the characters they played, without being taught the basic rules and the original dance form.

“When I started Purwakanthi, I only hoped to be able to learn classical Javanese dances — especially Surakartan — with the correct form and rules, in accordance with ones performed in Keraton,” she recalled. “Each and every movement, even the smallest ones, in Javanese dances has its own meanings and rules. For example, why dancer’s eyes should be staring down in a certain angle, why our hands should move that way, stuff like that. Every dance also has its own characteristics. Like the dynamic Gambyong Dance, for example, should be performed with cheery behavior, with the smile on the face. Other traits apply for other dances.”

Purwakanthi on stage performing Bedhayan Purwakanthi Dance. © 2017 Wulandari

Other than the chance to preserve classical Javanese Surakartan dance, one thing Yusi cherishes in Purwakanthi is the togetherness they share. In every rehearsal and performance, all dancers should move as one unit, dedicating their dances to themselves and the audience.

“When dancing, you have to give up all ego. It’s like the whole body is connected to the earth and you will only feel like 'I stand here, set my mind to move my body to dance' and that ego has no place,” said Yusi.

She recalled a moment where she let her ego stepped in the way.

“I danced and felt like I mastered this dance most. The coach got mad at me. She said, ‘ojo ayu-ayuan dewe, ojo apik-apikan dewe, bagusmu itu digunakan untuk mengemong temen-temenmu!’ (Do not think that you’re the most beautiful, the greatest dancer. (You should use) your skill to nurture your fellow dancers!). She stressed that we have to move together, to be great together.”

“Dancing in a group means you’ll have to keep your own ego below the surface. This will make you much more down-to-earth and humble. Thus, the outcome would be rather positive. You’ll be better at handling yourself,” she added.

“That’s our value at Purwakanthi. As the name implies: purwa means ‘the beginning’ and kanthi means ‘to hold hands.’ So Purwakanthi means ‘the beginning of togetherness.’”

Yusi also stressed that the most important part of being a dancer is to feel the urge to dance, and added that anyone feeling the need to dance is welcome in Purwakanthi.

“You don’t need to be a prodigy to join. Even if you can’t dance, but want to dance, you should come,” she said.

According to Yusi, there are certain levels every dancer should pass in Purwakanthi. Rookies will be taught and have to master Rantaya dance, the one with the basic Javanese dance movements. The next level is Bedhayan Purwakanthi, a dance choreographed by coach Martini Murti. After that there’s Gambyong, and for the final level, there's the most complicated dance: an ancient Javanese ritual dance called Bedhaya.

“Bedhaya came from the Keraton of Surakarta and Yogyakarta. We teach the Surakartan Bedhaya, and due to its complicated movements and strict rules, it needs a certain set of skills to tackle. But veterans, when they come to rehearse, have to practice Rantaya first before rehearsing Bedhaya or any other dance. So you can’t say, ‘I’m already at Bedhaya’. You need to remember every basic step,” said Yusi.

The time required by a dancer to move up a level varies, and it all depends on the dancers themselves. Those who feel the need to dance, come regularly to rehearse, will make it faster.

The group rehearses regularly every Saturday or Sunday, at Balai Sarwono in Kemang, South Jakarta.

“As our teacher always said, you must feel the need to dance, because it's one form of meditation,” she said as she ended the conversation.



Retno Wulandari  22 May 2017 19:30

Being different (or being seen as different) is not easy, especially in a world that loves to impose some ideal standards, as if people are demanding you to comply each and everything on the list just to fit in with others.

Being pretty and slim are two of the standards women are forced to follow.

Countless plus-size women in the world are struggling with this beauty standard. Most of them have never wished to be a “big girl”. I’ve heard once from a wonderful lady that being overweight is like wearing a bright orange shirt in a sea of black. It draws attention, but not in a good way. With the society just seeing big girls from their outer shells, sometimes people fail to see what’s inside.

This is what Intan Kemala Sari knows very well. She had been through that path until she finds a way to embrace herself as she is. The selebgram (Instagram celebrity) — although she never describes herself as such — is now considered an icon to represent plus-size women who stand proud of themselves. We talked to Intan to find out more about that.

(Photo credit: Intan Kemala Sari/Instagram @kemalasari)

Now you’re a selebgram and an icon for plus-size women in Indonesia. People, especially girls, look up to you. How did it all start?

First, I never proclaim myself to be such thing like selebgram. That’s what people came up with, maybe because I am active on the Instagram all these time. But I’d never call myself a selebgram; I am just a girl who likes to share pieces of her life on the platform.

At first, it was just me making use of my free time to post photos, selfies and all. I have passion in makeup, especially lipsticks, and just want to share my thoughts and photos on Instagram. But surprisingly, people started to respond and they asked about what lipstick I was wearing, where to buy the outfit and all. I found it fun and I was then encouraged to post more often, normally about myself and things I'm passionate about, and before I knew it, I’ve got many followers, and then endorsement requests followed, up until now.

In every photo, it seems like you never hold back to show the real you. How did people react to that?

Their reactions vary. There were compliments, most of them were flooding me with questions like “Oh, those dresses are so cute! Where did you get ‘em?” But some of them asked me how could I be that confident, showing my shape. And there’s a few that could be a bit mean, calling me fat, comparing me with elephants, saying that I don’t fit with certain clothing, stuff like that.

Basically, I’d never give a damn about negative things they say on the Internet. This is me, these are my photos, so it’s up to me whether I want to share it or not, and you don’t have to like it either. I really appreciate it if you do, but I’ve got nothing to lose here.

(Photo credit: Intan Kemala Sari/Instagram @kemalasari)

Now that you’re considered one of plus-size woman icons, how do you feel about that?

I’m really grateful to have such honor. I realize that I’m far from perfect, but I’m really glad if I can share some inspirations for plus-size ladies on how to do fashion, how to dress up and be confident just as themselves. Regardless of our appearance, I believe everyone of us has our own beauty inside.

Have you ever been bullied due to your size or body shape?

Thank God I’ve never been insulted directly. People around me respect me a lot, but there’s a lot of bullies on the Internet. Maybe because they think that I am just a stranger they don’t know and they’ll never know me anyway, so they feel it’s okay to say bad things about me or other people on social media. From what I see, those cyber bullies have one thing in common: they’re immature. Most of them are still in the secondary school. To be positive, I think they’re too young to know what they do and too young to care. The rest of them were I think just people who didn’t like what they see on the Internet, so they decided to just spit it out.

Most of the time, I ignore such bad comments; they don’t necessarily reflect me anyway. But there were times when I turn hotheaded and ended up confronting them. I remember I replied, “I’m lucky to be endorsed more often, while all you can do is bullying others...”  (laughed). Well, that’s not the best of me, only when I got really pissed off. But if some people turned to be great disturbances, I usually just block them for good.

What do you think about the 'ideal girl stereotype' saying a beautiful woman should be tall and thin? Have you ever struggle with such stereotype?

Well, I think it’s all about perception and preference. There’s a stereotype saying that ideal woman should be tall, thin, got long hair and fair skin, thanks to mass media and advertisements. But I’m glad today we started to see a shift against such stereotype, as mass media and brands started to embrace women without those ideal-woman-requirements. I think, although not as much as we want, our society started to embrace big women, as well as women of colors. But that’s a good start I think.

Back in the days when I was in high school, when I was young and hadn’t really had a goal in life neither a clear idea of what I want to be, I was discouraged about my appearance and body shape. Luckily, I have supportive parents. They never treat their thin and big kids differently, nor comparing me with some friends’ kids who are slim. Well okay, they did encourage me to workout and dieting, they’re so supportive. They just accept me as what I am.

It comes to my concern that some girls who struggle with body image issues got pressure from people around them, including — and especially — their parents, who just want them to be like other thin girls. So I think having family’s support is important here.

(Photo credit: Intan Kemala Sari/Instagram @kemalasari)

Last question, what’s the secret to being comfortable with your own self, even if people think you’re not perfect?

Well, who is? I wouldn’t suggest every plus-sizes work out or start a diet program because that’s not what I am. I’ll be fake if I encourage people to do what I don’t do. It’s your choice whether to start dieting or workout to shed some kilograms if that makes you comfortable. But my campaign is that when you find it difficult to do anything with what you’ve got here, I mean your body, or despite your effort, it’s still hard to change the way you look, you could change the way you feel and your perspective about yourself. The more important thing is to be at peace with yourself, to be happy and love yourself, because if you don’t who will? Then it’s up to you to be whatever you want, as long as you’re comfortable as you are.




Petra Hapsari  18 May 2017 19:30

Senior comedian Indrodjojo Kusumonegoro or famously known as Indro Warkop had a special wish for his 59th birthday that fell on May 8.

Indro chose to celebrate his special day with children fighting cancer in Yayasan Pita Kuning Anak Indonesia (Indonesian Children’s Yellow Ribbon Foundation), a social foundation specializes in helping children with cancer.

But he didn't stop at his birthday party. He wanted to do more for the sick kids.

Through a crowd-funding website, Indro is trying to gather some donation to help the foundation taking care of the sick children. 

“I want to celebrate [my] birthday. Not for me, but for my heroes: the little whizzes who keep on fighting against cancer,” he said.

“For my 59th birthday, can I ask for something? Not a gift in a box for me, but donation for children at Yayasan Pita Kuning.” 

Indro is a founder of Yayasan Pita Kuning Anak Indonesia where dozens of cancer fighters children have been supported since 2010.

The foundation also gives financial aid for them, including transportation and other medical fees.

Until today, the donation page has gathered Rp 14,160,964 from the targeted Rp 59 million. The page will be closed in ten days.

Well, it’s late, but you can still give Indro his birthday gift if you’d like.


Adelia Anjani Putri   02 May 2017 11:10

Asep Kambali is a historian, lecturer and the founder of Indonesian Historia Community (KHI). He spends most of his days on the road as he becomes a ‘traveling history-teller’ and holds events or talks about Indonesian heritage and history.

But the past is not Asep’s only passion. He’s also passionate about his name that he co-founded Paguyuban Asep Dunia (World Asep Community). No, we’re not kidding. There are so many people bearing the name Asep they can make a club out of it. We talk to this Asep to see what the community is all about.

So how and when did it all start?

In late 2008 or early 2009, a friend of mine, Asep Iwan Gunawan, made a Facebook group named “How Many Aseps There Are In Facebook?” and I joined the group. Then I thought, why stop at a virtual group? Why don’t we make something real out of it?

So, we held a gathering in Aug. 1, 2010 in collaboration with my organization, KHI. It was a tour around Old Town Area and Bank Mandiri Museum, but there were only 5 Aseps coming with their families, so around 15 of us. But we decided to use the date as our anniversary date.

Then, in 2011, we held another meeting. Around 15 Aseps came and we made a committee for the community. I was chosen to be the deputy head until 2015 with Asep Iwan Gunawan as the head. In 2015, I was elected as the head.

Then, what happened from there?

I changed the name. It was Paguyuban Asep (Asep Community) and I turned it to Paguyuban Asep Dunia (World Asep Community) with the hope that it can be more famous and go worldwide. I also changed my title, from head to president. So, now I’m a president now hahaha.

What kind of activities do you and the other Asep do?

We have our own annual gathering named KAA, like Konferensi Asia Afrika (Asia-Africa Conference), but ours means Konferensi Asep-Asep (The Conference of Aseps). We had it first in 2015 with 350 Aseps in attendance from cities in Indonesia and even Malaysia.

Last year, we held another KAA and we turned the community into a legal organization. We worked together with a bank to make member cards and we also conducted many programs, like Asep Melawan Asap (Asep Against Smoke), Arjuna — Asep Rescue Terjun Bencana (Asep For Disaster Rescue) and Kurawa — Kurban Asep Untuk Warga (Asep Donation For The People).

This year we’ll have another conference and maybe a tour to Pangandaran. We'll see.

How many Aseps are now in your community?

Almost 6000 of them. Most of them registered online on our website.

What’s the most interesting part of being in the community?

There are many unique experiences. I found out that Aseps are not only of Sundanese descent. There are also Aseps from Padang, Java, and others who are not and cannot speak Sundanese.

I’ve also met a Chinese-Palembang Asep. The name Asep means kasep, or good-looking, but this one’s name is an abbreviation from awal September (early September) because that’s when he was born. There are also a lot of female Aseps! There was even once a wedding of Asep and Asep who met each other in the community. It’s fascinating!

We also have a honoris causa program. We’ve given the honorary Asep title to Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil. So now he’s one of us! We’ll give another one to President Jokowi, I guess.

With thousands of Aseps, how do you greet each other?

With our full name, usually we use our last name. Introducing ourselves as Asep would be useless, we all know that we’re all Aseps. But even that, there are still many with the same full names. Asep Saifuddin and Asep Wahyudi are the ones with most users. But there’s only Asep Kambali, thank God.


Adelia Anjani Putri   28 April 2017 16:36

Have you seen these amazing Disney/Real Life collages that went viral this past week?

The images have been featured in major international media like Buzzfeed and Entertainment Weekly. 

We met with Andhika Muksin, the graphic designer who made those images.

Read more about our talk with Andhika here


Retno Wulandari  21 April 2017 16:52 - Raden Ajeng Kartini (or Lady Kartini) lived in an age when the culture and society didn’t side with women.

It was a period when feudalistic and patriarchical cultures were still upheld in the archipelago. An age when women had to endure the so-called “double colonization.”

As a noblewoman, until the age of 12, Kartini was allowed to attend the Europese Lagere School (ELS). There, among others, Kartini learned Dutch. But after the age of 12, she had to leave school to stay at home, like any other young Javanese girls. In Javanese noble tradition, girls have to be prepared for matchmaking, and were not allowed to leave house until their marriage.

Kartini saw how women were treated as second-class citizens, not allowed to get education like men.

Kartini expressed her concerns in letters she wrote to her pen pals.

Two of them were Rosa Abendanon, wife of Dutch officer J.H. Abendanon, and Dutch post officer Estell “Stella” Helena Zeehandelaar.

Kartini letter to Rosa Abendanon (Photo via Wikimedia)

In Kartini’s letters to Rosa and Stella, she protested gender inequality, educational restrictions, and the custom of forced, early marriage in Javanese tradition.

Her writings were amongst the first feminist ideas in Indonesia, which can give the impression that Kartini was a secular feminist.

In fact, Kartini came from a Muslim family, and she was a devout Muslim in her own way.

She was very obedient and respectful to her father and husband, as taught to her, even though in her heart she had her own opinion.

In her letters to Stella, she expressed her confusion over Islam. In those days, the Javanese didn’t have easy access to religious teachings, because the Dutch East Indies government forbade the translation of the Qur'an into the Javanese language.

In her letter to Stella dated November 6, 1899, Kartini wrote:

Regarding my religion, Islam, what should I tell? Islam forbids its followers to discuss religious teachings with people of other faiths. After all, I am a Muslim because of my Islamic ancestry. How can I love my religion, if I do not understand and should not understand it?

The Qur'an is too sacred; Should not be translated into any language, in order to be understood by every Muslim. Here, no one understands Arabic. Here, people learn the Qur'an but do not understand what they read.

"I think, it is crazy if someone taught to read but not taught the meaning of what they read. It’s the same as you told me to memorize English, but don’t let me know the meaning.

"I think it’s fine not to be a pious, as long as I am a good person. Isn’t that so Stella?”

Portrait of Raden Ajeng Kartini in the collection of Tropenmuseum (Photo via Wikimedia)

In another letter to Rosa, dated August 15, 1902, she expressed the same feelings:

I do not want to read the Qur'an anymore, I do not want to learn and memorize all of the parables in a foreign language that I do not understand.

"I suspect, my teacher does not understand the meaning as well. Tell me what it means, then I'll learn anything. I am a sinner. This book is far too sacred, so we’re not allowed to understand the meaning of its contents.”

In a letter Kartini wrote to Nellie Van Kol, dated July 21, 1902, she wrote, “I am determined and work to improve the image of Islam, which has always been the target of slander. May we have His mercy, so we can put efforts to make other religions view Islam as a favorable one.”

Just as any other Javanese woman in her time, Kartini did not always get much religious education.

However, fate introduced her to Muslim scholar Muhammad Saleh bin Umar As-Samarani (nicknamed Kyai Sholeh Darat) from Darat, Semarang. Kyai Sholeh Darat gave a lecture on the interpretation of surah Al-Fatihah in Kartini’s uncle's house. She was fascinated by the meaning of its verses, which were new to her.

When she had the opportunity to met Kyai in person, Kartini opened the dialogue, “Kyai, please allow me to ask how the law in religion [can make] a knowledgeable person hide her knowledge?”

“Why does Raden Ajeng ask that?” Kyai Sholeh Darat replied.

“Kyai, during my life time, this is the first time I have the opportunity to understand the meaning of Al-Fatihah, the first surah and the mother of the Qur'an. It was so beautiful, it thrilled me,” said Kartini. “Al-Fatihah had been dark for me. I didn’t understand any of its meanings. But from this day, the surah became bright-lit up to its implicit meanings, for Kyai had explained it in Javanese, which I understand.”

Kyai Sholeh Darat was inspired by the conversation. Despite the Dutch East Indies government prohibition, he decided to translate the Qur’an into Javanese.

This Qur'anic translation called the Book of Faidhur-Rohman, Indonesia’s first Qur’an in Javanese. He gave it to Kartini the day she married R.M. Joyodiningrat.

In the translation of the Qur’an, Kartini found a verse that deeply touched her heart, “God is the Protector of the believers; He brings them forth from the darkness into the light.” (QS Al Baqarah:257)

In her many letters to Rose Abendanon, Kartini repeated the words “from the darkness into light.” Later, Rose’s husband J.H. Abendanon collected Kartini’s letters and bound them into a book, Door Duisternis tot Licht (that phrase in Dutch), later translated into Bahasa Indonesia by author Armijn Pane, and published under the title 'Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang'.

Kartini's letters in a book by JH Abendanon

With the Qur’an translation, Javanese society was able to study and observe the contents of the Qur'an, and have a deeper understanding of Islam.

This made Kartini more than a feminist who fought for women's rights, but also a woman who contributed in the spread of Islamic teachings in the colonial Java.



Retno Wulandari  21 April 2017 12:56 - Every April, Indonesia celebrates Kartini Day. It’s the birth date of Raden Ajeng Kartini (Lady Kartini), who was born on 21 April, 1879.

She was the daugther of a Javanese aristocrat and an iconic women's rights advocate, who is remembered for her efforts to fight for gender equality and education during her short life.

The pioneer for women's rights in Indonesia died at 25.

Young Kartini with her family. Kartini’s father, Raden Mas Adipati Ario Sosroningrat, was the Regent of Jepara. His mother, M.A. Ngasirah, wasn’t the prime wife of his father. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Raden Ajeng Kartini. Raden Ajeng was a noble title for Javanese woman aristocrat. (Photo via Kompas)

Kartini (left) and her sisters Kardinah and Roekmini (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Kartini explained to her two sisters that “We should have a decent education to eradicate our own fate from the fetters of ignorance." (Photo via SegenggamDaun)

Kartini (right) in the middle of batik-making with sisters Kardinah and Roekmini. "We go to school not to compete with men, but to alleviate the shackles of this nation's idiocy, so that our nation won’t be forever colonized by other nations," she told her sisters. (Photo via Kompas)

Kartini and her husband, Regent of Rembang, K.R.M. Adipati Ario Singgih Djojo Adhiningrat. At the age 24, Kartini gave up the desire to pursue further education in Batavia, and got married instead in order to show obedient to her father. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Kartini and her husband prepared for an official visit. When the photo was taken, Kartini was pregnant with her only son. (Photo via Kompas)

Kartini in her school. Her husband supported her in establishing a school for the Bumiputera (native) women and in developing Jepara carving industry. (Photo via Berdikari Online)

Kartini's son RM Soesalit Djojoadhiningrat. She died due to complications after giving birth. (Photo via KapanLagi)

Kartini's advocacy for young women's education was continued by her sisters, with Kartini School named after her (Photo via HelloSemarang)















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