Mid-April review, Part 3/5: Indonesian Culture Night and Worldfest

Indonesian Culture Night and Worldfest on April 10th and 13th respectively were one of the reasons I love living near my old alma matter at UCLA, as well as makes me wonder why I didn’t do this as much when I was an undergraduate.

When I got in late at 7:00, I was worried I missed a good hour of the show. I was then reminded of how people are in the Philippines, Indonesia’s northern neighbor, and how my friends from Jakarta said both people are similar: chronically late by as much as an hour. I would’ve attributed this to UCLA time or Los Angeles traffic more, but hey, if they want to play around, sure.

One of the highlights was from a dramatic show the students put together that reminded me all too well of the common theme of Asian-Americans “rediscovering” their ethnic heritage when going back to their parents’ homelands, what I as a TCK saw was that it was extremely contrived. For a culture night celebration of how someone goes to Jakarta, hates it, then suddenly develops this appreciation for Indonesian “culture”, I understand it’s difficult to explain culture shock and barriers, but ultimately it highlights more of the differences in American culture: the protagonist is portrayed as a materialistic brat who resents her job placement and then overnight falls in love with the place.

In my experience, I’ve seen many Asian-Americans visiting their ancestral homelands and either loathe it or end up being the worst kind tourist, relying on their appearance to get ahead and their citizenship as a means of entitlement to more privileges than locals and other expats. True, there are those who develop an appreciation, but that’s usually when they don’t come as tourists whose main aim is to have sex, get drunk, and do things they wouldn’t normally get away with in the U.S. Not everyone is like this, but I rarely see people gaining the understanding and appreciation in the short period of time the main character does.

Notwithstanding, it was an absolutely lovely show which showcased traditional rooms in the home, delicious food, a couple gamelan performances, a kercak, and a jazz/hip-hop dance (which is erroneously labeled as modern dance in the program).

Later on, I went to Worldfest, a show put on by the UCLA student groups to showcase dance performances from different cultural groups on campus, from Japanese taiko to Chinese lion dance to Ethiopian, Filipino, and pan-Arab dances. Had my battery allowed me to record some of the other performances, I would have gotten as much as I could beyond taiko.

Admittedly, I was planning on staying to record my friends from taiko and leave, but the more I watched each performance, the more I realized I was going to stay through the whole show. Not just as a form of respect for the performers, but because I needed to, and we need to. These shows are put on voluntarily to showcase the diversity of cultures, and not only is it rude to go in there and just support your friends and leave before the show ends, but it also shows a lack of appreciation for the effort of the organizers and performers, as well as for the the chance to open yourself to the arts and cultures of the world.

The audience wasn’t particularly huge to begin with, but there were less than 30% of the rows filled by the end, and for the last performers, I felt this was disrespectful and insulting. Finals and mid-term examinations were not going on, as it was only the start of the term, and though there were other events going on throughout the week, I think it is our duty to open our minds and hearts to the arts and cultures of the world in order to bring in the globalist generation. When we open ourselves up, we see we are all connected and that we can give more to this planet than we are capable of taking. Yes, considering how much we drain this planet regularly of resources, I firmly believe we can give more. So here is my part by sharing this awareness through these videos and writing about it.

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