Feast the senses as the Indonesian community showcases culture

IndoNelson president Mini Howie, left, and project coordinator Yanthi Anderson, with batik fabric.  A batik workshop is one of two June 11 events in Nelson celebrating Indonesian culture.

ANDY MACDONALD / TRICKS

IndoNelson president Mini Howie, left, and project coordinator Yanthi Anderson, with batik fabric. A batik workshop is one of two June 11 events in Nelson celebrating Indonesian culture.

Excitement is building in the Indonesian community of Nelson, with two upcoming events showcasing their culture through food, performance and an ancient art form.

IndoNelson, a group made up of Indonesian families from the upper south and west coast, organizes the events as part of Nelson’s Tuku22 Heritage Festival.

A batik workshop, teaching the traditional art form of creating patterns on fabric with wax and dyes, will take place on June 11 during the day, before the culinary cultural experience Journey to Indonesia through the palace and the senses in the evening.

IndoNelson chairman Mini Howie said the group – which has around 60 member families in Nelson and Tasman – were delighted to promote their Indonesian culture. Among the dignitaries expected at the dinner were the region’s two mayors, the Member of Parliament for Nelson and the Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand.

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There were over 1,300 ethnicities in Indonesia, but the two upcoming events would focus on Javanese culture. Howie hoped that in the future other events could take place featuring other Indonesian ethnicities.

Handcrafted Indonesian batik was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2009 and is internationally recognized as a historical fabric of human civilization.

Howie said workshop attendees will learn how batik was made in Indonesia 800 years ago, its meaning and importance, and the process of creation. They would also be given a “chant”, a tool used to apply liquid hot wax in the batik-making process.

The evening event centers around the traditional tumpengan culinary and cultural experience, which will include a range of traditional Indonesian dishes including Indonesian chicken satay and the popular meat dish rendang.

Tumpengan wasn’t just about the food, with the performance, ambiance and cultural experience being equally important, said project coordinator Yanthi Anderson.

Traditional gamelan – native orchestral music from Java and Bali – will be performed into the night by a 12-piece troupe from Wellington, while there will also be Indonesian dancers and a batik fashion slideshow.

The gamelan musicians also performed at the batik workshop in the morning.

IndoNelson's president, Mini Howie, shows off a singing tool and batik cloth.

ANDY MACDONALD / TRICKS

IndoNelson’s president, Mini Howie, shows off a singing tool and batik cloth.

Tumpengan was apt for the culinary event because while each part of the colorful dish symbolized a different aspect or stage of life, it also symbolized gratitude, the women said.

“We are so lucky to live in New Zealand,” Anderson said.

“For me and Yanthi, this is our home,” Howie said.

Both women are married to New Zealand-born men, with Anderson living in Nelson for about 18 years and Howie for about three years.

Howie said the events were a chance for people to enjoy Indonesian culture, and also for Indonesians living in the region to reconnect after the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and celebrate their heritage.

“You don’t have to go to Indonesia to feel a little bit of Indonesia,” Anderson said.

Although there were still plenty of seats left for the batik workshop, tickets for the dining experience were soon to sell out, with over 100 of the 140 seats already booked.

Both events take place at the Saxton Oval Pavilion on June 11, with the batik workshop, which costs $30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The evening gastronomic cultural experience is $50 and will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Sign up at indonelsonnz.org.

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