The largest archipelago in the world, Indonesia is spread across thousands of islands which stretch from South East Asia to Australia. The country has the largest Muslim population of any country on earth, but it is ethnically very diverse, with a variety of distinct cultures developing in the many islands which make up the archipelago, all of which helped to shape the bountiful culture of Indonesia as a whole.
This culture has also been shaped by colonisation, war and dictatorship. The Dutch controlled the country throughout most of the 19th century, until they were ousted in 1949 after a prolonged armed struggle. This was followed by the authoritarian rule imposed by Suharto; his repressive control on Indonesia for almost three decades irrevocable changed the ethnic makeup of some islands with his ‘transmigration’ policy. The consequences of these painful periods in Indonesian history are still evident despite Indonesia’s transformation into a modern democracy, and much of the cultural output of the country is focused on attempts to revaluate the past and restore traditions and rituals.
Ayu Utami’s book Saman brought about a renewed interest in the literature of Indonesia. Utami wrote the book to expose the complexities of living in multicultural Indonesia. Pramoedya Ananta Toer is yet another famous Indonesian author who glorified the country in the book Tales from Djakarta. Multatuli, the pen name of the Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker, wrote the satirical novel Max Havelaar to draw Europe's attention to the exploitation of Indonesians in the Dutch East Indies.
Hanung Bramayanto who hails from the Yogyakarta province is a famous director nominated for many awards at the Indonesian Film Festival. His film, Brownies takes us on a romantic journey through modern Indonesia. Riri Rezais, another director whose Gie and Eliana Eliana have reinforced his critical approach to filmmaking.