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Summer in Indonesia: 10 Unmissable Art and Culture Events
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Summer in Indonesia: 10 Unmissable Art and Culture Events

Picture of Graziano Scaldaferri
Updated: 9 February 2017
Indonesia‘s cultural calendar for this summer is filled with events that celebrate the many facets of the country’s popular culture and religious beliefs. The festivities are tourist attractions for the beauty of the music and dances performed, the colourful traditional costumes worn by the performers, and the altogether cheerful atmosphere that they create. Read our guide to Indonesia’s top 10 Summer events to discover the best the country has to offer.
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Art | Art Jog

7 – 22 June

Politics-wise, 2014 will be a key year for Indonesia, as general elections for the appointment of a new President will be held next July. For this reason, the curatorial team behind Art | Jog, a prominent art fair in Yogyakarta, have decided to put politics at the centre of the fair’s new edition, which will explore the particular theme of ‘Legacies of Power’. Unlike many international fairs, which usually present artworks through the representation of art galleries, Art | Jog dialogues with artists directly – those exhibiting have been selected through a direct call for entries. Highlights of this edition are a video installation by worldwide acclaimed performance artist Marina Abramovic, as well as works by TeamLab, a Japanese collective specialized in blurring the boundaries between art and technology.

Taman Budaya, Jalan Sriwedani No.1, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Culture | Erau Cultural Festival

12 – 22 June

The legend has it that in the 13th century, in Indonesia’s Kutai Karta Negara kingdom, a state official and his wife couldn’t have a child for years, until one night seven Gods descended to the Earth, bringing a baby with them. The Gods instructed the couple to keep the baby’s feet from touching the ground for 40 days. On the 40th day, a so-called Erau ceremony had to be performed: before touching the ground, the infant had to touch with his feet the head of a human, living and dead; and that of a buffalo, living and dead. The parents did as the Gods had requested, and the baby grew to become the kingdom’s first Sultan. The Erau festival is a biennial event which commemorates this legend, and more generally celebrates the culture of the Kutai Karta Negara region through a range of shows performed by international folk art groups.

The Erau Cultural Festival will be held in various location across Tenggarong.

Performing Arts | Printemps Francais

Until 23 June

Celebrating its 10th edition this year, the Printemps Francais festival has expanded quite a bit over the last two editions, going from being limited to Jakarta to touring pretty much all of Indonesia, with stops in Bali, Bandung, Makassar, Yogyakarta, and more. The festival presents the best of France’s latest cultural productions to Indonesia, renovating the tight cultural and historical ties that have bound the two countries together for centuries. The programme includes dance, theatre, music – both classical and contemporary – and photography shows, and has its strongest highlight in Drop, a performance half-way between a theatre and circus show designed by noted director David Bobée for artist Sha Ina Febriyanti.

Printemps Francais will be held in various locations across Indonesia.

Printemps Francais
Image courtesy of Printemps Francais
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Theatre | Bali Agung


The theatre show Bali Agung has actually been performed constantly for years now, but it is so grand and mesmerizing that it never lost its event quality. The show turns the clock back to a time prior to modernity, when life in Indonesia was slower, simpler, and centered around farming. In particular, Bali Agung highlights how the beauty of the country attracted foreigners, and especially the Chinese, whose culture has been influencing Indonesian customs to the present day. Spectators have a lot of amazement and grandiosity to look forward to buying a ticket to Bali Agung, including ten elephants and many other live exotic animals taking up the stage, a real river pond and a complete gamelan orchestra playing typically Indonesian and Chinese scores.

Bali Safari & Marine Park, Jl. Bypass Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra, Km. 19,8, Gianyar, Bali Indonesia, +62 361 950 000

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Culture | Bali Arts Festival

14 June – 14 July

For a whole month every year, the Indonesian island of Bali celebrates its rich and varied culture during the Bali Arts Festival, which comprises dance, music and theatrical performances. This historical festival – 2014 is its 36th edition – is a bombastic explosion of colours and joy, with thousands of artists gathering in the city of Denpasar to entertain locals and tourists alike. The artists are chosen from around the entire country through a quite competitive selection, which guarantees that only the best performers participate in the brilliant shows scheduled in the festival’s programme. Those who can’t stay for the whole month should choose to attend the festival either in its earliest or latest stage: the opening and closing ceremonies are the most spectacular.

Taman Wedhi Budaya, Jalan Nusa Indah, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.

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Art | Bazaar Art Jakarta

18 – 20 July

Taking its mission as a patron for the arts from the West to Asia, Harper’s Bazaar has been organising what has become Indonesia’s largest art fair since 2009: the Bazaar Art Jakarta fair. In a country that has only recently experienced an encounter with contemporary art, Bazaar’s event functions as a curatorial compass to understand what’s going on in the art scene both locally and internationally. Last year’s edition attracted over 19,000 visitors, and presented almost 1,000 artworks by 425 different artists. With most participating galleries operating in Eastern countries such as Singapore, Japan and China other than Indonesia, the 2014 edition looks very promising as well, an invaluable look at what the East has to say in terms of contemporary art.

The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta Pacific Place Hotel, Sudirman Central Business District, Jalan Jenderal Sudirman No.52-53, Jakarta, Indonesia.

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Culture | Baliem Valley Festival

7 – 9 August

The lush and fertile Baliem Valley, found in the highlands of Indonesia’s Western New Guinea, is home to three main, populous tribes: the Dani, the Lani and the Yali. These men and women follow an ancient lifestyle: they mostly live by farming, paint their bodies, wear elaborate headdresses but scarce clothing – in fact, the most eloquent sign to distinguish them from one tribe to the other is the shape of the men’s penis gourds. Every year, the three tribes come together to celebrate their ancestral culture and traditions, which includes the enactment of mock battles, spear throwing contests, pig race competitions, etc. Tourists are welcome to watch and even participate.

The Baliem Valley Festival will be held in the village of Wosilimo in Papua Wamena, Indonesia.

Culture | Independence Day

17 August

On 17 August, red and white, the two colours of Indonesia’s national flag, are to be found everywhere throughout the country. On this day, Indonesia commemorates its independence from the Dutch colonialists, achieved in 1945 and officially recognised by the Netherlands four years later, in 1949. The peak event among the many celebrations held during the day takes place at the National Palace, in Jakarta. Here, the President hoists the flag to symbolically reaffirm the independence and national spirit of Indonesia. Festivities continue with marching bands and military units parading down the city with crowds of excited locals cheering them along the way.

Independence Day is celebrated throughout Indonesia.

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Music | We The Fest

24 August

There’s a new music festival in town – it’s We The Fest, and this summer it will hit Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, with its much anticipated first edition. Music fans in Indonesia were in awe at the recently released news that British performer Ellie Goulding is going to be the jewel in the crown of the festival’s line-up. Besides Goulding, the stage will host other talented artists of the likes of RAC, Goldroom, Time Flies, Jessie Andrews and Banks. Despite the lack of previous editions to judge from, We The Fest is shaping up to be at the level of more renowned international music festivals: join the event with no fear for 12 hours of unstopping fun blast – it will not disappoint!

We The Fest’s venue will be held in a yet to be announced venue in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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Culture | Dieng Cultural Festival

23 – 24 August

An extraordinary, unique phenomenon occurs in Indonesia’s Dieng plateau, one that has so far escaped any scientific explanation. Some of the children who grow up in this area, at one point in their young lives, see strands of their hair naturally turn into dreadlocks. Locals believe this is a divine sign, a special gift from the gods; but it is also believed that the gift must be returned, or the child will face bad luck in his future life. The cutting of the dreadlocks, which takes place in the Arjuna Temple, has become the peak of the Dieng Festival, an event that celebrates the culture and traditions of these highlands. Once cut off, the dreadlocks are then brought to a nearby lake and immersed into the water.

The Dieng Cultural Festival will be held in Dieng, Indonesia.