The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Amuna Kusumo
Amna Kusumo, Director of “Kelola”
kelola Foundation
Presenter Interview
Training arts managers to support the activities of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic artists of Indonesia   Jakarta's art NPO Kelola 
Made up of some 17,500 islands including Java, Sumatra and Bali, with approximately 300 distinct ethnic groups and 600 dialects, Indonesia is truly a multi-cultural nation. Amidst this great ethnic diversity, Kelola was established as an NPO in 1999 and has since brought a breath of fresh air to the arts world in Indonesia through programs such as arts manager training. Kelola’s founder and director, Amna Kusumo, spoke about her organization’s activities with Norikazu Sato, the representative of JCDN, a dance NPO in Japan that has had frequent cultural exchange programs with Ms. Kusumo for more than 25 years.

Sato: I first met you in 1981. You organized Indonesian tour for my company Byakkosha in 1982, which was hosted by the Indonesian Arts Council with your partner Sardono, and the dance critic Sal Murgiyanto. We have met many times since then, both in Japan and Indonesia.
    We also worked together on the Triangle Project in 1997 supported by Saison Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), and later we met again at the Asian Arts Conference. In 2007, JCDN had an Indonesian tour “We are gonna go dancing!” which was organized by you. As long as I have known you, you have been a pioneer of the Indonesian performing arts community and your partner, Sardono became President of Jakarta Arts Institute (Institut Kesenian Jakarta), and the two of you have been leaders of the Indonesian performing arts community, both domestically and internationally. Would you please tell us about your career as a performing arts presenter in Indonesia?

Kusumo: Actually, I started working as what is now called an arts manager by accident. I went to see a performance and met Sardono in Paris, France. It was in the mid-70s. The performance was quite successful and he was offered to do another work in Paris again. So there were a lot of administrative work to be done, but Sardono was not good at those things. So I helped him out. These things were simple to me, but he didn’t know how to handle them. That’s actually how I started working as an arts manager. I like to think of arts management still in these terms, the actual essence is “supporting artist friend,” so that they can achieve what they want to achieve. I still want to keep that spirit in all the work I do as an arts manager or producer. In those days, there was no such term as arts management. So when people asked me what I do, I had a difficult time explaining. Even though arts management was used as a term since the 70s in the United States in Indonesia people didn’t talk about arts management until the 80s. Even artists usually did not think they needed a manager.

Sato: In those days, you, Sardono and Matheus Sal Murgiyanto were trying to create a new movement in Indonesia through the Jakarta Arts Council.

Kusumo: The Jakarta Arts Council founded in 1969 was part of the Jakarta Art Center built by Ali Sadikin, the visionary governor of Jakarta at the time.
    The Art Center was, I believe, the first facility in Southeast Asia, even before Singapore. It had many theaters, including an open-air theater with 2,500 seats, one proscenium with 300, an arena with 300, and studio for rehearsals. It was very artistic. The Center is linked to the Arts Council, which has an office in the same complex. So the Arts Council decided the programs and the Center implement the programs. Interestingly the Center also hired professionals from the business world to run it. The 70s was a golden age for the Jakarta Art Center because the governor at the time really supported it. He came to see many performances. It is also interesting because he was a marine general, but he had a vision about Jakarta as a cultural city. Many performances came to Indonesia during that time. Pina Bausch performed in 1976, and Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham; many prominent artists came in those days. Indonesian artists in dance, theater and visual artists were always at the Art Center. It was not just an art center, it was a hub, and people met there and saw each other’s work. It is very different from now, when visual artists don’t go to see performances, and theater artists don’t go to see exhibitions. In those days everybody saw everything. It was a time full of energy. Many of Indonesia’s prominent artists came from that time.
    After the governor Ali Sadikin resigned, it was very different. The next governors did not understand the vision at all, and everything went downhill. Now the Art Center is quite run down. There are not enough funds to program interesting events, so the Art Center programs whatever it can and rent its space to anybody who is willing to pay. It is sad that the Art Center has now become a rental space. Since the last couple of years The Arts Council has gotten more funds from the government so they can program interesting had so little money to do anything.

Sato: Pina Bausch’s first performance in Japan was in 1981, so she came to Jakarta long before she came to Japan. Was there any government support or special social environment that enabled the invitation of such prominent international artists in those days?

Kusumo: There is government support during that time. The theaters were always given for free, and the technical equipment was quite good for that time. There were many performances from the West because the Art Center was active, and when foreign governments sent artists on tour, they made Jakarta one of their tour venues because it was an exciting place. Tickets for the performances were cheap and the Art Center always had very good audience. I remember when Sardono performed at an open-air theater with audiences of 2,500 for full two days. It was an inspiring time.

Sato: When Byakkosha toured around Indonesia in 1982, including Jakarta, Bandung, Solo, Yog Jakarta, and Bali, I also felt strong passion from the Indonesian audience, as they welcomed not only traditional but also contemporary arts. Some of it was controversial, but I still remember how much people enjoyed it.

Kusumo: It was because people were very open then. People wanted to experience new things. Sal Murgiyanto saw your performance in 1981 in South Korea and was excited that it was a Japanese contemporary dance like we had never seen before. So we were interested in bringing your group to Indonesia. All the performances were sold out and successful, and all the newspapers wrote about it.

Sato: Despite the controversy, people still talk about the big response we got from the people at each venue around Indonesia during that tour.

Kusumo: Byakkosha was the only Japanese butoh group to perform in Indonesia until Sankai Juku in 1995. In Indonesia at the time there was still censorship that prevented nudity, so I had many nights of discussions with your company leader about the costumes. Finally he had wonderful costumes made.

Sato: Does Indonesia still retain that type of passion from the 80s?

Kusumo: It has changed dramatically for many reasons, one of which is that the Art Center after all has not kept up with the changes in time. The Art Center is anything but artistic. The facilities have deteriorated, and never renovated or maintained well. So it is no longer a cool place to be for young people. It was my generation that came to hang out there because it was interesting and you could see many things. They never upgraded to meet the changing needs. The other reason is Jakarta’s change and growth. From then to now, the population of the province of Jakarta has increased four times. Traffic is impossible. People are living very far away from the Center. Public transportation is not good. If you go to the theater, how do you get back home in the evening after the buses stop running? One of the theaters, Jakarta Performing Arts Theater (Gedung Kesenian Jakarta) is located in the center of Jakarta, but 85% of their mailing list (audience) has addresses in the city of South Jakarta. The city has changed and a lot of people have moved to South Jakarta, two hours from the Center, but the government never built any theater in South Jakarta. I think that’s what should be done.
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