On July 7th, a group of Indonesian artists hosted a cultural art exposition in Niagara Falls, New York. Held at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, the expo showcased Indonesian art in its many forms, including paintings, sculptures, fashion, dance, and music.
Among the types of visual art present were paintings by the artists themselves, wood carvings representing historical cultural and theistic figures, and wayang; traditional Indonesian puppets used to tell old fables and oral histories. Indonesian fashion and textiles, most notably batik, were displayed both as visual art and as costumes during the Indonesian dance performance. A musical performance of Indonesian orchestra, known as gamelan, was performed by the Buffalo Gamelan Club, hailing from the nearby city of Buffalo.
This expo was not the first expo for the Indonesian artists — dubbed the Srikandi 5 — November of 2017 saw them launch their first cultural exhibition in Houston, Texas. The artists, all members of the Indonesian diaspora community, are hoping their exhibits in both Texas and New York are helping introduce Indonesian culture to parts of the United States largely unfamiliar with Southeast Asian cultures.
Indonesian cultural exports, however, have been displayed prominently in the United States’ more cosmopolitan cities. In April of this year, Seattle experienced a burst of Indonesian flavor as coffee producers from across the archipelago showcased their products at the Global Specialty Coffee Expo, and in February, Indonesian textiles and garments made an appearance at New York Fashion Week.
These events highlight Indonesia’s growing cultural presence in the United States. As of 2016, over 110,000 Indonesian-Americans reside in the United States, while almost 9,000 Indonesian nationals attend American universities. Indonesian provinces and cities share six state and city partnerships in California, Missouri, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, and Indonesian tourists contribute over $892 million to the American economy.
Joseph Meisburger is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He is currently a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Arizona, studying Geography and Urban & Regional Development.