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A Renaissance of Indonesian Art

Nyoman Muarta's <i>Dancing on the Crown</i> stands in the courtyard of Jakarta's National Gallery for the CP Open Biennial. It depicts a recent Indonesian cultural phenomenon -- the singer Inul, who's part Britney, part Eminem, part Elvis.
Rick Karr, NPR News /
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Nyoman Muarta's Dancing on the Crown stands in the courtyard of Jakarta's National Gallery for the CP Open Biennial. It depicts a recent Indonesian cultural phenomenon -- the singer Inul, who's part Britney, part Eminem, part Elvis.

Over the past five years, Indonesia has weathered terrorism, political upheaval and economic crisis. At the same time, the world’s largest Muslim nation has gone through a kind of artistic Renaissance.

NPR's Rick Karr recently traveled to the island nation, and found a burgeoning art scene, gaining depth and international respect after decades of official censorship under the regime of President Suharto. His 32-year iron grip on the island ended with a popular uprising in 1998.

"The censorship came from of course the regime," says Nindityo Adipurnomo, an artist and art gallery owner in Yogyakarta -- a city on the island of Java considered the traditional center of Javanese culture. "And also from ourself, from our own fear."

Now that artists are more free to express themselves in Indonesia, there is a new focus on Indonesian society. "Artists are asking what it means to be a citizen in a still-struggling Muslim democracy that’s being buffeted by fundamentalism, globalization, and the growth of mass media," Karr reports.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rick Karr contributes reports on the arts to NPR News. He is a correspondent for the weekly PBS public affairs show Bill Moyers Journal and teaches radio journalism at Columbia University.