Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pluralist start to tiger year

Sunday February 21, 2010

Pluralist start to tiger year

Indonesian-Chinese youths take to the stage to create better understanding of their culture.

JAKARTA: On Saturday, just before the Chinese New Year, the sweet sound of modern and traditional Chinese love songs could be heard in every corner of the newly-opened Central Park mall in West Jakarta.

In a room in front of a huge pond on the first floor terrace, a group of young people were busy preparing for a series of shows.

Make-up artists were working their magic on several already stunning youth in that room, defining their brows and lips, while powdering their fair-skinned faces.

Quickly, these young people put on traditional Chinese clothes to cover their casual modern outfits. One of the teenagers was dressed as an emperor, wearing a shining golden robe and a typical Chinese crown, while his partner, an elegant Chinese girl, was dressed in a glowing yellow and red empress gown.

The stunning couple then modelled various traditional Chinese clothes.

Another young man with a long purple traditional Shanghai robe walked past, while his partner modelled a long pink robe.

The last couple wore Chinese traditional clothes from the Han Dynasty.

These young people are members of the Jakarta Koko Cici Society (Ikoci), a group made up of finalists and winners of a beauty pageant for Chinese-Indonesians. They spent a large part of the day modelling for a fashion show as well as performing in a traditional musical Chinese drama to greet the first day of Chinese Year of the Tiger.

The city administration, which started the beauty pageant in 2002, has been holding the event every year since then.

Spokeswoman of Ikoci, Evelyn Hartono, said her organisation’s mission was “to introduce Chinese-Indonesian culture to the society so that others can understand about our culture well enough and we can live side by side in peace.”

Discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians started under the Dutch rule, when the Chinese were separated from other ethnic groups to prevent unity across sections of the society. Chinese-Indonesians were soon seen as a successful business class, which other Indonesians considered as exclusive. This kind of stereotyping continued under the New Order government from 1966 to 1998.

Evelyn voiced hope that no one would ever call Chinese-Indonesians “You cina!” again.

She said she didn’t want another tragedy like the one that unravelled in 1998, where many Chinese-Indonesian women were raped and killed.

The young Chinese woman also explained, “These Koko and Cici are not only judged on their beauty, brain power and behaviour, like in any other beauty pageants, but also on their commitment as Chinese-Indonesians to preserve Chinese culture in Indonesia.”

“I consider myself as an Indonesian rather than a Chinese but I cannot deny my ethnicity,” said 21-year-old Alvin Tjondro, the Koko Jakarta 2009.

The 2009 Cici Jakarta, 19-year-old Vienna Chandra, said Chinese-Indonesians had not chosen their ethnicity.

“I have many friends from different ethnic and social economic backgrounds and I get along well with them,” said Vienna.

She also hoped people would stop discriminating against Chinese-Indonesians as after all, “we are Indonesians even though our ethnicity is Chinese”.

Later in the evening, Ikoci presented a popular traditional Chinese drama titled The White Snake Legend, the story of a white snake that turned into a beautiful lady and fell in love with a handsome young man.

For more than 30 years, Chinese-Indonesians could not celebrate Chinese New Year openly as a result of Soeharto’s rule on religion, beliefs and Chinese culture.

The late president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid revoked the instruction on Jan 17, 2000, allowing Chinese-Indonesians to celebrate their culture openly. - The Jakarta Post

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