Yogyakarta‘s landmark, Malioboro street recently became a giant exhibition space in support of the arts and diversity.

  Artists, including painters, sculptors, and kite makers exhibited their works in the public space.  And music and literature also were presented in the art exhibition that opened the 2nd Ruwahan Apeman Malioboro Festival 2011, a Javanese cultural religious festival in welcoming the Moslem fasting month that was held usually in villages. AFSC’s Indonesia office supported the event organizers as part of its continuing work to educate and support peace building through diversity and the arts. Ruwahan Apeman Malioboro Festival 2011 preserved a remarkable local spirit through exploration of cultural traditions that provide a form of expression for a good guidance that gives a positive contribution to the society.

 Ruwahan Apeman comes from Ruwah, a month in Javanese lunar calendar and apem, an elastic Javanese traditional cake. Ruwahan Apeman is a ceremony to pray for harmonious living symbolized by traditional foods and beverage, ketan (glutinous rice), kolak (sweet fruit beverage) and kue apem (apem cake). Each item holds a special meaning.  Ketan, which is so sticky, symbolizes a unity or a hope for the bonds of friendship. Kolak, which is made from cassava and king bananas, symbolizes respect for the ancestors and heroes, and apem, with its elasticity, is the symbol for forgiveness. These are the values that the Ruwahan Apeman upholds.  The festival attracted much public attention, not only from Yogyakarta’s people but also tourists from foreign countries

The festival included  a  night of literature with performances of music and poetry; a display of more than 90 paintings, and performances of  the Chinese arts, Dragon and Lion Dance and other traditional art communities of Malioboro.   

This festival is an occasion for people from different backgrounds to gather and get involved in the activities.  “This traditional event  is expected to be a forum for diversity that will preserve inter-group harmony in Yogyakarta or Indonesia,” said Andara, from the Sintenasmane Theater Community, who  performed at the festival.

The climax  was the local traditional carnival and a collective prayer in the DIY Governor’s Office at Kepatihan, Yogyakarta. The prayer was led by cultural expert Emha Ainun Nadjib, well known as Cak Nun. He began the prayer by asking, “Yogyakarta is harmonious, is it?” He yelled out at the crowd of people, who loudly and joyously answered “amen” before citing verses of Koran.

The Community of Malioboro or Coma, comprised of the Malioboro Street Singers Group,   River Bank Community, Portrait Artists, and Malioboro freelancer artists, developed the concept for the festival.  “The Ruwahan Apeman Festival is cultural religious tradition swathed in art,” explained Imam Rasta, festival coordinator. 

Eko, one of the painters from Coret Seturan Studio who took part in the art exhibition, expressed concern about the festival, saying that nowadays the tradition was beginning to be forgotten.  “This event has been held in the hope of preserving our heritage, besides placing meaning on the tradition, as well as providing a creative space for artists,” Eko said.

Professor Dr. Damarjati Supadjar said, “Indonesia is not a nation of religion nor secular nation, Indonesia is a nation based on divinity of God. It is the reason why the faith and people must have good synergy when flowing together to the ocean of peace.”

It is the reason why efforts with local values and diversity messages are needed as social empowerment and positive guidance for the society, added Teguh Mahesa, the Chief of Ruwahan Apeman Malioboro 2011.