06 January 2008

Rightfully Yours? Or Ours?

I'm not sure whether people in Malaysia are aware of the recent controversy which angered many Indonesians.

I get questioned a lot by my Indonesian friends. I tried my best to explain the situation. It certainly is not pleasant when they call the country you love Maling-sia (maling as in pencuri).

The issue at the centre of it all being the folksong Rasa Sayang and Reog Ponorogo (a traditional dance which originates from Java). It then blew up to include batik and angklung.

It all started when the song Rasa Sayang was used by Malaysia in an advertisement to promote Malaysia as a tourist destination.

This roused the fury of Indonesians which claimed that the folksong is theirs (Rasa Sayange which is a Maluku folksong).

Then came the Reog Ponorogo issue. It was mentioned on the Kementerian Kebudayaan, Kesenian dan Warisan Malaysia website.

Here are the excerpts:

"Barongan menggambarkan kisah-kisah di zaman Nabi Allah Sulaiman dengan binatang-binatang yang boleh bercakap. Kononnya, seekor harimau telah terlihat seekor burung merak yang sedang mengembangkan ekornya. Apabila terpandang harimau, merak pun melompat di atas kepala harimau dan keduanya terus menari. Tiba-tiba Pamong (Juru Iring) bernama Garong yang mengiringi Puteri Raja yang sedang menunggang kuda lalu di kawasan itu. Pamong lalu turun dari kudanya dan menari bersama-sama binatang tadi. Tarian ini terus diamalkan dan boleh dilihat di daerah Batu Pahat, Johor dan di negeri Selangor."

The Indonesians translate the above as Malaysia claiming the ownership of the traditional dance.

Now, I've read the website ten times, even as far as going at a snail's pace, word by word, but failed to see the words which suggest that we own or for that matter claimed Reog originates from Malaysia.

Mind you, to illustrate the seriousness of this issue (to the Indonesians, anyway), a demo was staged at the gates of the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta. Among the protestors were people from the place called Ponorogo (where the dance originated from).

Watching the bunch of protestors, I wonder if they have ever surfed the internet and took the trouble to at least read the statement on the Kementerian Kebudayaan, Kesenian dan Warisan's website.

On second thought, do they even know what's internet? Hmmmmm....

It then blew out of proportions. They (Indonesians) now claim that Malaysia is stealing what is rightfully theirs the examples being, among others, batik and angklung. Some even say that rendang is not ours (I'm going to ignore this comment because I find it too amusing to take it seriously).

Maybe the Indonesians are too lazy or just could not be bothered about the history of people migration. Human beings have been migrating for centuries. With the migration, they would take with them not only their worldly tangible posessions but also tradition and culture.

All over the world, you would find people of different races and faiths practising their own set of values, tradition and culture, and yet they live side by side in one country.

You would find a Chinese-South African in Johannesburg, a Japanese-American in New York, a Niger-Russian in Vladivostok, a Malay-French in Calais... and of course, a Javanese-Malaysian in Batu Pahat.

Javanese and Sumaterans have long been known to have migrated to Tanah Melayu. My late maternal grandfather was from Bukit Tinggi, Sumatera.

If you travel to the kampungs in Johor you'd find Boso Jowo being widely used.

Go slightly north you'd find Bahasa Minang as the spoken language. There's even a community of orang Bangkahulu in Rawang.

And ohh... I'd like to suggest to my Indonesian friends to drop by Kampung Pandan in Kuala Lumpur. You'd feel like home.

My point is, it shouldn't be such an anger-arousing surprise that some communities in Malaysia have similarities where customs, traditions and culture are concerned. But they are undoubtedly Malaysians!!

Our (Malaysia) only fault is that we promote this culture to the rest of the world. Just as we potray Chinese, Indian, Portuguese and numerous other tradition and culture which are being practised in Malayisa. We did not (and never will) claim those culture as ours.

I was laughing my ass out when I saw an advertisment by a well known brand in Indonesia, educating or more precisely, instilling awareness that batik, reog ponorogo, angklung, kuda kepang, among others, are traditions which are rightfully theirs. Then, it showed Agnes Monica (Indonesian singer) saying "Truly, Indonesia" with a smirk (Malaysia, Truly Asia.. get it?).

Malaysia is telling the whole wide world about a myriad of culture and traditions in existence in Malaysia, and here you have Indonesia still educating its' people to be aware and to love batik, angklung and reog ponorogo. By a private sector paying for an advertisment slot on TV, nonetheless.

Indonesians should be proud that their culture have prospered in other places. They have very beautiful and rich culture which they too, should preserve and promote to the rest of the world.

I've grown fond of the Indonesian people and Jakarta. But when they started throwing baseless and ill-informed accusations and started calling my country with deragotary names, I simply could not keep quiet, now, could I?