Monday, August 31, 2009

My response to appearance of Pendet dance in a Malaysian tourism ad

Source of picture: Malay Mail Online

Having been studying overseas for over than two years and experiencing a taste of great cultural diversity in Kuala Lumpur, metropolitan city of the Petronas Twin Towers, always make me think that Indonesia is indeed my country, but Kuala Lumpur is my hometown. Oh, scratch what I've just said or I would have trouble - ha ha ha.

Well, this is what I heard last time from my friends in Indonesia that has recently been over my head - "Malaysia just stole our Pendet dance. Ganyang Malaysia! (English: Crush Malaysia!)" And I was like, "What??!!", rolling my eyes. Firstly, I thought it was not more than just a rumour, but I couldn't stand to pretend to keep my head, so this is my personal view.

Quoted from the Jakarta Post published on 23 August 2009 - "The presence of Balinese dancing and a leather shadow puppet in a Malaysian tourism ad has once again upset Indonesians, who are saying it is an attempt to claim the art forms as their own." Commenting on this issue, I would say that the leather shadow puppet, also known as Wayang Kulit, has been popular in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, where it took root more than 250 years ago (thanks once again to Google for this info). Actually, its origin remains a mystery, as the puppet show today is spread out across Asia in various forms and guises. So in this regard, we can't claim that Wayang Kulit was completely originated in Indonesia and therefore accuse Malaysia of stealing Indonesia's cultural heritage. Also, I don't even think that Malaysian people know what the Pendet dance is. They don't even know what the word 'Pendet' is.

However, protests over the image of two Balinese dancers performing the Pendet dance appearing in Malaysia's tourism ad titled 'Enigmatic Malaysia' still continue in Bumi Pertiwi, Indonesia. Understanding the reason why the dance appeared in the Malaysian tourism advertising must not be a breeze, as we know that the Pendet dance has its origin in Bali, Indonesia. But, according to the Malay Mail Online (25 August 2009), "Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific stated the image of Balinese dancers were used in a clip, aired on Discovery Channel, to promote the documentary series Enigmatic Malaysia and the image of the dancers, performing the pendet, were sourced from an independent third party." Therefore, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific felt sorry for using the Pendet dance in the promotion of the series Enigmatic Malaysia aired on the Discovery Channel.

Well, at least, we all know now that it was the fault of the third party for using the Pendet dance in the promotion of the series Enigmatic Malaysia. To my mind, the Indonesian government should have verified again with the government of Malaysia before they alleged that Malaysia had stolen Indonesia's traditional dance, so that this issue wouldn't have provoked anger among Indonesians.

In a nutshell, let's hope both of the governments will be able to deal with this issue as soon as possible. Please note, Indonesia and Malaysia shared the same culture and language many years ago, as most Malays in Malaysia originated from Indonesia. So, it is little wonder that today we can find some similarities in their culture and language. In my view, this issue can be a challenge and wake-up call to all Indonesians, particularly the younger generation (including me, of course), to stop blindly aping western culture and start preserving our own culture. Last, let peace reign in both of the countries.

P.S. Click here to watch a clip of the promotion of the series Enigmatic Malaysia on YouTube.