In sharp contrast to today’s disorder was the apparent cohesion and stability of Indonesia during much of the New Order period (1965–98). While Suharto’s authoritarian rule was significant, the regime’s cultural policies also played their part. Ethnic, religious and regional sentiments were to be channelled into the field of art rather than being expressed in terms of class, religion or separatism. At the same time, culture was used to help develop a national Indonesian identity.
This theme is explored by this study, which focuses on the efforts of a group of young art students based at the Bandung Academy of Performing Arts to revitalize traditional Longser theatre. The interaction between the artists and regime and their often-differing ideas about identity, the role of art and cultural traditions in Indonesia offers valuable insights into the underlying dynamics of the country’s current condition.