Europalia under the spell of Indonesia

11 October 2017

On October 10, 2017, EUROPALIA kicks off, this time with a festival about Indonesia. A country about which little is known in Europe beyond its associations with rijsttafels, peanut sauce and Balinese beaches. All very lovely, but extremely limited and stereotypical…

Therefore, in June 2016, Europalia showcased Indonesian music and performing arts for our artistic  partners including deSingel, Vooruit and Théâtre de Liège. For the visual arts, Europalia organized studio visits for amongst others SMAK, MAC’s and M HKA. These eye-opening experiences resulted in an enthusiastic festival programming.

Together with dozens of artistic partners and curators from Indonesia and Europe, a programme was developed that not only offers compelling perspectives on the guest country, but also on ourselves. Both cultural heritage and contemporary projects are included, and once again, there is a strong focus on new creations and interactions between the Indonesian and European art scenes. Three themes traverse the festival: ancestors and rituals, biodiversity and exchange.

 Ancestors and rituals.

With ancestors, we approach Indonesia from an exciting perspective. Ancestral cults exist almost everywhere in Indonesia, interwoven in different religions and daily life. The opening exhibition Ancestors & Rituals (in BOZAR from October 11, curator: Daud Tanudirjo) recounts this story with top pieces from the National Museum in Jakarta. Not an exotic story, but an exploration of ancestors and rituals in a partly urbanized and globalized Indonesia. Barbara Raes enters into dialogue with the public and together with artists explores our own relationship with ancestors and rituals in a series of workshops. Rituals are also strongly present in music and dance, including the magnificent gamelan from Java and Bali, at the heart of many concerts and workshops on the programme.


Indonesia often conjures up images of lush flora and unusual fauna. Rightly so, but unfortunately, these are also coupled with environmental challenges. As such, biodiversity cannot go unheeded. Central to this theme is our EUROPALIA CURATOR’S AWARD. A unique prize worth 25,000 euro awarded to an upcoming curator who will go on residence with three visual artists to work around

the  biodiversity  theme.  The  curators  selected  for this  residence  are  Laura Herman and Charlotte

Dumoncel d’Argence. November’s literature programme also features a number of speakers on environmental themes.


 And finally, the theme of exchange is addressed in two other major exhibitions. Firstly, Archipel (in La Boverie, Liège from October 25) looks at Indonesia’s pioneering role as a maritime nation and places the cultural exchanges associated with this in the spotlight. In BOZAR, Power and other things (from October 18, curators: Charles Esche, Riksa Affiaty and Enin Suprianto) is a project with three parts: an exhibition, residences and a symposium. The project looks at two centuries of art in Indonesia, from colonial relationships to contemporary themes such as migration.

Themes that are highly topical in today’s world and which, via Indonesia, are explored  from  a broader perspective, re-situating our Eurocentric reflex. Various artists – Indonesian and European – make new works during residencies. A symposium in the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren) compares two colonial relationships: Indonesia/the Netherlands versus Congo/Belgium.

Music and performing arts.

The theme of exchange comes fully into its own in the music and performing arts programme. Europalia is also organizing numerous residencies in Indonesia and Europe that will result in new works. Thereby, Indonesians themselves also discover new aspects of their vast country and compare the dominant Javanese traditions with others, for example, Kalimantan and Sumatra.

A large number of Indonesians are also coming to Europe for residencies and to set up new collaborations. Dancers and choreographers Darlane Litaay (Papua) and Otniel Tasman (Yogyakarta) respectively explore the themes of exoticism and gender.

A conscious decision has been made to draw attention to as many regions of Indonesia as possible in order to allow different traditions to come into their own. Vocal and instrumental music from, amongst others, Sulawesi and numerous other projects will undoubtedly captivate audiences.

European artists are traveling to Indonesia to work with local artists and start new productions. Ana Torfs and Roy Villevoye are making new work, as is Meg Stuart. Musicians Dijf Sanders and Jan Schulte are making a new album following their residence in the guest country. Rabih Beani is working with Tarawangsa music (trance music from West Java) and Stefan Lakatos is collaborating with the gamelan master Iwan Gunawan on Moondog (with performances, amongst others, in Ancienne Belgique and the Barbican, London).


Artistic dialogue and new creations are once again central and reflect the mission of EUROPALIA.  With everything that is happening in the world today, we are more than ever convinced of their mission: art as a catalyst for getting to know and understand each other better. To attain new perspectives.