Unveiling the Multifaceted World of Archipelagic Islam in a 20-day-Festival in the Netherlands

 Unveiling the Multifaceted World of Archipelagic Islam in a 20-day-Festival in the Netherlands

A Personal Reflection of an Indonesian Cultural Figure, Sutanto Mendut

Something truly special is about to happen in the heart of the Netherlands, a festival, that will honor the rich history and culture of Islam. This grand festival will last for 20 days in several places in the Netherlands. The festival named Festival Islam Kepulauan, “The Voices of Archipelago,” ranging from 1 to 20 May 2024 consists of:

  • Art and Manuscript Exhibition at Bronbeek Museum in Arnhem (1-20 May);
  • Islam Summit at Kumpulan Building in Arnhem (4 May);
  • Food Bazaar & Special Art performance as the Closing Ceremony of the festival at De Broodfabriek in Rijswijk (18-19 May);
  • And other events between 2-17 May in several venues in Amsterdam, Leiden, and The Hague.

The details of the festival will be regularly updated in its official website: www.thevoicesofarchipelago.org and Instagram: @festival.islam.kepulauan

With the theme “The voices of Archipelago,” the festival seeks to highlight the numerous facets of Islam rather than limiting it to a particular location or culture. One of the special guests for this event is Sutanto Mendut, a revered character in Indonesia, whose thoughts and observations illuminate the festival’s storyline.

Through his personal correspondence with Brian Trinanda K. Adi (chairman of the festival), Sutanto Mendut reveals a grand vision for the festival that goes beyond superficial depictions to explore the core of Islamic identity. He addresses the liminal areas where spirituality and art meet, as well as the intricate webs that connect Nusantara Islam (Islam in the Indonesian archipelago), either modern or rural Islam, and other religious traditions. This grand vision brings together a wide range of artistic expressions, from social media clips to live performances on stage, and from wooden masks to paintings on canvas, all coming together to portray the complex “tapestry” of Islamic art.

Sutanto Mendut’s collection displayed in Museum Lima Gunung

An Unveiling of One’s True Self

Tracing his family tree from his Islamic ancestry in Tulung Agung to his Chinese nationalist grandfather and the urban Javanese culture of his parents, Sutanto Mendut’s story provides an intimate look at identity. The vast tapestry of his family’s history reflects the multicultural society of Indonesia, where Islam is intermingled with many faiths and traditions that contribute to the rich tapestry of cultural diversity.

Following Sutanto Mendut’s journey allows us to see the mundane yet vibrant life in his hamlet, where Buddhist and Islamic festivals coexist harmoniously and where the presence of historic Hindu and Buddhist temples is a continual tribute to Indonesia’s diverse cultural legacy. His dedication to promoting and conserving Indonesia’s rich cultural heritage is evident in his involvement in various cultural events, such as opening an art studio (Studio Mendut) and a museum (Museum Lima Gunung) and planning the yearly five-mountain festival (Festival Lima Gunung) that has been regularly held for 23 years and even has successfully inspired many other mountain festivals to come into being, such as Festival Muria Raya in the north of Central Java.

Sutanto Mendut giving his speech in the Festival Muria Raya #2

A Voyage of Discovery and Connection

In the moments leading up to his flight to Amsterdam, Sutanto Mendut contemplates how his life story relates to larger global narratives about Islam. Through his travels to different Islamic communities across the globe, he has come to see Islam as something that is both locally rooted and globally relevant, constantly changing and adapting.

Sutanto Mendut sees a chance to share his story and have an exchange of ideas with the many distinct communities in the Netherlands. Recognizing the value of other perspectives, he offers an invitation to collaborate, arguing that differences in faith and culture should not be barriers to meaningful dialogue.

Difficulties and Conclusions

Sutanto Mendut deals with the difficulties of managing one’s identity in the modern world, in which he sees himself living between “moments of humorous anecdotes and memories.” The conflicts between religious conservatism and secular inquiry are vividly shown by his dual identities as a muslim and a passionate traveler. Nevertheless, he remains receptive and inquisitive throughout, welcoming the variety of human experiences with gentleness and reverence.

Valuing Traditions, Promoting Conversation

As the final remark, Sutanto Mendut unfolds his vision that Festival Islam Kepulauan (The Voices of Archipelago) is more than a cultural event; it is a testimony to the power of storytelling and discussion in developing understanding and bridging barriers. The event promotes understanding and acceptance by allowing people to explore the multi-verse of Islamic traditions, which helps to dispel prejudice and promote collaboration among people.

May this event be showered with blessings, illuminating and inspiring everyone who partake, as Sutanto Mendut aptly puts it.

Brian Trinanda K. Adi,

28 March 2024, Amsterdam

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