In any other evening, Tutup Ngisor village at the foot of Mount Merapi in Magelang, Central Java, is blanketed in tranquility and thick, cool mist.
Not tonight, however. The usually quiet locale is bursting with excitement as residents played traditional gamelan percussions, the sounds of which echoed throughout the surrounding hills and forests.
It was a special evening. It marked the start of the 18th Five Mountains Festival, an annual series of festivities that showcases art and culture initiated by local farmers.
This year’s festival emphasizes the theme of Gunung Lumbung Budaya, a notion that champions national identity as it is forged from many disparate cultures and values.
To embody this year’s theme, local artist Ismanto designed a massive figure of the Garuda, a mythical bird that serves as Indonesia’s national symbol, made of various materials such as bamboo, coconut leaves and salacca leaves. The creature looms over the center stage.
Over 77 artists and communities hailing from across the archipelago took part in the festivities and entertained audiences on the stage.
From July 5 to 7, festivalgoers were treated to a host of lavish stage performances and inventive art installations.
Renowned contemporary music composer and cultural observer Sutanto Mendut first floated the idea of an annual art festival that would bring together farmers from villages near five major volcanoes in Central Java: Mount Merapi, Mount Merbabu, Mount Menoreh, Mount Andhong and Mount Sumbing.
In its 18th year, the festival remained independent from corporate sponsors, driving home the point that art is able to flourish without commerce. Instead, local farmers affiliated with the Five Mountains Community crowdfunded the event themselves.
“The essence of a village lies in its culture,” Sutanto said. (rfa)