Komunitas Salihara: An art oasis nestling in South Jakarta

Salihara community is not just a place where the artists gather, this place also as a forum for artists to perform various exhibitions. (photo: IO/Aldo)

IO, Jakarta – The resurgence of art in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, means that many individuals and associations have established museums and revived art shows in Jakarta. However, some art spots have hung on for a long time and are worth a second look – such as Salihara Community (Komunitas Salihara) in Utan Kayu.

This venerable association started humbly as the Utan Kayu Community (Komunitas Utan Kayu – “KUK”) in East Jakarta in 1996. The founder, journalist/poet Goenawan Mohamad, persuaded several friends to help him build the community. ‘KUK used to have many activities, especially political ones. As it happens they have an artistic arm, which holds shows and events in Galeri Lontar (Lontar Gallery) and Teater Utan Kayu (Utan Kayu Theater) in the KUK complex. The arm pursued a serious expansion and development, so we wanted to have a better building in order to house it. That’s why we moved to Salihara here,’ said Nirwan Dewanto, the Program Director of Komunitas Salihara.

Komunitas Salihara has held many events, including photo exhibitions, discussions, and public lecture, as well as film screenings, musical shows, and dances. Komunitas Salihara has won many awards in its 2 decades, the latest include ‘The Best Art Space’ (2010) by Time Out Jakarta magazine, and made the list of ‘Top 10 Most Unique Spots in Jakarta’ (2010) by Metro TV. The architecture of Komunitas Salihara has also won the ‘Environmentally Friendly Architectural Work’ award by Green Design Award 2009.

Other than the regular (monthly) artistic and intellectual programs of Forum Teater Salihara (‘Salihara Theater Forum’) and Diskusi Bulanan Salihara (‘Salihara Monthly Discussion’), the community also hosts specific programs, such as:

FESTIVAL SALIHARA, a biennial festival that shows off artistic masterpieces of show business, theatrical works that are selected individually and together by the Curating Council of Komunitas Salihara. These are the Indonesian plays considered to be world level. It also includes a number of premiere shows by international artists.

BIENAL SASTRA SALIHARA (Salihara Literature Bienniale), an international literature festival held once every two years. It showcases the development of contemporary Indonesian and global literature, as well as a wealth of classical and traditional works.

FORUM SENIMAN PEREMPUAN SALIHARA (Salihara Female Artist Forum), which allots space specifically for female artists for a wider appreciation by the public. Its purpose is to allow the public to appreciate the creativity of women and showcase the works of female artists.

SALIHARA JAZZ BUZZ, which is a series of jazz concerts that showcases fresh and innovative contemporary compositions that you will not likely hear on mainstream jazz stages.

Salihara is more than just a place for holding exhibitions and shows: ‘Salihara is like a hangout space, a place to experiment and exchange ideas, a workshop, and a place of education. There are lectures, courses, classes for acting, water color painting, philosophy, and many more,’ Nirwan said.

Salihara also has the Black Box which, according to Nirwan, is a flexible show space. Audience members are various ages and backgrounds, both social and cultural – impecunious college students might find themselves rubbing shoulders with established sophisticates used to watching shows abroad. ‘Watching a show is something that you do to entertain yourself – and for recreation, meaning to ‘re-create’ yourself. Our audiences always have their creative horizons and intellectual horizons broadened with our shows,’ he said.

The creators and caretakers of this community believe that art is an invaluable investment for the growth and development of tomorrow’s children today. Therefore, the community was established to preserve contemporary artwork of Indonesia, no matter what the form. Help preserve local contemporary culture – visit Salihara Community and participate now! (Aldo)