Never mind if you don’t know who Anthony Reid, Antariksa, Jennifer Lindsay, Farah Wardhani, Yuli Kusworo or Joyo Wijoyono are. They are all big names in their respective, but very different fields.
Some are giants, like Anthony Reid, a Cambridge University-educated expert on Southeast Asia, whose books include “Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce.”
Antariksa, the cofounder of the Kunci Cultural Studies Center, is no less a pioneer in his own field.
Modern Indonesian cultural history expert Jennifer Lindsay is also an accomplished translator.
Farah Wardhani is the director of Indonesian Visual Arts Archives, which has been archiving contemporary Indonesian visual arts for the last 12 years. The organization has been loyally chronicling Yogyakarta’s rise as the center of contemporary art in Indonesia.
Joyo is the former national coordinator of Green Map Indonesia and is now handling an important development program to strengthen villages.
Yuli Kusworo oversees dozens of young architects working in poor communities in Surabaya, Makassar and Kendari.
So what do they all have in common? I met all of these outstanding individuals in a cafe in Yogyakarta. Some of them I met by mere coincidence, the rest I met without much planning — or traffic.
I could easily add another half-dozen equally creative people to the list, people from Australia, Europe, Jakarta and Bandung. They were all involved in cutting-edge creative work in, and around, Yogyakarta.
There was professor Yanuar Nugroho, from the University of Manchester, studying the cultural dynamics of the city.
I talked to Yuli, who just finished an experimental house made entirely from bamboo, and Antariksa, who was on his way to a world conference of 270 curators, critics and writers in Germany.
Yogyakarta has always been at the center of contemporary culture in Indonesia, and its residents are well-connected with Southeast Asian culture. It’s no coincidence, as the city has worked hard to make Yogyakarta a place where creative types rub elbows while walking down the street.
There is little traffic, and plenty to do. It feels like Jakarta must have in the 1970s, when traffic was light and the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center functioned as a meeting point for visionaries of the day. I’m sure, when people look at the capital today, they can’t help but feel nostalgic for the Jakarta of yore.