Savitri Sastrawan
Jan 18 · 3 min read

When Martcellia Liunic on her Instagram account @liunic shared prompts of Nusantara Folklore Week for one week earlier this month, I was intrigued, but I was in the midst of finding my own ground as so many things happened. Then, as the week comes along, everything surprises me.

Liunic’s post

Never have I thought to see a day where I could enjoy and appreciate the Indonesians’ diversity even more. Nusantara Folklore Week, with the hashtag #nusantarafolkloreweek, was a week filled with a prompt a day to illustrate/paint/draw an Indonesian folklore. The prompts were Curse, Flora, Transformation, Fauna, Deity, Place and Magical Creature.

Liunic’s take on Timun Mas — coincidently a folklore I revisited last year when I was still working as a teacher

I was thrilled to see the creativity of the people in this country, Indonesia is so rich with its stories and having that visualised in each of the people’s own style were just great achievements of its own. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. Yet, I feel like it is such a great opportunity for everyone to come together doing what they love and express it to the whole Indonesia, even the world.

Faulika even made her own twist on the folklore — visually and narratively

I learned so much on the different folklore stories that existed all over Indonesia, and surprisingly the Balinese folklore were the popular ones to be made. The way that all this time I learnt folklore are too seriously (sometimes too scary) illustrated or told in a serious tone, now I can find it fun with some of them interpreted with a more cheerful tone and vast exploration of colours.

How is Babi Ngepet illustrated scarily cute?

In a way, it indirectly promotes Indonesia in its rightful place. Culture is a product that people don’t really turn to, but it is one thing that won’t stop on its way. And in this digital culture, Indonesians have evolved in it — name it: consumption, services, and of course, creativity. #NusantaraFolkloreWeek was an outlet where you can see not only the talents, but how we retell stories, again and again, that also retells or educate moral values.

I discovered that Nagini actually has its folklore in Indonesia!

Dongeng atau Cerita?

We have a word “dongeng”, which means a fictional story that’s told from one generation to another. While “cerita” means story. A friend who got himself involved in this event on Instagram asked me which one is better as a hashtag — to have the word “dongeng” or “cerita” and he thought he was exaggerating if he felt that someone could be offended if he used “dongeng” on his hashtag.

Igorsatumangkok personal take on Dewi Ratih’s story, a breakthrough towards the usual traditional wayang based paintings — and I could not help but indulge and appreciate his way of expressing it

I told him, no it’s actually not an exaggeration at all. This means he understood that these stories of folklore are not merely fictional. As he brought up all the Balinese related ones for seven days, as a Balinese myself I never thought those stories are fictional. Thus folklore is not fictional to me, it is very much a believe-it-or-not matter. So I said to him, it’s better for you to use “cerita” as this is a story we tell again and again to generations and generations, until today.

A Letter to our Ancestors

And most of all, looking at all these visuals that have been created, I feel like that we are writing a letter to our ancestors. Yes, these artists and illustrators have re-created narrated these existing stories, yet it is also a letter to them that we have not forgotten their stories in this digital age.

Also, who said traditional things cannot live on in this digital life? As long as there is a will to continue diversity, I think such traditions and culture will always survive.

Kudos to the six Jakarta based illustrators @r_hakim , @liunic , @marinaesque , @witchkana , @kathrinhonestaa and @kemasacil, that have initiated this Instagram event. Looking forward to more of these things happening in Indonesia. And here is @inicecil last post on Magical Creature — the Badawangnala story — along with the six illustrators faces.

Savitri Sastrawan

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Bali-based Balinese nomad. An Arts and Language freelancer | about.me/savitri.sastrawan