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Indonesian Culture Essay

Indonesia has about 300 ethnic groups, each with cultural identities developed over centuries, and influenced by Indian, Arabic, Chinese, and European sources. Traditional Javanese and Balinese dances, for example, contain aspects of Hindu culture and mythology, as do wayang kulit(shadow puppet) performances. Textiles such as batik, ikat, ulos and songket are created across Indonesia in styles that vary by region. The most dominant influences on Indonesian architecture have traditionally been Indian; however, Chinese, Arab, and European architectural influences have been significant. Sports in Indonesia are generally male-orientated and spectator sports are often associated with illegal gambling. The most popular sports are badminton and football.

Indonesian players have won the Thomas Cup (the world team championship of men’s badminton) thirteen of the twenty-six times that it has been held since 1949, as well as numerous Olympic medals since the sport gained full Olympic status in 1992. Its women have won the Uber Cup, the female equivalent of the Thomas Cup, twice, in 1994 and 1996. Liga Indonesia is the country’s premier football club league. Traditional sports include sepak takraw, and bull racing in Madura. In areas with a history of tribal warfare, mock fighting contests are held, such as, caci in Flores, and pasola in Sumba. Pencak Silat is an Indonesian martial art. Indonesian cuisine varies by region and is based on Chinese, European, Middle Eastern, and Indian precedents.

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Rice is the main staple food and is served with side dishes of meat and vegetables. Spices (notably chili), coconut milk, fish and chicken are fundamental ingredients. Indonesian traditional music includes gamelan and keroncong. The Indonesian film industry’s popularity peaked in the 1980s and dominated cinemas in Indonesia, although it declined significantly in the early 1990s. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Indonesian films released each year has steadily increased. The oldest evidence of writing in Indonesia is a series of Sanskrit inscriptions dated to the 5th century.

Important figures in modern Indonesian literature include: Dutch author Multatuli, who criticized treatment of the Indonesians under Dutch colonial rule; Sumatrans Muhammad Yamin and Hamka, who were influential pre-independence nationalist writers and politicians; and proletarian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s most famous novelist. Many of Indonesia’s peoples have strongly rooted oral traditions, which help to define and preserve their cultural identities.

Media freedom in Indonesia increased considerably after the end of President Suharto’s rule, during which the now-defunct Ministry of Information monitored and controlled domestic media, and restricted foreign media. The TV market includes ten national commercial networks, and provincial networks that compete with public TVRI. Private radio stations carry their own news bulletins and foreign broadcasters supply programs. At a reported 25 million users in 2008, Internet usage was estimated at 12.5% in September 2009. More than 30 million cell phones are sold in Indonesia each year, and 27 percent of them are local brands.

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