Grassroots; this term conjures ideas of everyday people making a change and is most commonly used in association with political movements. In its truest sense, this word should apply to people making things happen via action and interaction. While politicians are often restricted by red tape, any untethered individual can make a difference. When it comes to international and cultural relations, a few benevolently motivated individuals from Indonesia have been sharing their culture with American citizens as a means of creating goodwill and artistic inspiration. Filmmaker Livi Zheng, Banking/Finance executive (and arts patron) Julia Gouw, and Blitar Regent Drs. Rijanto have taken part in speaking events at University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), opening the door to exposure on this fascinating and colorful part of the world.
Gouw has lived in the US since the late 70’s; she has been ranked among the “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” several times by American Banker Magazine. Zheng is an acclaimed filmmaker who has seen increasing recognition in the States the last few years. Regent Rijanto experienced his first visit to American this year. Together the trio share a varied awareness of the US and Blitar, making them ideally suited to communicate a multifaceted perspective with young adults. As guest lecturers at the UCLA in Asian & Languages division and the Ethnomusicology classes, they were able to relate from the perspectives of arts, culture, finance, and other areas of expertise. This gave students an understanding of Blitar from these differing pillars of society.
While Blitar is a part of the modern world, it has managed to retain a unique cultural identity, making this area supremely fascinating in the midst of an increasingly shrinking global community. In addition to the dance and gamelan music — which is featured in the movies Avatar and Star Trek — students found the Blitar mindset especially fascinating. An interesting facet of the Blitar mindset is “proactive benevolence”, meaning that when someone in neighborhood is sick or needs something fixed, the people members of the community don’t wait to be asked to help but rather take it upon themselves to assist the needy party at once. This trait contributes to the happiness of the people and their desire to maintain their way of life.
Celebrated international filmmaker, Livi Zheng has created a film with Blitar Regent Drs. Rijanto titled Amazing Blitar. The film presents the DNA which makes this country: the religious diversity, the chocolate and coffee industries for which it is famed, and of course the artistic creations. The film was screened for students, media outlets, and other attendees on the UCLA campus on May 2nd of this year. The Regent coordinated his travel and speaking engagements to attend the red carpet premiere. As a lover of the arts (Drs. Rijanto holds weekly performances with Blitar Regency Sanggar Tari Pendopo dance and music group at the Pendopo in Blitar), the Regent was excited to share this experience with Americans for the first time, as was the crowd; evidenced by the standing ovation that the performers received at the event.
Each summer the UCLA Indonesian Studies program in collaboration with Indonesian universities sends a few students spend weeks in Indonesia. Regent Drs. Rijanto notes that he was excited to experience the world of these students in their homeland as they have done in his. For those unable to travel the world directly, touching the soil and immersing themselves in other cities, the words of the Regent and the sights and sounds of Amazing Blitar offer the chance to connect with a culture which has been mostly a wonderful secret until now.