Gotrasawala 2014 (festival & conference) will focus on Cirebon as an historical and cutural entity that has its own peculiarities in the context of highly vast region and diverse West Java as the theme suggests.

Historical writings about kingdoms in Indonesian archipelago generally only talk about the power and glory of the states. The recount of how intellectual figures significantly contributed to the kingdoms and their communities in academic context was rarely heard.

Therefore, values and academic activities in the context of Indonesian history were always bieng associated with European scholars and scientific culture that emerged from the process of colonization.

Historically, this issue can actually be understood through three perspectives:

  1. Academic nature in the context of Asian culture has a different paradigm with those developed in Europe during the Enlightenment in the 17th century. Therefore, intellectual activities such as the writing of history in Java was considered more as literary activities instead of academic activities by Western scientific discipline that still dominated the intellectual life of the world today.
  2. Before stepping on the middle of the 19th century, Dutch colonial society did not seriously engage in cultural or academic endeavor. Acting as the Governor General of Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles expanded intellectual activity within the colonial Dutch and Indonesian community during the British Interregnum in the year 1811-1816. Soon after that, the second wave of Dutch colonial society that newly arrived from Holland in 1820s got
    interested in pursuing the intellectual life inherited from the British on the island of Java.
  3. Therefore, all the ‘academic’ activities occurring within Indonesian society such as Gotrasawala (international conference) that took place in the Cirebon Sultanate in the 17th century could not be found in the official diary (dagh registers) of the Dutch colonial government that only listed commercial transactions. Yet the first Dutch newspaper called Bataviasche Koloniale Courant did not appear until 1810 when the Governor General
    Dandaels represented the French Napoleon government in the colony.
    The second Gotrasawala conference will bring the theme “Revisiting Cirebon in the 17th Century,” the period when Cirebon hosted an important ‘global-scale’ academic gathering named GOTRASAWALA.

Numerous prominent historians, religious scholars and cultural experts from the archipelago and countries in Asia and Africa such as Terengganu, Malacca, Tumasik (now Singapore), Saudi Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, Campa (now Cambodia), China, Ujung Mendini (now Malaysia) to Egypt attended the Gotrasawala gathering in the 17th century.

Last year in 2013, the first GOTRASAWALA conference was held in Bandung to revitalize the importance of this historic, academic and literary gathering. The upcoming conference in September 4-7 would be the second of the Gotrasawala conference. The entire Gotrasawala Arts Festival and Conference 2014 has two major programs:

    The three-day academic gathering, starting from September 4 through September 6, will feature two topics namely “Revisiting Gotrasawala in 17th Century Cirebon” and “West Javanese Arts: Past, Present and Future.The conference will feature experts on Indonesia (Indonesianists) in the fields of arts, history, anthropology, religious, cultural and Southeast Asian Studies from universities and institutions in Australia, European countries, the United States, and Asia.Dr. James Clifford, professor of anthropology, history and literary studies from the University California (UC) Santa Cruz will become the keynote speaker in the conference. Professor Clifford (The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography & Writing Culture: the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography) is renowned as one of the leading figures of the post-structuralist movement in the field of social science.
  2. ARTS FESTIVAL that also carries the theme: West Javanese Arts: Past, Present and
    Future. The festival will be divided as follows:
    (a) Main Arts Festival that will present various classical and contemporary performing arts of Cirebon and West Java. The festival will also feature the second year collaborative performances of West Javanese artists with Ana Alcaide from Europe (music), Peter Chin from Canada (dance), and Larry Reed from the United States (theater). Our special presentation this year is a Colossal Performance of Ramayana Cirebon Mask Dance Drama at the KasepuhanPalace on September 6 (Saturday).
    (b) Fringe Festival that will present various folk performances of West Java. This entire
    fringe festival will take place from September 4 to 7 in various locations of Cirebon.
  3. Ethnographic Film Festival that will start with workshop program from 12-15 June at Radiant Film Center, Rempoa, West Java. Workshop instructors are world-class ethnographic film director Lawrence Blair (Ring of Fire), international production manager Tino Saroengallo (“Eat, Pray and Love”) and highly acclaimed ethnographic film cameraman/photographer Hengki Koentjoro. From this workshop, we will select three groups of qualified participants to be provided with funding to produce an ethnographic film about crucial cultural issues in West Java. The ethnographic film festival will also present important films about West Java in the colonial time stored at the Dutch National Film Archive.

The opening of the second Gotrasawala this year will be highlighted by a Royal International Carnival (RIC) that presents a large variety of street performances from West Java, delegations of former kingdoms from across the country, and a parade of collection of historical relics from the three courts of Cirebon (Kanoman, Kasepuhan and Kacirebonan). Gotrasawala 2014 will also present various craft and dance workshops and exhibition in
Kanoman and Kacirebonan Palaces.

The main purpose of Gotrasawala is to rejuvenate the richness and the glory of West Java culture and its important position in the “ancient global cultural and historical stages.” It also aims at integrating the rich West Java culture and history into the dynamic development of the 21th century World Culture.

More importantly, Gotrasawala is expected to strengthen the position of West Java as one of major cultural and academic hubs as well as prominent tourist destinations in Indonesia since West Java offers cultural and historical wealth, as proven in the past with the 17th Century Gotrasawala gathering.


Franki Raden, Ph.D.


Video Gotrasawala 2014

Video Gotrasawala 2013

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