Cultural exchange in South East Asia

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What is the importance of maintaining cultural relations between Britain and South East Asia?

Perhaps I’d also like to preface this by saying that although I am managing a particular Southeast Asian region programme, perhaps what I’m going to be answering is more relevant to the Indonesia context, which is where I’m from. With Everything that’s happening in the world right now I guess you can say that a lot of the kind of power dynamics have been slightly shifting towards the eastern part of the world. We also see that there’s been a growing interest in East Asia, and in particular the Southeast Asian region. When We talk about the Indo Pacific tilt, the Southeast Asian region is right in the middle of that and it’s quite forward to the relations that we have with the UK. Culture is one of the ways in which the UK can particularly maintain and strengthen their collaboration and relationship with the people of this region. I think culture is a really great way for us to be able to deepen our understanding between the people of the UK and the people of the Southeast Asian region. And it’s also a great way for us to be able to learn from each other as well. So oftentimes, it’s not just about the UK sharing about their best practices or how things work, but it’s also about how the UK can listen to the people of the Southeast Asian region and in a way also learn from their experiences and from their culture. 

It’s also about how the UK can listen to the people of the Southeast Asian region

How is the work of the central to maintaining links with the South East Asian region?

Yeah, I think the core of what the does is, you know, maintaining trust and friendly relations across the UK with other countries. And I think we also want to make sure that through our work, we really ensure that there is a true mutuality between the countries that we work with or we operate in with the UK. So, as I mentioned earlier, oftentimes it is not just about us showcasing the work that the UK is doing, or showing how brilliant and vibrant the UK sector is, but it’s also bridging that same conversation with the UK about other countries. The work that we do here is to make sure that there is an equal dialogue between the two, so that not only are we given the opportunity to the UK to showcase itself, but we are also providing an opportunity for the Southeast Asian and Indonesian artists and arts practitioners to also share their experiences and share the best practises from their countries. I think that dialogue can really be seen in terms of not just giving a voice to people, but in providing new ideas and opportunities also for internationalisation. It’s a very mutual relationship we try to enforce.

What is art and culture like in South East Asia? 

If we take Indonesia as an example, Indonesia is a very, very diverse country. It’s also a huge population. I think we’re the 4th largest population in the world. And out of which, we’re probably the largest Muslim population and democracy as well. you know, we’re also we, we are made out of 17,000 islands and hundreds of or even maybe thousands of different ethnicities. So all of this kind of percolates into the fact that it reflects back on the Indonesian arts and culture and how diverse it is. So you would have very different, let’s say traditions or culture in the western part of Indonesia compared to, let’s say, the eastern part of Indonesia. But I think that is what makes it very, very interesting and is the fact that it’s just so diverse and you know you can’t really pinpoint what Indonesian culture looks like because it’s just so different from one end to another. 

I think that dialogue can really be seen in terms of not just giving a voice to people, but in providing new ideas and opportunities also for internationalisation

How can art be a bridge between cultures? What is the best way for young people in education to become more culturally aware?

The works on three global programmes and so this not only reflects the work that we do in Indonesia, but actually elsewhere in the world.The  first programme is called Cultural Exchange, where we connect Indonesian artists with their UK counterparts and vice versa, connecting UK artists with counterparts from across the world, and we facilitate creative collaboration. This provides insights and intelligence into the creative sectors, but we also oftentimes provide them the opportunity to showcase their work and hence that means you know, we support things like exhibitions or festivals or showcases. There is a variety of work that we do under this programme because we try our best to tackle all creative sub sectors. But at the same time, you know, we tend to also like to focus on work that responds to particular social issues or topics like, for instance, inclusion, diversity, or even climate change and environmental sustainability…

Secondly, we have a programme called Creative Economy and this is where we actually work more closely with policy makers and with institutions, and we look at how we can upscale the creative economy sector in particular countries by providing them the opportunity to collaborate and connect with the UK, so this programme might not be evident in all countries, but it is evident in Indonesia and most of the Southeast Asian countries where we operate, and this is because I think in many countries, including in Indonesia, the government really does see the creative economy as a sector or an area that can really help boost the economy, especially post-pandemic where a lot of you know businesses and the economy itself have been really greatly impacted. So this is where we also try to provide training opportunities, capacity building, but also in trying to mainstream this creative economy concept to the international and multilateral platforms. So, for instance, last year at G20, which Indonesia was hosting as the President of G20, we worked together with various international and local partners to make sure that creative economy is part of the agenda for, you know, the discussion of the leaders of the G20. 

Lastly, our third programme is called Response to Global Challenges, and this is where we see that the arts have a transformative power to respond to particular global issues like I mentioned earlier, climate change and environmental sustainability, diversity, and the inclusion of women. We see that oftentimes arts can be used as not just a platform, but it can raise the voice of these particular issues. 

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