Indigenous People Unite in Bali

Indig Celebration TOGETHER .jpeg

The Indigenous Celebration started with an opening ceremony led by the elders of the Dayak Maanyan community of Central Kalimantan. A prayer ritual was led asking for protection and permission from their ancestors to guard the sacred ground of the Arma, Ubud, Bali, which involved a sprinkling of rice and holy water. In the tradition of respect for nature and honouring the visible and invisible world, the 3-day Indigenous celebration was indeed blessed with beauty, artistic performance, friendship, collaboration, unity and strong intercultural relationships.


The Indigenous Celebration staged at the Arma Museum in Ubud, Bali on May 11-13 brought together a sense of connection between the Indigenous people of Indonesia and seven invited countries from the Pacific and the tribal lands of Odisha and Nagaland, India. This tribal gathering was an inaugural event and 200 Indigenous people came from the rivers, jungles and small villages to meet together in Bali for the first time to share their knowledge, wisdom, and deliver artists performances that resonated with ancient rhythms, songlines and sacred dances.


Cheryl from Australia commented, “This was an incredible event. To bring together indigenous peoples from all these countries and put on performances involving authentic tradition and so many beautiful moments; this will forever stay in my mind and heart. It was a huge, logistical feat. Never before have I witnessed so much beauty, these magnificent cultures all meeting and performing in one venue. Words cannot describe the whole event adequately. It was truly breathtaking on every level. Kudos to David and Stephanie who’s vision and dream to bring this to beautiful Ubud and the superb Arma Museum, was a once in a lifetime experience. As the world grows smaller and the western culture creeps into the east, this hopefully will remind everyone to respect and honour such ancient dance and music of these cultures and let us hope that it will forever remain alive. Thank you for opening my heart and soul to such beauty and reverence.”


The Indigenous identity of these nations including 34 tribes from Indonesia aimed to reinforce the purity of Indigenous identity. The celebration achieved this. Along with spectacular evening dance performances against a beautiful stage set infused with mapping and tribal themed lighting, intimate storytelling was also delivered by tribal elders and solo poetry reading. Daytime workshops, which included weaving demonstrations by West Timor, tattooing by the Mentawai and Dayak Iban and sound healing by the New Zealand Maori, were just some of the 29 workshops offered. These attractions brought in a crowd of 2,500 people to the event.


The celebration of Indigenous peoples was initiated by David Metcalf, the owner of Taksu Photo Gallery in Ubud, Bali, a photographer and author who focuses on indigenous documentation in Indonesia and the founder of Yayasan Ranu Welum, Central Kalimantan, Emmanuela Shinta. With the support of the New Zealand Embassy and partners including rma Museum, Green School, event organisers Antida Music Production, and other partners this event brought elements of performance art, education and culture together.


Janice commented, “This weekend I was treated to a unique experience at The Indigenous Celebration. The 3-day indigenous cultural awareness festival brought together people from all over the Pacific, Indonesia and the world to share their stories, dance, music and culture. I learned so much! From finding out about schools that embrace a traditional education learning and sharing environment started in Borneo to preserve an ancient way of life, to hearing how honey is harvested and bees are sung to, to seeing how world class photographers and artists have worked with and honored native cultures to dancing with a Dayak chief, this was a weekend I will never forget! Kudos to the organizers and the people who traveled to Bali to share their wisdom and special gifts, this is what the world needs now to unite the different peoples of the Earth and celebrate our diversity and heritage.


The Indigenous Celebration has pledged to plant one tree in Kalimantan from each ticket sold, and Emmanuela said, “This celebration event was a showcase for our Indigenous identity, strength, and diversity.” Together with David Metcalf, they handpicked the 34 Indigenous groups which included Gayo Aceh, Antoni from West Timor, Dayak Punan, an Australian Aboriginal group, Dayak Kenyah, Marind from Papua and a New Zealand Maori group.


David said, “The importance of international collaboration between Indonesia and other indigenous peoples creates a platform for dialogue and exchange and allows for ideas to flow, similarities to be found and bonds to be formed. By adding storytelling and poetry reading to dramatic evening dance performances, we allowed for a very genuine knowledge sharing of the wisdom of the elders. It was essential to Shinta, and I as co-founders to bring awareness of traditional wisdom in a new light.”


Most of the tribes came straight from the jungles, rivers and small villages. The evening programme included not only dancing and singing (some groups had 30 performers on stage), but also storytelling from the elders themselves, plus poetry and even a tattooing demonstration live on stage with the Mentawai masters and the Dayak Iban.


A 2-day educational programme at the Green School followed on May 15 and 16 which included the elders from the tribes meeting the young students in the classrooms and finished with a panel discussion between seven tribal groups including Odisha, India and the Atoni tribe of West Timor.


Meghan Pappenheim, the Founder of Bali Spirit Festival summed it up perfectly, “This was truly a world-class, beautifully curated event with top performers who inspire us all to be a version of our better selves.”

The Indigenous Celebration is planned to be an annual event. Next year it is hoped more Embassies and corporate sponsors who have a genuine cultural ethos will come on board as partners in a spirit of cross-cultural collaboration to recall the solidarity of nature, tribal traditions, preservation and honour of the diversity of the archipelago that reinforces the identity of Indonesia and the world.


The 3-day performance, which features 15 hours of music, dance and performance is available to be viewed online through the Indigenous Celebration website

100% of proceeds of the Indigenous Celebration go to support Indigenous Community Development Programs in Indonesia – Yayasan Ranu Welum

Story by Stephanie Brookes
Author and Travel Writer

Photos by David Metcalf
Author and Photographer

Dance — and physical activity — should have the same status in schools as math,

science and language. Psst: it may even help raise test scores, says Sir Ken Robinson.


For several years, I’ve been a patron of the London School of Contemporary Dance. In 2016, I was invited to give the annual lecture in honor of founding principal Robert Cohan, and I decided to talk about the role of dance in schools.

Before the lecture, I tweeted the title “Why Dance Is as Important as Math in Education.” I had a lot of positive responses and a number of incredulous ones. One tweet said, “Isn’t that going to be one of the shortest lectures ever?” Another said flatly, “Ken, dance is not as important as math.” One person tweeted, “So what? Telephones are more important than bananas. Ants are not as important as toilet ducks. Paper clips are more important than elbows.” (At least that was a creative response.) Some responses were more pertinent: “Is that so? Important for what and to whom? By the way I’m a math teacher.”

I’m not arguing against mathematics — it’s an indispensable part of the great creative adventure of the human mind. It’s also intimately involved with the dynamics of dance. Instead, this is an argument for equity in educating the whole child. I’m talking about the equal importance of dance with the other arts, languages, mathematics, sciences and the humanities in the general education of every child.

Dance can help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools that are disrupted by violence and bullying.

What is dance? It is the physical expression through movement and rhythm of relationships, feelings and ideas. Nobody invented dance. It is deep in the heart of every culture throughout history; dance is part of the pulse of humanity. It embraces multiple genres, styles and traditions and is constantly evolving. Its roles range from recreational to sacred and cover every form of social purpose.

Some people have long understood that dance is an essential part of life and education. In Dance Education around the World: Perspectives on Dance, Young People and Change, researchers Charlotte Svendler Nielsen and Stephanie Burridge bring together recent studies of the value of dance in all kinds of settings: from Finland to South Africa, from Ghana to Taiwan, from New Zealand to America. The low status of dance in schools is derived in part from the high status of conventional academic work, which associates intelligence mainly with verbal and mathematical reasoning. The studies collected by Nielsen and Burridge explore how a deeper understanding of dance challenges standard conceptions of intelligence and achievement and show the transformative power of movement for people of all ages and backgrounds. Dance can help restore joy and stability in troubled lives and ease the tensions in schools disrupted by violence and bullying.

A number of professional dance companies offer programs for schools. One of them is Dancing Classrooms, a nonprofit based in New York City, which brings ballroom dancing into elementary and middle schools in some of the most challenging districts in the country. Using dance, the organization aims to improve social relationships especially among genders and to enrich the culture of the schools by cultivating collaboration, respect and compassion. Founded in 1994 by the dancer Pierre Dulaine, the program now offers each school twenty sessions over ten weeks, culminating in a showcase.

Toni Walker, former principal of Lehigh Elementary School in Florida, shares this story from working with Dancing Classrooms. “When this young lady first came to Lehigh, the file on her was probably two inches thick,” Walker recalls. “She felt she needed to prove herself and make sure everyone knew she was strong and would fight.” The girl didn’t want to join the ballroom dancing program … but participation wasn’t optional. Soon, she found she had a natural ability. “In the next lesson, she had a little bit of a different attitude and we didn’t have to fight with her to dance,” Walker remembers. “She just got in line.”

By the third and fourth lessons, Walker says, the student was transformed: “She carries herself differently; she speaks differently; she is kind; she is respectful; she has not had one [disciplinary notice], not one. Her mother can’t believe what she sees. It’s amazing. Amazing. The program is far greater than people understand.”

In one evaluation, 95 percent of teachers said that, as a result of dancing together, students’ abilities to cooperate and collaborate improved.

Dance education has important benefits for students’ social relationships, particularly among genders and age groups. Many forms of dance, including ballroom, are inherently social. They involve moving together in synchrony and empathy, with direct physical contact. In an evaluation of Dancing Classrooms in New York City, 95 percent of teachers said that as a result of dancing together, there was a demonstrable improvement in students’ abilities to cooperate and collaborate. In a survey in Los Angeles, 66 percent of school principals said that after being in the program, their students showed an increased acceptance of others, and 81 percent of students said they treated others with more respect. Dance has economic benefits, too. As well as being a field of employment, dance promotes many of the personal qualities that employers recognize as essential in a collaborative, adaptable workforce.

One principal was especially impressed by the improvements in reading and math scores among her fifth-grade students.“There are no ifs, ands, or buts about the program’s impact in the academic lives of our children,” says Lois Habtes of the Emanuel Benjamin Oliver Elementary School in the Virgin Islands. “When I first got here, they were failing scores. Last year — our second year in the program — they got up to 83 percent. This year, our fifth grade scored 85 percent on the reading test, the highest in the school.”

Dance and theater are mostly seen as second-class citizens in schools.

It’s not just dance, of course. The success of Dancing Classrooms is an example of the well-documented relationship between physical activity and educational achievement. The trend in most US school districts is to cut phys ed and similar programs in favor of increasing time for math, science and English. These measures have simply not improved achievement as so many policy makers assumed they would.

A panel of researchers in kinesiology and pediatrics conducted a massive review of more than 850 studies about the effects of physical activity on school-age children. Most of the studies measured the effects of 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to five days a week on many factors — physical factors such as obesity, cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure and bone density, as well as depression, anxiety, self-concept and academic performance. Based on strong evidence in a number of these categories, the panel firmly recommended that students should participate in one hour (or more) of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. Looking specifically at academic performance, the panel found strong evidence to support the conclusion that “physical activity has a positive influence on memory, concentration and classroom behavior.”

Most children in public schools in the US receive some education in music and visual arts, patchy though it often is. But dance and theater are mostly seen as second-class citizens, and opportunities in the arts, in general, are lowest for students in areas of high poverty. “There are still millions of students who do not have access to any arts instruction. Many of them are in our poorer communities where the programs are arguably needed the most,” says Bob Morrison, the founder and director of Quadrant Research.

Would it be okay to have millions of students without access to math or language arts? he asks. “Of course not, and it should not be tolerated in the arts. There is a persistent myth that arts education is for the gifted and talented, but we know that the arts benefit everyone regardless of their vocational pathways,” he says. “We don’t teach math solely to create mathematicians, and we don’t teach writing solely to create the next generation of novelists. The same holds true for the arts. We teach them to create well-rounded citizens who can apply the skills, knowledge and experience from being involved in the arts to their careers and lives.”

Excerpted from the new book You, Your Child and School: Navigate Your Way to the Best Education by Sir Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica. Published by Viking, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Copyright © 2018 by Ken Robinson.


Sir Ken Robinson is a global leader in educational reform and a New York Times bestselling author. Professor Emeritus at the University of Warwick in the UK, he advises governments, corporations, education systems, and some of the world's leading cultural organizations.

Lou Aronica is the author of four novels and coauthor of several works of nonfiction, including the national bestseller "The Culture Code" (with Clotaire Rapaille), "The Element" and "Finding Your Element."


Indigenous Genius

‘Being Local' Celebrated at Indigenous Festival in Ubud May 11-13, 2018


(4/8/2018) Bali’s cultural center of Ubud will host the Indigenous Celebration 2018 on May 11-13, 2108. The event is being promoted by its organizers as Bali’s “first-ever”gathering of indigenous people from around the world in a “spirit of dance, music, wisdom, education, unity and connection.”

Bali was chosen as host for the event because its unique attributes that has made the Island the heart of culture for Indonesia. The event will attract indigenous groups from Indonesia and abroad including Australian aboriginals, Maori's from New Zealand, and Nagaland tribes’ people from Northeast India. In all, 32 different indigenous groups will represent 7 countries featuring indigenous dancers, musicians, storytellers, elders and youth leaders will gather at The Arma Museum & Resort.

The Festival will be followed by a 2-day private educational event at the Green School, May 14 – 15 with schools from across Indonesia invited to attend. The Indigenous Celebration is presented by Ranu Welum Foundation - an organization based in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan working to promote culture, humanity, the environment, and the rights of indigenous people. This organization works to mobilize indigenous youth, especially the Dayaks of Kalimantan. Emmanuel Shinta, the founder of Ranu Welumand also co-founder of the event said: “This is an opportunity to honor our culture which we inherit from our ancestors, and to celebrate our identity as the first people of the land with all the wonderful gifts that we possess. There are seven Dayak groups from different areas of Kalimantan that will come to Bali. I am so proud that Dayak people who used to be labeled as ‘jungle people’ or ‘scary headhunters’ are now leading the youth indigenous movement to be recognized by this country and an international audience. This is the time to give room for indigenous people to be accepted not only with our beauty but also with our struggles, and to walk together with non indigenous in a spirit of unity and collaboration.”

David Metcalf, who co-founded the event, has spent many years supporting indigenous communities. Adding: “Through this event, I hope to combine youth with the ‘wise ones’ - the older generation who hold so much wisdom and knowledge that is often buried away and can be lost forever. We simply cannot let that happen. I am so happy to see more young indigenous leaders rise up with incredible power to build their communities and preserve their culture. This stage is all for them!”

Over 180 indigenous performers are scheduled to perform during the Indigenous Festival. All schools are welcome to attend the daily workshops at The Arma and Green School educational session, which are free of charge by arrangement. Tickets prices start from Rp 250,000 for individual evening performances. Three-day tickets can be purchased starting from Rp. 600,000 with student tickets discounted 50%. Children under 12 can attend without charge. Events during the daytime include cultural workshops and booths selling merchandise and food