Lee Satterfield, Assistant Secretary of State, Office of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Mei Batubara, Pusaka Rasa Nusantara, at the U.S. Embassy Pusaka Rasa Nusantara luncheon on September 14. (Photo: State Department/Budi Sudarmo)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA – On September 14 in Yogyakarta, Lee Satterfield, Undersecretary of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, joined representatives of the Indonesian arts and education community at a gala luncheon organized by the United States Embassy to celebrate American support for the preservation of Indonesian heritage. The event centered around a US-funded culinary heritage project and featured traditional recipes and local ingredients collected by the team leading a historic effort to preserve Indonesia’s diverse culinary heritage and food traditions. The multi-year ‘Pusaka Rasa Nusantara’ project led by the Nusa Gastronomy Foundation is funded by the U.S. Embassy Jakarta through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Program (AFCP).
The AFCP supports projects aimed at preserving a wide range of cultural heritage, including historic buildings, archaeological sites, ethnographic objects, paintings, manuscripts, indigenous languages and other forms of traditional cultural expression. Since its creation, the Fund has supported more than 900 cultural preservation projects in more than 200 countries. Since 2001, nine projects in Indonesia have been funded, including training in the preservation of manuscripts for the palaces of Surakarta and Yogyakarta (2001), the restoration of architectural glass works of art at the Bandung Institute of Technology (2006), the conservation of megalithic status in Central Sulawesi (2010), and the restoration of the heritage building Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, North Sumatra (2014).
Assistant Secretary Satterfield highlighted the importance of preserving and connecting cultures at the event saying, “Today we celebrate the foods that have fueled a culture and a people for generations. Through the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, the United States and its local partners can now document and share these culinary traditions with future generations of Indonesians and the global community.
Indonesia has over 1,340 tribes with their own unique recipes. Many are forgotten due to mass food production and reliance on oral traditions to pass down recipes from generation to generation. Under the current AFCP project, the Nusa Indonesian Gastronomy Foundation preserves Indonesia’s culinary heritage and traditional practices by documenting indigenous recipes, conserving culinary practices, recipes and traditions that underpin diverse cultural identities from Indonesia. The project also aims to empower local women business owners and highlight the connection between local food traditions and sustainable agricultural practices. Pusaka Rasa Nusantara is the first project in AFCP’s 20-year history to focus specifically on the preservation of culinary heritage and food traditions.
The Pusaka Rasa Nusantara team partners with ministries, local governments, national and local media, foodies, local communities, influencers and food enthusiasts. The team’s new ‘Penjaga Rasa’ community is a place where keepers of traditional recipes can share their stories and challenges. Pusaka Rasa Nusantara’s research has so far taken the team across the archipelago with trips to Sula, Yogyakarta and Padang, and locations for upcoming trips include Sumba, Kalimantan, Belitung.
The U.S. Embassy and the Nusa Gastromony Foundation launched Pusaka Rasa Nusantara in November 2021, in partnership with the General Directorate of Culture, Ministry of Culture and Education, as part of Pekan Kebudayaan Nasional. At the launch, Ambassador Kim said, “As we build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, we celebrate those essential elements of our lives that sustain and nurture us – and how humans express their identities while meeting our basic needs. .”
The September 14 gala in Yogyakarta also featured performances by well-known Indonesian alumni of U.S. government exchanges and programs:
- Peni Candra Riniwho received a OneBeat Accelerator Fellowship following his 2014 participation in the OneBeat Exchange for his project “Kinanthi Kunci Ati”, a series of original compositions and arrangements of traditional gamelan music written for string quartet.
- Papermoon Puppet Theaterparticipants in the US-sponsored Center Stage program in 2012, who are based in Yogyakarta and use puppets to create multimedia performances that spark dialogue between audiences and performers.
- Nalitaria Yogyakarta-based inclusive dance organization that grew out of a 2013 U.S. Embassy workshop, and helps members of the disability community come together and express their creativity through dance.