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Saraswati Arts Program

Australian-Indonesian collaboration opportunities

The Saraswati Arts Program is a new initiative of the Australian Government’s Australia Indonesia Institute. It’s designed to encourage greater cultural exchange between the 2 countries. There’s been a steady stream of activity over many years with some fine examples, for instance in the performance installations of Deborah Pollard, the puppetry and music collaboration The Theft of Sita (Paul Grabowsky, Nigel Jamieson and leading Indonesian artists) and, more recently, Sidetrack Performance Group’s collaboration with Indonesian performers and musicians. On page 32, Sidetrack Artistic Director Don Mamouney recounts the challenges and the excitement of collaborating with Indonesian artists, playing to large, eager audiences and touring the new work to Javan cities. There’s also the ongoing work of Indija Mahjoeddin’s adaptation of the West Sumatran performance form, Randai. It’s intriguing that her work includes the martial art practice Silat, which also features in the practice of Sidetrack and in the Marrugeku Company’s latest Broome-based work (see the interview with Rachael Swain on page 12). The Sydney group Actively Radical Television recently worked with Teater Buruh Indonesia to develop and stage a theatre work on the plight of women factory workers in Jakarta, called Beyond Factory Walls. These are just a few of many successful projects that have also included visual arts exhibitions, CDs, textile workshops and Australian involvement in the Ubud Writers Festival and interest in the growing significance of the Jakarta Film Festival.

However, proportionate to the size of the Indonesian population (200 million) the volume of cultural exchange has been fairly small and the Australia Indonesia Institute would like to change that.

In partnership with the Australia Council the institute is launching a new program to support collaborative ventures for artists in both countries. The Saraswati Arts Program, named after the Indonesian goddess of learning and the arts, provides up to $20,000 for up to 10 projects per annum to organizations and individuals. The program is aimed at supporting projects where there is already an existing relationship and where the outcomes are “lively, contemporary and collaborative.” The closing dates for 2005 are in February and June. RT

Enquiries: Bill Richardson, Director, Australia Indonesia Institute, tel 02 6261 3827. Information: Institute Board member Alison Carroll (Director, Asialink Arts program) is available to speak to potential applicants, tel 03 8344 4800

RealTime issue #65 Feb-March 2005 pg. 10

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