Culture |

The Indonesian Heritage Society

Culture | 5 August 2017

Indonesia is a huge country, spanning more than 17,000 islands, with around 250 million inhabitants and over 300 ethnic groups, all of which make up a fascinating melting pot of cultures. So how can we find out as much as possible about this wonderful country? Where to start?

Why not explore what the Indonesian Heritage Society has to offer?  Many newcomers to Indonesia have commented that friends and acquaintances who have lived in Indonesia over the years have advised that if there is one organization they should join while here, make sure it’s the Indonesian Heritage Society! So what makes this organization stand out from the others?

As background, the Indonesian Heritage Society is a non-profit, voluntary-run organization. For almost 50 years, this organization has been offering members an opportunity to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of Indonesia, through many different activities and interest groups. With more than 600 multi-national members, including many Indonesians, the Indonesian Heritage Society focuses on providing a wide range of unique, cultural experiences, while at the same time making members feel welcome and valued as volunteers. Most activities are conducted in English. However, the Society’s Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish, and Korean sections also provide a variety of additional activities in their own languages.

If you are new to Jakarta, you may find joining one of the Indonesian Heritage’s Explorers groups a good way to meet others, and to get to know Jakarta. In small groups, you can participate in short trips to historic places in the city, to local factories and home industries, to traditional markets, and many more. From time to time, you could also join a Heritage Tour which takes you beyond Jakarta, and even off Java to more remote destinations across Indonesia. Over the past year, we have organized tours to Sumba and Flores. The Jakarta Explorers book, published by the Indonesian Heritage Society, and describing many areas of Jakarta to explore, is a must-have if you have just arrived in Jakarta.

Is visiting museums  one of your passions? Consider signing up for one of the Indonesian Heritage Society’s free museum tours with our own trained guides. Our museum section is also always looking for volunteers to take the guide training course, and to assist with museum catalogue updates and writing descriptions of artifacts in the museum. You can also engage in research on a wealth of interesting projects. Thanks to decades of close collaboration with the National Museum, we have access to some of the most wonderful collections found in Indonesia.

Our Evening Lectures, featuring prominent speakers on subjects uniquely Indonesian - from history and culture to current affairs - have been an important part of the Society’s annual program for the past forty years.  Before each Evening Lecture  begins, members, and those from the community at large, have the opportunity to network and socialize over snacks and wine in a friendly, casual environment.

Rumahku morning talks, which start with an impressive morning tea spread, are held once a month at private residences. Here members mingle with other members and their guests, as well as with prominent speakers from Indonesia and overseas, all of whom are experts in their fields. Talks cover areas such as textiles of Indonesia, the history of Indonesian films, preserving traditional Indonesian architecture, Indonesian women writers, and numerous other topics.

Members interests vary. Recognizing this, the Indonesian Heritage Society offers a selection of Study Groups, which members can sign up for. You can choose to study, in greater depth, about Indonesian textiles, art, megaliths, literature (in translation), history, ceramics and other topics which are suggested by members. There is also the Night Study group held in our library. At this monthly session, we invite speakers to give talks on a range of subjects related to Indonesia.

The Society’s major event for the year is the Selamat Datang event, to be held on Wednesday, 13 September, this year, at Erasmus Huis, Kuningan, Jakarta. On this occasion, we welcome back members returning from their summer holidays. It is also an opportunity to showcase what the Indonesian Heritage Society can offer prospective members. The event always ends with a spectacular and colorful cultural performance.

Every February, we conduct a high-profile photography exhibition, open to all of our members who are keen photographers. Each year promotes a different theme. For 2018 the theme will be Markets of Indonesia.

Another major event in May, prior to the summer holidays, is our Blue Lotus day where the Society’s Board of Management provides a pictorial overview of the Indonesian Heritage Society’s activities over the past year. This year our Blue Lotus event attracted well over 100 members and guests.

At least once every three months, the Society’s Events Section arranges a morning tea, inviting interesting guest speakers. Some of our morning tea sessions are interactive, with members being able to learn first-hand how to wear a sarong or special ethnic head dress, how to make decorations out of palm leaves, and even how to make the best cup of coffee! We’d love to get to know you at one of our coffee mornings.

Also very popular are our Black Coffee White Elephant sales, held twice a year in our library. The second hand items and books are donated by members and friends, as are the valuable items which are part of our “silent” auctions.

The Indonesian Heritage’s Society’s pride and joy is its library, which houses some of the best and most valuable books, documents, and videos on Indonesia and Southeast Asia in general. Members are encouraged to visit our library and borrow any of these items.

Finally, if searching for uniquely Indonesian gifts for relatives or friends, you can purchase books on Indonesia as well as jewelry, mugs, wayang cards and much more through our Indonesian Heritage Society Sales team.  Prices are reasonable and all proceeds go to funding the Society’s programs.

Join the Indonesian Heritage Society and discover Indonesia in an exciting, friendly environment!  For further information, please visit our website:

Alternatively, feel free to call our office +62-21 572 5870 or visit our library at Sentral Senayan Bldg. 1, 17th Floor, (adjacent to Plaza Senayan).

By Isla Winarto, President Indonesian Heritage Society