Arnaldi Nasrum shows that he is capable of embracing his roots beyond borders by being an informal ambassador to his country whenever he is overseas. Arnald’s travelling experiences in several countries has allowed him to promote Indonesia’s culture through cultural performance and youth forums. Indonesia Mengglobal Columnist, Dini Putri Saraswati got a chance to hear his wonderful journey performing traditional dances in some countries in Asia and Europe that she would like to share in this article.
Promoting Indonesia’s culture abroad has been one of the goals of Arnaldi Nasrum, or Arnald, an alumnus of International Relations and International Organisations at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands whose interest in world history and culture has taken him around the globe to people and events that were eye-opening. His remarkable experiences in representing Indonesian cultural identity through artistic performances and ideas in several foreign countries have made him realise that the beauty of diversity is worth embracing and sharing.
Jakarta Sister City Youth Program: There Is Always a First Time for Everything
Arnald started his very first cultural performance in Beijing, China in 2013 where he was selected as one of the delegates for the International Youth Organization Forum and Beijing Sister City Youth Camp through Jakarta Sister City Youth Program. As one of the seven delegates from Jakarta, he had the opportunity to interact with young people from more than twenty countries which had sister city relationship with Beijing. The purpose of this programme was to facilitate the exchange of ideas and culture of the youths from participating countries through discussion forum, excursion, and cultural performance.
As a representative from Jakarta, Arnald and his contingent performed Batavian traditional dance called Tari Nandak Betawi. It was his first time performing traditional dance in front of international audiences in a formal setting and it made him feel nervous although he had spent months of practising. In order to get rid of his anxiety, Arnald and his team improvised. They asked the audiences to come and dance together. “Turned out the audiences really loved and appreciated it. They even asked me more about the performance off-stage and it made me really proud,” he said.
It became Arnald’s a-ha moment where he finally had come to a realisation that a cultural exchange event is one of the most effective ways to improve the relationship between people from different nationalities as it leaves enthusiasm feelings and pleasant impressions to the spectators. Thus, he intended to present his identity to a more diverse audiences.
Culture Sharing through Youth Forums and Homestay Programme
In 2014, Arnald joined a social community called Gerakan Mari Berbagi (GMB) where he learned to build his confidence and improve his interpersonal skills. GMB allowed him to perform in various cultural events and one of them was at Youth Leaders Forum in Jakarta. Through his participation in the community, Arnald felt more assured that he was capable of introducing his cultural identity to a wider public. Therefore, in the same year, he signed up for GMB Homestay Program to Japan for a month. In this programme, Arnald and five other Indonesian fellows stayed at the locals to exchange culture and ideas.
In an event called Enterprise Trade Festival hosted by Kyoto University, Arnald and his teammates got a chance to promote Indonesian recycled goods by the woman artisans from Indramayu. After the event, they performed Tari Gemu Fa Mi Re from Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). Each of them brought a scarf as a property and asked the visitors to dance and sing together by draping the scarf and led them to the stage. “It was very delightful! We got a lot of audiences in the bazaar as they really enjoyed the music,” he added.
The next year, Arnald participated as one of the Indonesian delegates for Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) Youth Forum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. As a delegate, he was responsible to deliver his ideas about youth and culture, especially as an ASEAN national who shares the same culture and identity. At the end of the forum, each delegate from the ASEAN countries presented their own national costumes. “All delegates wore colourful costumes, including me. I dressed in Batavian traditional clothes and I think the event is a fun way to understand different culture,” he expressed.
Studying Abroad and Creating Harmony
Arnald’s journey did not stop in Asian countries. In 2017, he embarked on a Master’s degree at the University of Groningen and lived in a countryside. During his study, he was actively engaged in several communities, such as Golvend Lewenborg, a local community in his neighbourhood as well as Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia (PPI) Groningen.
Golvend Lewenborg focused on building tolerance and Arnald was the only Indonesian member at the community among other members from the Netherlands, Suriname, and many other countries. Being a minority did not stop him from showing his cultural identity. In fact, he challenged himself to be present by making connections with the other members. “I partook in some events and gatherings. You know, they loved making communal activities where we can share our culture and perceptions about it. For me, this group was a place where we learned not only about each other culture but also treasured it,” he asserted.
At PPI Groningen, Arnald participated in an event called Indonesian Day to present Indonesian culture and culinary to the Groningers and he performed Acehnese traditional dance called Tari Ratoh Jaroe. Tari Ratoh Jaroe is often misinterpreted as the infamous Tari Saman where Tari Saman is usually performed by men while Tari Ratoh Jaroe is usually performed by women. “There is a funny story behind the dance. It was supposed to be Tari Saman, but no other guy applied [to the dance performance] but me. Therefore, we decided to change it to Tari Ratoh Jaroe with me in the middle instead,” he explained.
As Tari Ratoh Jaroe was one of the most anticipated performing acts at Indonesian Day, Arnald felt quite uneasy, especially with his position in the middle as the only male performer on his team. “It was my first time performing Tari Ratoh Jaroe. This dance was very challenging because I had to keep up my pace with the others to create harmony. If I could not do it properly, it would be very upsetting,” he said. Finally, Tari Ratoh Jaroe was quite an engrossing closing at Indonesian Day that it gained a lot of standing ovation. “I could not be more satisfied to hear all the cheering crowds after the show. I did it!” he exclaimed.
You Do Not Have to be a Professional to Embrace Your Roots beyond Borders
In line with this month’s issue, “Embracing Your Roots Beyond Borders”, Arnald suggested that everyone can actually be an informal ambassador to their country. You do not need to be a professional negotiator like what the real ambassador at the embassy does nor a professional dancer who goes to the dance academy. “Look, I am an amateur too. I do not dance on a daily basis. I am not even the smartest man in the room when it comes to talking about culture and history. I just enjoy it. I enjoy sharing and presenting my cultural identity to public and when they appreciate it, it makes me really happy and touched at the same time. It is nice to embrace our roots, isn’t it?” he concluded.
Arnaldi Nasrum or Arnald graduated with a Master’s degree in International Relations and International Organisations with a specialisation in East Asian Studies from The University of Groningen, the Netherlands. His interest in Korean history has given him a chance to be a visiting researcher at Korea University, Seoul in 2018. Arnald is also interested in voluntary work and had been joining Golvend Lewenborg for six months to work on some social projects in the Northern Netherlands. He is passionate about both writing and playing football. AC Milan is a football club he admires a lot. Arnald is currently working at Australia Awards in Indonesia.