Indonesian artist explores Bali’s connection with Muslim world at Diriyah Biennale

Indonesian artist explores Bali’s connection with Muslim world at Diriyah Biennale
Balinese artist Citra Sasmita poses for a photo with her work, "Rivers With No End", at the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh. (Citra Sasmita)
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Updated 13 March 2024
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Indonesian artist explores Bali’s connection with Muslim world at Diriyah Biennale

Indonesian artist explores Bali’s connection with Muslim world at Diriyah Biennale
  • ‘Rivers With No End’ installation is Citra Sasmita’s debut in the Middle East
  • Artist’s embroideries in Diriyah artwork use old technique from West Bali

JAKARTA: Suspended on antique wooden pillars floating at the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale venue, embroidered scrolls form a stream of symbolic images, each of them displaying the centuries-old connections of the Indonesian island of Bali with the Muslim world.

Titled “Rivers With No End,” the installation is a work of Citra Sasmita, a Balinese artist who made her Middle East debut at the international showcase underway in Riyadh since late February.

“‘Rivers With No End’ is my interpretation of knowledge, history and how Islamic culture spread across Indonesia through maritime routes,” Sasmita told Arab News.

“It is also an interpretation of how fluid Islamic knowledge is, how it touches cultural roots wherever it lands, which leads to acculturation that continues to evolve to this present day, staying relevant and keeping up with the spirit of the times.” 

The carved wooden pillars take reference from the architectural styles from the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali and are meant to symbolize Wali Songo — the nine legendary saints of Javanese Islam. 

On one side hangs an 8-meter-long embroidered scroll, which takes inspiration from the Bugis seafarers, a Muslim ethnic group and heirs to an ancient maritime tradition, who centuries ago arrived in Bali from the island of Sulawesi. 

Smaller pieces of fabric hang on the other side, showing handmade embroideries of herbs and medicinal plants that she found when reading the Qur’an and old Hindu manuscripts. 

Through her work, Sasmita explores the vastness of the world’s largest archipelagic country and the influence of Islam on her home island, where Hinduism is the majority religion. 




This photo shows "Rivers With No End" installation by Balinese artist Citra Sasmita at the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh. (Citra Sasmita)

To make the artwork a reality, the 33-year-old artist first traveled to Jembrana, West Bali, last October in search of a priestess. There, in one of Bali’s oldest Muslim villages known as Loloan, she learned an ancient embroidery technique. 

“The embroidery technique that I am showing in Riyadh is an old technique and on the brink of extinction,” Sasmita said. 

“The process turned out to be quite difficult, to find a community of women who are able to do this type of embroidery. They used to be there (in Jembrana), but there’s no more market for their craft.” 

For years, such embroideries were left as ritual decorations for religious occasions, and without adequate commercial orders to sustain the craft, the skilled women had to change professions, with most turning to farming to make a living. 

“This project has also moved me to work out a way to revitalize this old technique. It is an ongoing process, and I am working with the priestess who is skilled in this craft,” she said.  

The craft’s links with religious rituals were apparent in the choices of color, Sasmita said, as the priestess chose shades that resonated with spiritual aspects, like yellow to represent light and red to depict fire. 

But before she visited Riyadh for the opening of the Diriyah Biennale last month, she was uncertain as to how Arabs would receive her work as it is her first exhibition in the region.  

“But I found that they appreciated my work and were interested in the skillful embroidery technique … They were curious, and there I took a lot of questions and inquiries,” Sasmita said. 

Her Diriyah project, rich with knowledge and history, became an example of how visual interpretation works as a language of its own. 

“I’d (focused) on how the idea behind the work can be conveyed, that in the context of Indonesia as an archipelagic nation, the influence of Islam is rooted almost everywhere,” she said. 

“(My work) … shows the diversity of Islam in Indonesia, its expression in social structures and cultures, and how art is also a spiritual path.” 

Sasmita, whose work is also currently showing at the 25th Sydney Biennale, said she feels very proud of the “incredible opportunity” offered at the Diriyah Biennale.   

“Contemporary art in Saudi Arabia is exceptional, they talk about technology and how art can have an impact on sustainability, which is why they invited artists and researchers whose work has had a social impact and contributes to problem-solving in today’s world,” she said. 

“I think they intend to be more open-minded to various free expressions of art.” 


Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea

Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea
Updated 6 sec ago
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Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea

Philippines says Beijing’s words not matching actions in South China Sea
  • Philippine foreign ministry ‘denounces the illegal and aggressive actions’ of Chinese authorities
  • ‘Peace cannot be achieved if China’s words do not match its behavior in the disputed waters’
MANILA: China must avoid actions that would endanger sailors and vessels in the South China Sea, the Philippine foreign ministry said on Wednesday, adding peace cannot be achieved if its words do not match its behavior in the disputed waters.
The Philippine foreign ministry said it “denounces the illegal and aggressive actions” of Chinese authorities that resulted in personnel injury and vessel damage during Manila’s routine resupply mission in the South China Sea on June 17.
“In line with the Philippines’ commitment to pursue peace, the Department has been exerting efforts to rebuild a conducive environment for dialogue and consultation with China on the South China Sea,” the ministry said in a statement.
“This cannot be achieved if China’s words do not match their actions on the waters.”
The ministry also called on China to respect the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its own waters.

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
Updated 19 June 2024
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Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
  • The Pentagon has said that Black broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China

Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of four years and eight months for a US soldier who has been detained in the Russian city of Vladivostok on suspicion of theft and threats to kill his girlfriend, Russian agencies reported on Wednesday.
Gordon Black, who was detained on May 2 in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of threatening to kill his girlfriend but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing from her.
“(We ask) to impose a sentence of four years and eight months, to be served in a penal colony,” Russia’s RIA state news agency cited the prosecutor as saying at the court hearing.
The prosecutor has also asked for a fine of 40,000 roubles ($469), RIA reported.
Black’s defense lawyer has asked the court to acquit him of all of the charges, RIA reported.
Earlier, RIA reported that Black “partially” acknowledged his guilt on the charge of stealing 10,000 roubles ($113) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk’s purse but said that “there was no intent.”
The pair had met in South Korea, where Black was stationed. The Pentagon has said that he broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China.


US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
Updated 19 June 2024
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US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
  • The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza

WASHINGTON: The United States bristled Tuesday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested ally Washington was withholding critical weapons to his country as it wages war against Hamas in Gaza.
“Let me just start off by saying that we genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
With the exception of “one particular shipment of munitions” that US officials were looking at closely, Jean-Pierre said “there are no other pauses. None.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said earlier Tuesday that Washington is “continuing to review one shipment... with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah,” a city in southern Gaza.
But the top American diplomat said other weapons were moving as usual and that Washington was “making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”
The pointed reaction from the White House came hours after Netanyahu said Blinken had assured him the US government was working “day and night” to address the delay in the arrival of the weapons.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza crisis, he also said he told Blinken “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, of whom Israel believes 116 remain in Gaza, including 41 who the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
Updated 19 June 2024
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Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
  • Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities
  • As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Authorities in China’s western Xinjiang region have been systematically replacing the names of villages inhabited by Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities to reflect the ruling Communist Party’s ideology, as part of an attack on their cultural identity, a report released by Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
About 630 villages in Xinjiang have had their names changed to remove references to Islam or the Uyghurs’ culture and history, according to the group's report, done in collaboration with the Norway-based organization Uyghur Hjelp.
The report compared the names of 25,000 Xinjiang villages as listed by the National Bureau of Statistics of China between 2009 and 2023.
Words like “dutar,” a traditional Uyghur string instrument, or “mazar,” a shrine, have been removed from the names of villages, and replaced with words such as “happiness,” “unity” and “harmony” — generic terms often found in the Communist Party’s policy documents.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions about the report and its policies in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. In 2017, the Chinese government launched a campaign of assimilation that has included mass detentions, alleged political indoctrination, alleged family separations and alleged forced labor among other methods.
As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps. The Chinese government at the time described the camps as " vocational training centers " and said they were necessary to curb separatism and religious extremism.
The U.N. Human Rights Office in 2022 found accusations of rights violations in Xinjiang “credible” and said China may have committed crimes against humanity in the region.
The changes to the names of Xinjiang villages included removing mentions of religion, including terms such as “Hoja,” a title for a Sufi religious teacher, and “haniqa,” a type of Sufi religious building, or terms such as “baxshi,” a shaman.
References to Uyghur history or to regional leaders prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 have also been removed, according to the report.
“The Chinese authorities have been changing hundreds of village names in Xinjiang from those rich in meaning for Uyghurs to those that reflect government propaganda,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “These name changes appear part of Chinese government efforts to erase the cultural and religious expressions of Uyghurs.”
The Chinese government wants to “erase people's historical memory, because those names remind people of who they are,” said Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur linguist based in Norway and founder of Uyghur Hjelp.
Most of the village name changes occurred between 2017 and 2019, at the height of the government crackdown in Xinjiang, according to the report.

 


Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
Updated 19 June 2024
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Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
  • Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created

RACINE, Wisconsin: Donald Trump holds a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where he will slam Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy, even as a major local factory that Trump broke ground on six years ago has proven to be a flop.
The Republican former president was in this largely working-class, lakeside city in 2018 to celebrate what was expected to be a $10 billion investment by Taiwanese technology group Foxconn. During his 2017 to 2021 term, Trump touted the facility, designed to produce TVs, as an example of how his “America First” policies had rejuvenated American manufacturing.
But while Foxconn originally forecast 13,000 new jobs at the factory, the company now expects to create only about 1,500 positions. Vacant fields west of downtown Racine, threaded by empty roadways, serve as a local symbol of unmet promises.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, previously said that it changed its plans due to a reduction in projected demand for the factory’s products.
“I think people look at it as a joke,” said Nancy Anderson, a 67-year-old retired teacher, while having breakfast at a local cafe.
Trump is expected to speak to supporters at a lakeside park at 3 p.m. local time (2000 GMT). Among the topics he will address, according to the campaign, is how high inflation under Biden has hurt Wisconsin residents.
Foxconn’s underwhelming debut has opened up a line of attack for local and national Democrats who say Trump failed to live up to his economic promises. They are hoping that message resonates in Wisconsin, one of just a handful of states expected to be competitive in the Nov. 5 election.
According to an average of surveys maintained by polling website FiveThirtyEight, Trump leads Biden in Wisconsin by 0.2 percentage points, despite having lost the state in 2020.
The two candidates are competing furiously for every vote. Biden was in Racine last month to tout the construction of a $3.3 billion Microsoft data center in a location where Foxconn was supposed to build part of its manufacturing campus.
“Foxconn turned out to be just that — a con,” Biden told supporters at Gateway Technical College’s Sturtevant campus.
Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created.
Anthony Eckman, a 28-year-old who is unemployed, said he was disappointed when a warehouse position he planned to apply for at Foxconn failed to materialize.
But he said his personal finances have worsened under Biden, and he will likely vote for Trump this year, despite sitting out the last election.
“I wish we had better candidates this year, but Biden showed no signs of improving this country in my opinion,” Eckman said. “I think I’m gonna be voting for Trump this year.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Racine is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, and it is considered politically competitive even by Wisconsin standards. Trump beat the Democratic nominee in both 2016 and 2020 by about 4 percentage points, while former Democratic President Barack Obama narrowly won the county in 2008 and 2012.
Last week, Trump called Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will take place next month, a “horrible city” during a meeting with Republicans in the US House of Representatives.
His campaign said he was referring to violent crime and alleged election security issues in the city when he made that comment.