Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

Collaboration Performance between SMKI Students and Havering Sixth Form College © Angela Retno Nooryastuti

Yogyakarta Tradition Conservation in the Middle of Culture Disruption

Karawitan Indonesia High School (SMKI) Yogyakarta or Kasihan State Vocational School 1 (Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan Nasional 1) Kasihan, Bantul, is a high-level vocational school focusing on art. The school, located on Jl. PG Madukismo, Bugisan, Kasihan, Bantul, Yogyakarta, was established in 1961 under the name Konservatori Tari (KONRI), which has a focus on dance conservation and development. The school then was changed into Karawitan Indonesia High School in 1976. In 1997 it became Kasihan State Vocational School 1. The proliferation of non-formal art education through many studios does not dampen the spirit of SMKI as the organizer of formal art education in the Yogyakarta Special Region.

SMKI has several art majors as its learning focus—namely, a dance major, karawitan (traditional Javanese music); an art major, pedalangan (shadow puppet); an art major, and a theater art major. The education held by SMKI consists of theory and practice. Every first-grade student gets the education that other high schools give in general. The students then begins to deepen their practice during the second and third grade. The final examination of SMKI students consists of both the national exam, held by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Republic Indonesia, and the practicum examination conducted by the school. The practicum examination organized by SMKI begins with Industrial Practice (PI), where all students carry out fieldwork practice directly. After implementing the PI, the final grade students will have is their practical exam in the form of choreographic performances of artworks created and organized by all students, both as examinees and committee.

Sunardi, Head of SMKI 2006-2018, is one of SMKI graduates who returned to serve in the SMKI. He is active in various activities in the Yogyakarta Special Region and is famous for his role as Semar (a sacred and wise figure in Javanese wayang). Sunardi is also well-known as a dalang, a dancer, and a musician (in karawitan). His work in the international world is also as commendable as other artists’. Lately, in 2017, he went to London to teach karawitan for three months. In 2018, he returned to London to bring a group of SMKI students to have collaborative practice with students at Havering Sixth Form College London fulfilling the invitation from the Attaché of Education and Culture (Atdikbud) of Republic Indonesia in London run by Prof. E. Aminudin Aziz.

The event held in London lasted for fourteen days, taking place at Havering Sixth Form College London. The activity began with a collaborative practice of the students of SMKI and the students of Havering Sixth Form College. It was then ended with a collaborative performance between the two schools, bringing the Ramayana epic story. The collaboration presented, had both Javanese and European traditional elements as well as modern elements. Those elements appeared in the dance movements and accompanying music. Angela Retno Nooryastuti (Inul), an SMKI teacher who also attended her students to London, stated that the teachers involved only functioned as facilitators while the students from both schools were the ones engaged in the exercises and the performances. The SMKI students selected for the London program need to fulfill at least two criteria. They must have above average practical ability and have sufficient English skills. Although one student had achieved the best in his class, Inul, who also graduated from SMKI in 1989, stated that the particular student would not be included in London if he/she does not have sufficient English skills.

The current SMKI is different from the early SMKI. The early SMKI focused on conservation and student development in detail. Students were educated to suit their chosen majors, by also learning the knowledge of other majors, because one area of art will be related to others. Besides that, SMKI trains the students’ sense of art (wirasa) continuously. Now, SMKI has been following the development of the era that leads to the activities carried out to become more on memorizing many dances, music repertoire, and roles. This is due to the needs of the industry and the increasing number of studios vastly spreading in Yogyakarta. However, the values that characterize SMKI, like PI and work creation, remain becoming the strength of SMKI Yogyakarta graduates.