Evolution Of Indonesian Art

Genuine, breathtaking and culturally fulfilling, the beauty of Indonesian art spreads across the archipelago, carrying timeless legacy of its rich and mystical heritage. With influences from the diverse cultures of the original indigenous and foreign traders, the fiercely protected art form of traditional Indonesia has now evolved taking a modern approach, appreciated more by the world today.

For example, the Kecak dance performed only during religious ceremonies is now openly performed for the public with some amendments to suit the general audience, specially choreographed by a European artist. Songket with its rich history tracing all the way back to India, Arab, Cambodia and even Pattani, was exclusively worn by the wealthy is now a favourite souvenir item for the masses.

Dance & Music

Indonesia’s renowned dance and music continues to keep the world intrigued mainly because of its varied creative expression of traditional values of different ethnic groups across the region. Traditional music such as dangdut, samba sunda and jaipongan are world famous, whilst well-known dances such as barong, kecak, legong and many others depict the rich history behind every beautiful step and turn.

Kecak Dance (Bali)

Enjoy the astounding Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple, South of Bali
Enjoy the astounding Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple, South of Bali (Source : uluwatukecakdance.com)

One of the most popular Balinese dances, Kecak is performed by over 100 men chanting “cha” as a replacement to the sound of the Gamelan. This musical feast usually starts at sunset with five scenes of the battle between Rama and Lord Rahwana as the former attempts to save his wife Sitha. This Hindu epic performance usually lasts for an hour and has become one of the ‘must sees’ when in Bali.


Numerous megalithic sculptures can be found strewn all around Indonesia especially in Sumatra, Java and all the way to Sulawesi. Highly influenced by Hinduism, the sculptures were built to reflect on the region’s local culture, and portray the unity between the indigenous tribes. The majestic Borobudur is among prominent sculptures that define this well.

Borobudur temple wall carvings, Indonesia
Borobudur temple wall carvings, Indonesia (Source : insearchoflostplaces.com)

This beautiful Mahayana Buddhist temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and pilgrimage spot, consisting of six square platforms that are crowned with three circular platforms, and beautifully decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The sculptures of deities here are different from the ones in India, as they bear distinct Indonesian features.


Meanwhile, architecture in Indonesia has also seen many great external influences but most Indonesian ethnic groups still maintain a distinctive form of vernacular architecture known as rumah adat.

Rumah Gadang, West Sumatera
Rumah Gadang, West Sumatera (Source : andypriawan.wordpress.com)

The uniqueness of rumah adat stands in its architectural structure itself. The master builder draws ideas from the tribe’s social relations, traditional laws, taboos, myths and religions to strongly reflect the uniqueness of its culture. One of the most beautiful vernacular architectures can be found at Lake Singkarak in West Sumatra, with its dramatically curved roof structure and the painted floral carvings.


Known for its amazing and intricate craftsmanship, Indonesia is famous for their wood, batik and songket products. The best wood crafts can be found in Central Java, whilst the best of batiks are aplenty in Jogjakarta and Solo.

Songket on the other hand is famous in Palembang in which gold thread was first woven into a songka, a Palembang traditional cap. Like the many art forms in Indonesia, these crafts are also heavily influenced by the religions and culture brought over by traders and settlers many centuries ago.

Wood carving in Jepara, Java
Wood carving in Jepara, Java (Source : colours-indonesia.com)

The fine art of wood carving in Indonesia is a skill handed down through generations, maintaining the high skill and expertise to turn blocks of wood into exquisite decorative works of art! Usage of different types of wood such as Belalu, Suar and Teak depends on the finished products – toys, souvenirs, furniture, statues and more.

Explore its diversity, admire its beauty, delight in its essence and adore its enthralling stories – the visual appeals of Indonesia’s art form draws the world’s worthy attention for good reasons. As much as one knows about the intricate details and rich background of Indonesia’s well-preserved art, there is still so much to discover about Indonesia’s artistry. (Credit to : AirAsia)

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