Feb 28, 2024 Last Updated 12:52 AM, Feb 22, 2024

Essay: A movement to remember

Published: Feb 01, 2024
This essay is the first in a new series featuring the writing of and edited by young people.

Ghina Tsabitah

In the dynamic landscape of digitalisation, the #BerkainBersama movement is more than a fashion statement; it's a cultural revival. Social media, the driving force behind this phenomenon, not only showcases the enchantment of traditional fabrics but also plays a crucial role in disseminating their intrinsic values. As the evolution of social media continues, individuals become braver in sharing and celebrating their moments, branding themselves on a variety of digital platforms. The impact of the movement extends far beyond its initial local audience, resonating with diverse communities worldwide.

Through social media, people from various backgrounds discover the intricacies embedded in every strand of traditional fabrics. The enchanting appeal of these textiles takes centre stage on digital platforms, surpassing geographical and cultural boundaries. The movement transforms into a lively dialogue where enthusiasts of different cultures can share perspectives, narratives and personal encounters linked to traditional textiles. This inclusive conversation not only enhances comprehension of cultural subtleties but also fosters a communal spirit among individuals dedicated to safeguarding and advancing traditional practices.

However, a crucial question arises: does #BerkainBersama authentically elevate awareness of traditional culture, or is it merely a manifestation of the pervasive Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)? This exploration delves into whether the movement signifies a substantive cultural awakening or if its popularity only scratches the surface of passing trends, sparking reflection on the lasting influence of this cultural revival.

From individual expression to collective identity

In early 2021, when the pandemic was dragging everyone into a monotonous domestic routine, I felt stuck in an endless cycle of boredom. My daily activities were limited, and I felt more and more trapped on a boring carousel, just by scrolling through social media. One day, I was browsing TikTok, and accidentally came across a post with the #BerkainBersama hashtag. At first, I ignored it and continued browsing my ‘for you’ page. However, a week passed, and more and more similar posts appeared on my ‘for you’ page. Even my closest friends started joining the movement.

I was curious, and eventually decided to do further research into the #BerkainBersama movement. The deeper I delved, the more FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) I experienced. Despite my hesitation, there were many things that kept me from participating, especially the fear of being considered 'old-fashioned' because at that time, wearing a kebaya (traditional upper garment worn by women) and batik skirts was not common daily attire.

A year later, I had to move far away from my family and friends to pursue my college life. During my first week of college, I was struck by the freedom of self-expression in this new environment, especially when it came to clothing. I remember messaging my friends back home, saying, ‘College is really free when it comes to fashion! I'm feeling braver to experiment with my style.’ Throughout the semester, I saw many people confidently rocking traditional Indonesian attire – kebaya, batik shirts, and skirts. It was even common to see individuals or groups strike poses in these outfits and share them on social media with the #BerkainBersama hashtag. This movement truly captured the spirit of embracing cultural identity and traditional clothing in a modern setting.

/ Ghina Tsabitah

From that point on, I began to see things differently and from a more mature perspective. It was no longer just about following trends or succumbing to FOMO but realising the beauty in these traditional fabrics. Behind what was considered 'old-fashioned', there was a unique beauty. I started exploring various types of traditional fabrics and kebaya, both at traditional markets and online stores.

A continuous journey

In addition to becoming more interested in traditional clothing, my interest in the rich culture of Indonesia also expanded. I started to investigate traditional cuisine, exploring a variety of delicious dishes that represent the diversity of flavours and spices of the Nusantara (Indonesian archipelago). I also became actively involved in visiting museums that showcase Indonesia's cultural heritage, deepening my understanding of our ancestors' legacy, arts and traditions. Furthermore, in my adopted city, I found many interesting cultural relics, from historical buildings to folktales that are still preserved in their original form. I feel lucky to have experienced the diversity of Indonesian culture in a new place for me. These cultural relics are silent witnesses to the long journey of the Indonesian nation and provide a deeper understanding of our national identity.

Throughout this journey, I realised that the #BerkainBersama movement has a much greater impact than just a fashion trend. This movement seems to be a catalyst for awakening a sense of love and care for the rich culture of Indonesia. As I delved deeper into the world of traditional Indonesian clothing, I discovered a fascinating tapestry of meaning and history woven into every fabric, motif and intricate detail. Each piece tells a story, connecting me to my ancestral roots and enriching my understanding of Indonesian culture. It became clear that these garments are not mere fashion statements; they are vibrant windows into the beauty and diversity of our rich heritage.

The #BerkainBersama movement has proven that cultural preservation can be a grassroots initiative, made up of small, everyday actions. By simply wearing traditional clothing and sharing our experiences on social media, we can be the active participants in preserving our cultural heritage. This seemingly simple act has a ripple effect, sparking awareness, igniting pride and weaving a vibrant tapestry of cultural appreciation. When we wear traditional clothing, we are not just making a fashion statement. We make a statement about our cultural identity and belonging. It is a silent declaration that says, "This is who I am, and I am proud of my heritage." This personal act of self-expression resonates with others, creating a sense of shared identity and community.

Accordingly, the #BerkainBersama movement has not only influenced my sense of style, but it has also taken me on a deeper journey of self-discovery that connects me to the roots of my culture and national identity. I believe this journey will continue, and I hope that more people will be inspired to join me in ensuring the continued vibrancy and legacy of Indonesian culture across generations.

Ghina Tsabitah (ghinatsabitahhh@gmail.com) is an undergraduate student at the Department of Management, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Inside Indonesia 155: Jan-Mar 2024

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