The culture of Indonesia has been shaped by long interaction between original indigenous customs and multiple foreign influences. Indonesia is centrally-located along ancient trading routes between the Far East, South Asia and the Middle East, resulting in many cultural practices being strongly influenced by a multitude of religions, including Hinduism,Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity, all strong in the major trading cities. The result is a complex cultural mixture very different from the original indigenous cultures.
Examples of cultural fusion include the fusion of Islam with Hindu in Javanese Abangan belief, the fusion of Hinduism, Buddhism and animisim Bodha, and the fusion of Hinduism and animism in Kaharingan; others could be cited. Balinese dances have stories about ancient Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms, while Islamic art forms and architecture are present in Sumatra, especially inthe Minangkabau and Aceh regions. Traditional art, music and sport are combined in a martial art form called Pencak Silat.
Western culture has greatly influenced Indonesia in science, technology and modern entertainment such as television shows, film and music, as well as political system and issues. India has notably influenced Indonesian songs and movies. A popular type of song is the Indian-rhythmicaldangdut, which is often mixed with Arab and Malay folk music.
Despite the influences of foreign culture, some remote Indonesian regions still preserve uniquely indigenous culture. Indigenous ethnic groups Mentawai, Asmat, Dani, Dayak, Toraja and many others still practice their ethnic rituals, customs and wearing traditional clothes.
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© 2002-2016. All photos courtesy of Mandy Andrea, Kevin Sharp, Bonnie Zimmermann, Stewart Metz, Dudi Nandika and Dwi Agustina. Please contact Bonnie Zimmermann for permission to use any of the photographs.