Project Update #2: Peacebuilding in Indonesia through Collaborative Digital Media Engagement

Fulbright ETA alumna Jessica Peng has continued her engagement with Indonesian youth of different faith backgrounds. Her work has culminated in an exciting exhibition of the students’ digital media projects, which shine a light on a number of social tensions in the country while allowing the youth to tell their own stories with professional guidance.

Read more about the origins of her project and other U.S. Alumni TIES Small Grant winners in our previous post here.

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RANGKUL: Kolaborasi Lintas Kultur

“RANKGUL: Kolaborasi Lintas Kultur” launched in early August as an initiative to facilitate discussions about tolerance among youth of diverse cultural backgrounds amidst religious, ethnic, and overall social tensions in Jakarta, Indonesia. The program centered on the creation of digital media group projects as a means to both encourage the participants to collaborate across their differences and promote their messages of peacebuilding to a wider community. During the first two phases of the program, which were covered in a previous update here, participants went on a weekend retreat together where they engaged in skills development and team building activities. They spent a second weekend in Jakarta extensively working on their projects under the mentorship of locally-based professional filmmakers and photographers.

After two weeks of hard work, RANGKUL participants showcased their digital media products as part of the conclusion of the program. In collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, RANGKUL’s public exhibition took place at the @america cultural center. On August 18, the day after Indonesia’s 72nd Independence Day, over 100 people from the greater Jakarta area joined the program in its premiere of the students’ film and photography projects. Each project provided important insights on tolerance from the perspectives of young people.

At 2 pm, the doors to @america opened to the public. For the first hour, event attendees mingled with RANGKUL participants and mentors at their respective booths to learn about their projects and their experiences producing them. For the second hour, the lights lowered and the crowd gathered into the auditorium. Program Director Jessica Peng and Assistant to the Cultural Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta Emily Abraham each provided opening remarks. This was followed by a short panel featuring program team members, Jessica Peng and Katie McClelland, who described the program goals, objectives, and activities in greater details. Mentors and facilitators Fitri Mayang Sari, Deny Setiawan, and Hardya Pranadipa, also shared key lessons learned from their work with RANGKUL. Fitri, for example, discussed the things she found surprising about Generation Z. She described the students as both assertive but open-minded. She stated, “I was pleasantly surprised to see how open the students were to meeting new people and capturing their stories. Within the group itself, my mentees were clear about the direction in which they wanted to take their project, but maintained flexibility when challenges came up. As a mentor, I learned to be humble and to identify moments when I can step in to help. Because they were so bright and self-organized, I stepped back to give them freedom to make their own plans. This was a new adjustment for me.”

Following the panel on educational lessons learned, each student team showcased their project, discussed the key messages and production process, and answered questions from the audience.

Team Champion, under the mentorship of Nicho Yudifar, created a short documentary entitled A Strang Place that follows the story of Dyfan, a Muslim student who attends a Catholic school in Jakarta. Through this documentary, they aimed to share a story about what it is like to be part of the religious majority of Indonesia but attending a school where he is a religious minority.

With mentor Deny Setiawan, Humble Productions produced a Public Service Announcement called Smile on the subject of intolerance among teenagers. The video aimed to emphasize the inaccuracy of stereotypes and how stereotypes serve as the root of intolerance. Their PSA encouraged the public to get outside of their religious, racial, and cultural circles by erasing prejudice with a smile.

Jiwabangsa created a photo essay called Dua Generasi under the guidance of Fitri Mayang Sari, which sought to bridge the gap between Generation X and Generation Z through intergenerational understanding. By deepening the understanding of each generation’s experience of conflict and intolerance, they found that across generations there is a common fear: growth of intolerance in Indonesia today. They interviewed people on the streets of Jakarta of multiple generations in order to show that differences in outlooks should not widen the gap between generations, but instead bring unity.

Finally, Team D(iversity), who worked with photographer Yoppy Pieter, presented a photography project called Similarity in Diversity that investigated commonalities across religions. They chose to photograph Jakarta’s major religious sites, namely the Istiqlal Mosque and Jakarta Cathedral, to explore the similarities between each background.

All projects can be viewed on the RANGKUL Project’s YouTube channel accessible here.

At the end of the show, all the students, mentors, and facilitators were honored by their experience with RANGKUL. All students received a certificate of completion and are now recognized as Alumni of the State Department and have access to new resources and opportunities. The crowd celebrated with the cutting of a tumpeng, the national dish of Indonesia that embraces the diversity of Indonesian culinary traditions.

RANGKUL was written about in three media pieces, including Kompas and Media Indonesia. Katya Narendratanaya, a 12th grade participant who was voted as a RANGKUL spokesperson by her peers and public speaking experts, spoke to a local newspaper at length about religious tolerance in the school system and the lack of activities to bring together different backgrounds for more cultural understanding. Jessica Peng also spoke on the subject of intolerance, explaining that issues like intolerance should be discussed with youth in a serious manner, as they are already absorbing much of what the media and the public talks about and can benefit from the opportunity to process these debates.

Moving forward, RANGKUL plans to expand its community outreach by continuing the promotion of these current projects online and at local events focused on similar issues. To stay updated with our program, follow our Instagram account (@rangkulproject) and Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rangkulproject/!

Written and contributed by Jessica Peng.

Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminars (Alumni TIES) are regionally focused seminars for alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs.