Trip Report: International Winter School on Pluralism and Development 2011

Rabu, 9 November 2011 | viewed (6448)

International Winter School on Pluralism and Development 2011 Bloemfontein, South Africa

A Trip Report by Dewi Cahya Ambarwati (The CRCS Student 2010)  



Leaving Indonesia


I departed from Yogyakarta on Friday, 8 July 2011 flying with Garuda Airlines GA 205 at 13.15 to Jakarta. Along with three other Indonesian participants: Agus Salim (Yogyakarta municipal governmental officer), Ambar Istiyani (CSO Percik, Salatiga), and Indriani Widiastuti (CSO Interseksi, Jakarta), I left Jakarta for Dubai at 18.15 by Emirates, flying for 8 hours. A transit stop was made for 4 hours then I continued the journey straight to Johannesburg at 4.40, also with Emirates. I arrived in O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday, 9 July 2011 at 11.00. Fetched by several people from the University of the Free State, it took me another 5 hours drive to Bloemfontein. Reached the University, particularly in the Institute for Recnciliation, Race and Social Justice, I met with the teaching team and other participants. We then were led to our lodges which were Tutu House and Oprah House. I was placed in Oprah.


The Winter School

The Winter School was exercised by the University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, the Netherlands, in cooperation with International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa; Center for Religious – and Cross Cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore, India; and, Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda, Kampala, Uganda. And the Course Coordinators were Dr. Caroline Suransky and Prof. Henk Manschot from the Netherlands, Mr. JC Van der Merwe from South Africa, and Prof. Sitharamam Kakarala from India. Total participants were 19 people of both graduate students and civil society-based organizations: Indonesia (4), Uganda (4), the Netherlands (4), India (3), and South Africa (4).


The school was giving me a meaningful experience. As a foreigner, I enjoyed initial prejudices upon me when participants thought of me as Hindu due to my name, a Christian due to my intention to attend mass services, and they were a little bit surprised knowing me as a Muslim. Moreover when I covered myself with hijab at the last week of the course to appreciate the month of Ramadhan. A local thought I was a Mexican due to my look, but this surely I could not tell which parts of me informed her to that idea.



    In class having a lecture from  Prof. Jansen (Rector)   


During the school, the most important things I learned were mainly about the strong segregation between blacks and whites which has been still very prominent, the past history of South Africa, and knowing the unknown as I met differences amongst members and got to know one another. Another thing that I would not forget was I tried to understand and feel the nature of winter’s natures.


The participants were given book readers, a compilation of the entire programs as well as reading materials. Topics of lectures given were: Pluralism, Human and Sustainable Development and Civic Pluralism which covered The Contradictory Dynamics and Necessary Reconciliation between Human Flourishing and Sustainable Development: Rethinking the Relationship between Ecology, Ethics and (religious) Pluralism; Identity and Pluralism; Reconciliation and the South African Human Rights Commission; and Reconciliation and Social Justice. Topic of The Pluralism Effect: Understanding ‘Universal’ Categories in the Global Village included lecture of Of Cosmopolitan Virtues and Cultural Diversity: Tolerance and the Anxiety of Reforming the Other; and, Solidarity and Citizenship in an age of Civic Pluralism: the Making and Unmaking of the Global Civil Society.


I had to develop my own case study for pluralism workshop. I raised the issue of ‘Can Jilbab Deal with Dance?’ which touched a student organization within Universitas Gadjah Mada. I have observed this issue as I myself joined the group since long ago and was aware of the development of how it addressed a particular challenge to pluralism. The group was challenged over freedom of expression with the engagement of arts. I also linked the case to articles I had chosen in order to theorize it. To present the case, I had to put down my ideas into drawings like a poster.




With Mamothibeli Sehlabo, an African-religion adherent at the International Conference of World Religions



I chose the group of The Pluralism Effect under the supervision of Prof. Ram Kakarala, with Frank (Holland), Arshad and Gayatri (India), and Helen (South Africa). We had to produce a large paper containing cases that were found in each country and presented it at the last week of the course as the final product of the winter school. It was given a title ‘Portraits of Pluralism: Dealing with Pluralism Frameworks from Five Different Perspectives’. In it, I contributed with ‘Inter-religious Marriage and the Pancasila Family within Indonesia Context’.


During weekend, we were taken out for excursions to Vroue Monument, Maphike house and Heidedal Township in Bloemfontein, to Johannesburg (Apartheid Museum and Constitutional Court), to Pretoria (Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park) and to UFS Qwa Qwa Campus. At the closure of the Winter School, I had an opportunity to present a Javanese classical dance before the presentation of certificates. I gave a short presentation and welcomed questions from the audience.


The participants were required to write a story and sent it to a weblog managed by students from Utrecht. It was expected a participant writing one or two writings. I attached what I wrote for the weblog to this report, and I also put a news about us.


Story of Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Today, we did presentations, by countries. We had to present issues relating to pluralism and development in our own country, and we had also to inform what our civil-based society/university have done concerning the issues. India came first presenting identity issue and Muslim community; gender inequality within either social relationship or marriage was also raised. Health issue was elaborated as well. The Dutch raised issues of asylum seekers, what does it means to be Dutch, and also presented what Geert Wilders said about Islamization, which was nicely imitated by Frank. I was intrigued by their statement. According to the Dutch, it was stated by the Royal Princess, saying that there is no Dutch identity. Conversation after lunch with them and Carolina Suransky, has given me a slight answer that being pluralistic is actually the identity.



   Choosing pictures and giving a reflection  


The South Africans presented issues on racism and racialism, homophobia (heterosexuals’ fear of being in close quarter with homosexuals) and xenophobia (unreasonable fear/distrust/hatred of strangers/foreigners). Uganda presented ethnic diversity celebrated through the pictures of several ethnic groups. They played short movie presenting several kinds of traditional art performances, dancing and music. They also mentioned human right abuses, massive corruption, influences in the government, and, how, when it comes to political leadership, ethnicity being problematic. We, Indonesian, were the last to present. We raised the issue of freedom as a consequence of a new democracy after the fall of Soeharto regime in 1998. Freedom of expressions embrace freedom of speech, cultural expression, and religious issues.


I shall point that today we were able to acknowledge issues that happen in these 5 countries. I, myself, did not know much about Uganda and South Africa, but the presentations have given me an important information about how xenophobia and homophobia have become such a national issue. I see that, we were quite aware of the problems that our own countries have been dealing with. And we are here in search for possibilities and learn from each other on how we could contribute to alleviate the level of the issues.


Story of Thursday, 14 July 2011


In the afternoon after class, we went for an excursion to several places: Vroue monument (Women’s monument), war museum, Maphike House and Heidedal Township. On our way to the museum, I saw a graveyard, Christian cemetery, accros the museum area. We met Johan, the guide. He was working for the museum for 15 years, then quitted. He is now teaching at the Tourism Dept, Central University of Technology, not far from the University of the Free State. Information given, started from statues of a soldier riding a horse leaving a mother with a baby. Then we moved on inside the museum. No camera allowed, so I did not make any documentation. The place is more like a house, the interior I mean; very classic with simple lighting. Paintings are very dominant, either on canvas or porcellain but in a very large size. Paintings in the second floor are 3mx6m large, 7 paintings hung on the wall, very old. Johan explained about the Anglo-Boer war in an encouraging voice. We also stopped at the area of Emily Hobhouse, a historical female figure. Then we had some time to go around the house observing the historical artefacts or whatever that seem antique.



   Sanctuary at the Freedom Park, Pretoria   


We proceeded to women’s memorial park. There is a monument, obelisk, with a name of Emily Hobhouse carved at the bottom of it. Johan said that the ashes of Emily (she died in London) was put beneath the monument. There are also three more tombs (I forget the names). At each tomb, a basket of fake flowers is put above the stone. Johan said that the memorial is aimed to tell humans that war gives no good, but brings suffering to women and children.


We then took off for a drive to Heidedal Township and Bloemanda. We observed housing complexes, classified by economy classification: poor black people (a very simple house, small, like a box), homes of reconstruction development program, black middle class, white middle class, white and black rich class. Also, an area of prostitution that majority girls are the ‘workers’. I saw several girls walking, with vibrant-colored clothings.


We went to Maphike House for dinner. We gathered in a common room with a fireplace. We discussed the museum and the houses. Most South Africans agreed that the museum only reminds them with painful history; land was taken away, appropriated and so on. Even Frank the Dutch, he felt rather frustrated with museum as he himself perceived it as a nonsensensical effortw while romantizicing the history. He did not even care about anything related to either history or culture. I felt some kind of irritating feelings as well; only war between white and white—but what about the black people? I shared my thought to all; I still regard museum positively. There must be reasons why a museum is established and protected. A museum is a way to look at the past from the present; the discourses that we had been talking about were efforts in looking at it from today’s perspectives. Perhaps, the heroes and everyone from the past had thought that they would not be able to tell their stories, but let the remained things communicate them to younger generations. I wonder how many people visit the museum in South Africa, I compare with museums in Indonesia with less visitors coming, dramatically, as if they latter were allergic to it. Learning from the past will help us figure out who we are and how we would confront the future.


What I Felt from the Winter School


Working in the project groups, preparing a presentation and writing a joint paper, I was challenged by the diverse characters of the group members, but in the end i realize that these activities have really enriched my cultural experience. The content of lectures and readign materials were quite helpful for my future thesis, particularly in providing a ‘theoritical framework’. I am a person who is not ‘that into’ theories but the short school was very insightful that enabled me to learn about the language and how to communicate the theories. Concerning the teaching team and the staffs of the Center, I definitely have no doubts of them. And I am honoured to have chances to interact with them academically, socially and culturally.



  Family picture to mark the end of the Winter School (me, far right)  


Being in international and intercultural group as well as learning process and social activities, I found it fascinating. Learning new things from others was always inspiring either positive or negative realities I might have gotten; respect, appreciation, and understanding. What I realized from the school was that we all engaged in global dialogue based on theories and practices of pluralism and development. It encouraged us to exchange our views and to critically examine our own personal opinions and question our images of development, particularly in the context of pluralism in our society. Definitely, the South Africa experiences were inspiring and enriching for us and that it became the start of the new global friendships!


Leaving South Africa


On Sunday, 7 August 2011, I started the journey back to my home country. Leaving Bloemfontein very early in the morning at 6.00 after sahur, the car drove me to Johannesburg. Not only Indonesians, the car also carried a Dutch and 4 Ugandans. Reached the OR Tambo Airport at around 11.00, I had to wait until the clock showed time at 22.20 for my flight to Dubai. Taking 8 hours non-stop to Dubai, arrived at 8.00 in the next morning, I transferred to another flight to Jakarta at 11.20. Both flights were Emirates. Reaching Jakarta at 23.30, I stayed overnight in the airport. On Tuesday, 9 August 2011 morning, I flew with Garuda Airlines at 7.50 and arrived in Yogyakarta, safe and sound. (DWE)