Indonesia-Finland festival attracts Indonesians, Finns in Helsinki

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More than 2,500 enthusiastic visitors packed Narinkka Square, the heart of the capital Helsinki, to immerse themselves in a fleeting Indonesian experience during the 2023 Indonesia Finland Festival held on Saturday, said the Embassy of Indonesia to Helsinki in a press release on Monday.

For many local attendees, it was their first encounter with delectable Indonesian delicacies such as rendang, which is voted as the most delicious on CNN World's 50 Best Foods. Their newfound appreciation for Indonesian cuisine was accompanied by joyful dancing to the infectious beats of popular Betawinese songs.

The festival showcased various vibrant activities and captured the attention of attendees. The Indonesian Embassy in Helsinki took the initiative to organize this summer festival with the aim of fostering a better understanding of Indonesia among the Finnish population.

“Finland is well known in Indonesia as the happiest country in the world, unfortunately not many Finns know about Indonesia,” said Ratu Silvy Gayatri, the Indonesian Ambassador to Finland and Estonia, during her opening speech.

“Therefore, today the embassy of Indonesia in collaboration with the Indonesian community presents samples of Indonesian cultural products, in the form of performing arts, music, crafts, children games, food and beverages,” the ndonesian envoy added.

Indonesia-Finland Festival 2023 is a comeback event, after the inaugural occasion last year. The festival is expected to become an annual affair, with the Indonesian diaspora playing a pivotal role as organizer.

The festival grounds were adorned with dozens of tents offering an array of Indonesian specialties. Alongside hearty meals like rendang with rice or meatball soup known as “bakso malang”, there were also vendors selling delightful Indonesian sweet snacks such as “kue cucur”, “cenil”, and refreshing “iced cendol”.

Diaspora residents, alongside native Finns interested in Indonesian culture, collaborated to present captivating traditional gamelan performances or enchanting Balinese mask dances.

The festival also welcomed a delegation of artists from the capital DKI Jakarta Cultural Department, who traveled to Finland to showcase a fusion of traditional and contemporary arts. Visitors were particularly enthralled when Betawinese and dangdut songs, a popular genre in Indonesia, echoed through the air.

The pinnacle of excitement came when hundreds of diaspora residents and Finns joined together in rhythmic dance moves to the iconic 'Ondel-Ondel', a symbol of Betawinese culture in the Greater Jakarta area, composed by legendary musician Benyamin Sueb.

Indonesia cultural diplomacy in Helsinki extended beyond the realm of arts or foods. A delegation from Sumedang Regency, West Java, presented a variety of Indonesian coffee blends, accompanied by various handcrafts showcased under the Pesona Manikam flag. Families with children also flocked to the Kids Corner, where they can play traditional board games named congklak. Exhibitors are not only limited to Indonesian SMEs. Finnish company Parolan Rottinki, for example, showed their beautifully designed home furniture at the festival, which was made with rattan, a special wood native to Indonesia.

"Best thing about this festival for me is the food. I like Bakso Malang. Also every performance and activities on Kids Corner are very-very good,” exclaimed Lassi Savolainen, a Helsinki resident who attended the festival with his children.

According to many attendees, this year's Indonesia-Finland festival outshined its inaugural edition, despite being condensed into a single day event. The festival's strategic location, near major malls and important train stations in Helsinki, contributed to the steady flow of visitors.

This Festival is a celebration of friendship between Indonesia and Finland. The two countries have been maintaining diplomatic relations since 1954 and share common values, such as democracy and sustainability.

Jari Sinkari, the Director General for America and Asia of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland, commended the return of the Indonesia-Finland Festival. Having served as ambassador in Jakarta, Sinkari revealed that the festival satisfied his longing for delicious Indonesian cuisine.

"I am confident that Finland and Indonesia will continue to maintain strong relations in the realms of culture, politics, and business ties. This event symbolizes the growing closeness between our two nations," stated Sinkari, who delivered a special speech in Bahasa Indonesia and symbolically struck the gong three times at the festival's opening ceremony.


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