A Visit to the Islands of Fire at the Peabody Museum

August 1, 2010 | Events Archive

July, 2010

Each year the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History offers weeklong summer courses to elementary school students from all over the New Haven area.  The camps are designed to introduce students to special topics on a more in-depth level than they may receive during the school year.  This year, the Bones & Stones Anthropology Camp introduced students from fourth through sixth grades to ancient cultures and archeology.  During the finale of the weeklong camp, the students had the opportunity to learn about and experience some ancient cultures which are still surviving today, in a program entitled “A visit to the islands of fire: Indonesia.”

The program introduced the children to a part of the world they had never before experienced, beginning with an interactive audiovisual presentation on the plants and animals of the jungle, and a brief tour of some of the 17,508 islands of Indonesia.  The presentation continued with a look into one of the many cultures of Indonesia: the Minangkabau culture of West Sumatra.  The people and community of the Minang involve some ancient rituals in their everyday customs, the Minang culture being one of the oldest and largest surviving matrilineal societies in the world.  The children enjoyed what they saw and remained very engaged throughout the program. During the presentation, the children asked many questions, wanting to know more about the ancient sites, asking how the traditional tapestries are made, and seeking many details about the flora and fauna of the country.

The movements of the arts, theater, and dance of the Minang date back nearly 1500 years, and have a common thread in the movement system of Silat.  After the audiovisual presentations which included performances from the recent Pekan Budaya Cultural Festival in Padang, West Sumatra, the students had the opportunity to try some of the movements of traditional West Sumatran dance for themselves.  Even the counselors and Peabody Events Staff joined the group to try the basic stepping movements.  David Heiser, Head of Education and Outreach for the Peabody, and Emma Chmara, the Head Counselor, also participated enthusiastically. The students wanted to see more after learning some of the basic steps, and so the program continued to involve some of the basic hand movements and breathing exercises of Silat.  The counselors and students alike enjoyed and thanked the visitors for sharing the movements and a taste of Indonesian culture.

The students left the program with their hands full, having picked up Indonesian cultural DVDs and brochures and magnets graciously provided by the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in New York.

The ISF would like to thank the Indonesian Consulate for providing cultural materials as well as the Yale Peabody staff for hosting the program, including David Heiser and Events Coordinator Josue Irizarry.


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About Us

We are the local New Haven, CT branch of the International Silat Federation of America and Indonesia, dedicated to sharing the traditional arts, culture, music, theater, and natural wellness methods of the Minangkabau community of West Sumatra, Indonesia.