A French Expat Fully Embraces Indonesia’s Allure
For the new chairwoman of the Indonesian Heritage Society, living in Indonesia was a childhood dream, and after her first visit, as a postgraduate student, Korinnick Lemarie said, “I had a very strong feeling about this country; I had the feeling that we knew each other already.”
Since that initial encounter, the Frenchwoman has studied Indonesian culture, arts and language with a dedication that makes her eminently qualified to take on the role as chairwoman of the heritage society.
In the position, she will now lead a nongovernmental organization that offers expatriates and Indonesians alike the opportunity to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of Indonesia, with more than 500 registered “friends” already.
Lemarie’s parents cultivated their own fascination for Indonesia after visiting here in the mid-1980s, and she inherited that interest. In fact, she still has the poster advertising the first Indonesian performance she saw, a Balinese dance troupe that visited her home city in northwest France some 30 years ago.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in France and studying fine arts in London, Lemarie said she had a decision to make: “Should I stay in England, which I loved, or should I realize my childhood dream. I asked my father, who said, ‘Well, you never give up your childhood dream.’
“So I spent a year in Australia, then two months in Indonesia — a month in Bali, a month in Yogyakarta — and in Yogyakarta I did my first local batik course.”
Returning to France, she studied Indonesian language and culture. After winning a prize for her essay about the cultural adventure of visiting towns famous for producing batik and ikat textiles in far-flung regions such as Sumatra and Timor, she helped set up a language laboratory for civil servants in Jakarta during the 1990s.
“They sent me for three months to work with the government, and I stayed 10 years,” she says.
Lemarie met her husband in Indonesia. In April 1998 they left to live in India, China, Thailand and the Philippines, but she says, “I always knew that I was coming back to Indonesia.”
On her return in 2008, “the first thing that I did, almost going out of the airport, was to come to the Indonesian Heritage Society,” she says.
Lemarie has been a co-chair of the society’s study groups for the last two years and a very active tour guide at the Museum Nasional since 2008.
She has also been an active member of both the textile and ceramic study groups, and she has participated in the Explorers program, where groups of society members learn about Indonesian culture, arts and history firsthand by visiting private workshops, markets and museums and attending special events.
She still conducts tours of the Museum Nasional, and she says her favorite parts of the museum are the old ethnographic and stone collections.
Among her most memorable Explorers trips, Lemarie cites a visit to the home of ceramicist F. Widayanto in Jakarta because “it is a really special place of art and peace.”
In addition, she is keen to return to a museum run by her friend, fashion designer and artist Harry Darsono.
Lemarie was also fascinated by the orangutan sanctuary run by Ulrike Freifrau von Mengden in the middle of Ragunan Zoo. Another favorite Explorers destination is Gedung Arsip, the private museum and “dream house” of Reinier de Klerk, the former governor general of the Dutch East Indies; his house is the last house in the “closed Dutch style” still standing in Jakarta.
As for her immediate plans for the Indonesian Heritage Society, Lemarie wants to consolidate the management team and make the library, situated in Sentral Senayan 1, more welcoming.
“We’ve got a great library,” she says. “It’s one of the biggest cultural libraries now in Jakarta, if not the biggest.”
She also wants to improve cooperation with other institutions, both Indonesian and foreign, and to help give young Indonesians more opportunities to “see their home culture” through Museum Nasional.
The Indonesian Heritage Society’s program of events for the next few months is packed. The biannual evening lecture series is under way, with public lectures at Erasmus Huis, the Dutch cultural center, every Tuesday night until March 13.
The society also plans to support the launch of a book about Baduy textiles with an exhibition and fashion show. On May 5, it will hold its annual art show, which is designed to promote young and emerging painters from across Indonesia.
Lemarie encourages new participants, both Indonesian and expatriate, to get involved in the organization.
“Joining the Indonesian Heritage Society is about gaining time,” she says. “We are an extraordinary link for information and experience and contacts. It’s a way of sharing experiences, and it’s a convivial way of learning about the country and making friends. It’s never boring.”
To learn more about the Indonesian Heritage Society, visit http://www.heritagejkt.org/