Artistic Expressions and Ethno-cultural Identity: A Case Study of Acehnese Body Percussion in Indonesia

  • Murtala Murtala
  • Alfira O’Sullivan
  • Paul H. MasonEmail author
Living reference work entry


As the processes of globalization bring diverse ethnic groups from within and across national borders into contact, translocal communities of practice increasingly sustain previously localized visual and performance arts. How do connections between artistic expression and ethno-cultural identity become constructed and contested in this context? In this chapter, we consider Acehnese body percussion as a case study to examine artistic expression and ethno-cultural identity. The centrifugal forces of globalization have brought Acehnese body percussion into contact with new student populations and put this genre on display for naïve audiences in foreign performance spaces. Acehnese artist-teachers have mobilized their art to capitalize upon these shifts but simultaneously found themselves needing to develop effective responses to resist cultural appropriation and assert their authority over this unique genre of body percussion. While it can be argued that no performance genre is truly fixed, stable, and bounded, the desire to maintain a coherent association to ethno-cultural identity impacts on the aesthetic features of an art as well as the politicized discourses surrounding integrity, authenticity, and creativity. Acehnese body percussion is a particularly compelling case example to consider given Aceh’s 30-year conflict with the central Indonesian government as well as the political turn of events following the tragic tsunami on December 26, 2004. The maintenance of some semblance of purity in a performance genre is important to those who trade in the export of their culturally orchestrated skills, but even more important to a people whose sense of collective identity has been bolstered by external threats.


Aceh Body percussion Globalization Ethno-cultural identity Artistic expression Creativity Performance art 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murtala Murtala
    • 1
  • Alfira O’Sullivan
    • 1
  • Paul H. Mason
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Suara Indonesia Dance TroupeSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Social SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Steven Ratuva
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and SociologyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific StudiesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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