Margaret Kartomi wins Australia Indonesia Research award

Margaret Kartomi wins Australia Indonesia Research award

Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Professor Margaret Kartomi has won the prestigious research award by the Australia Indonesia Association (AIA), recognising Professor Kartomi’s almost 50 years of outstanding service to Australian Indonesian relations.

The research award recognises outstanding achievements and contributions that foster an understanding and friendship between Australians and Indonesians.

“I am thrilled to receive this award from the Australia Indonesia Association which aims to promote friendship and understanding between our two neighboring countries,” Professor Kartomi said.

“I shall treasure the award as a reminder of the many warm friendships we have enjoyed with Indonesians of all walks of life, and our rich experiences of their arts and culture in Indonesia and Australia over the decades.”

Professor Kartomi said she remains indebted to her parents, George and Edna Hutchesson, who in many ways shaped and influenced her passion for Indonesian culture by welcoming Indonesian students into their Adelaide home from her childhood on, and took her on her first trip with [her husband] to Indonesia in 1959, where she fell in love with Indonesia and influenced her decision to pursue a career in ethnomusicology.

Professor Kartomi's research interest in Indonesia emanates from her extensive travels to the many beautiful islands of Indonesia with her Indonesian husband, Dris, and has also travelled to other parts of Southeast Asia, recording the rich variety of traditional cultures.

Embracing the opportunity to collect rare recordings and associated cultural artefacts during her travels, she deposits these items in the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU), founded in the Department of Music in 1975, which has spurred her interest in continuing research and teaching within the area.

“I was able to teach and supervise the research of generations of students, publish widely on the diverse music-cultures of our region, promote performances of Indonesia’s performing arts to Australian audiences, and to conceive of ethnomusicological theories of general import which brought me into constant contact with interdisciplinary scholars and postgraduate student researchers around the world,” Professor Kartomi said.

While she collected and studied music throughout the whole archipelago and other parts of the world, in 1970 she decided to focus her research on the performing arts of the very large island of Sumatra, which had been little studied compared to Java and Bali. Eventually, Professor Kartomi published a book Musical Journeys in Sumatra on six of its provinces.

Together with her daughter, Dr Karen Kartomi Thomas, who is a research fellow in theatre and music at Monash, the two have embarked on fieldtrips around several of the remaining provinces of Sumatra, and hope to be able to complete their fieldwork and publish on the music, dance and theatre of the whole of Sumatra in the near future.

The MAMU team continues to carry out field work and to build on the university’s unique collection of Asian, Australian and other musical instruments and artefacts of the world and currently houses one of the largest collections of rare Indonesian musical instruments, puppets, masks, textiles and other artefacts and memorabilia in the Asia Pacific region, and regularly conducts international workshops, symposia and exhibitions of its various collections and bequests.

In 2013 and 2015, MAMU presented international symposia and exhibitions of the music cultures of Indonesia’s Riau Islands, in 2016 of the province of Aceh, in 2017 of Indian dance, and in 2018 the music of Java’s Dieng Plateau.

MAMU is now engaged in the long task of digitising, annotating and building on our collections, and is planning to set up a dedicated Gallery of Musical Instruments and Artefacts in which to showcase our treasures.

“I am particularly excited to know that Monash will continue to develop and promote our rare collections and bequests as a rare cultural asset that will serve to promote ongoing research, exhibitions and public performance,” Professor Kartomi said.

“This will not only benefit Monash students, whose lives and careers are increasingly shaped by global influences and will therefore benefit from exposure to the different cultures encapsulated in MAMU, but it will also serve as a fascinating gateway to the culture of our region and the world for the university community and the public at large.”

About the featured image:

For male participants. “Plate (piring) dance (tari)” which symbolises the activities associated with farming as well as appreciation for a bountiful harvest: young men dance tari piring in a street procession. Copyright 1985. Notes prepared by Bronia Kornhauser with Margaret Kartomi, School of Music-Conservatorium, Monash University. Photography by Hidris Kartomi.

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