The initial idea for the visit of the HB X to visit Yale and Wesleyan US grew out of 2015 discussions between Wayne Forrest, Steve Alpert, Diane and Andyan Rahardja. All have close ties to one or both universities. Forrest and Alpert are alumni of Wesleyan and Diane’s mother, Louise Ansberry, donated a court level gamelan from Yogyakarta to Wesleyan. Wayne studied bahasa Indonesia at Yale in the mid-70’s while still enrolled at Wesleyan. During the same period Steve did groundbreaking field research on the arts of the tribal societies of Indonesia, eventually becoming a noted dealer/collector. A number
of his former pieces are now part of the Indo-Pacific Art Gallery (Promised gift to the Gallery from Thomas Jaffe, Yale, B.A., '71). This group, augmented by Paul Himawan, an Indonesian businessman with direct ties to the Sultan, viewed the 2016 donation to Yale of the Dr. Walter Angst and Sir Henry Angest Collection of Indonesian Puppets (wayang) as the basis for a unique trilateral synergy between Yale, Wesleyan and one of Indonesia’s central cultural institutions, the court of Yogyakarta. They observed:
Based on these observations, in 2016 Forrest proposed to the board of the American Indonesian Cultural and Educational Foundation (AICEF) that it become directly involved in the planning and execution of the Sultan’s visit. (AICEF’s board includes the Ambassador of Indonesia to the United States as well Diane and Andyan Rahardja). Fundamental to the foundation’s mission is cultural and educational exchange. The board accepted the proposition that in America Yale and Wesleyan maintain preeminent
positions in the study of Indonesia. Yale was the first American university to offer an interdisciplinary Southeast Asia Studies program and its teaching of bahasa Indonesia dates to 1948. As early as 1899 Yale faculty were teaching and writing about what was then known as the Dutch East Indies. The 2016 donation of the Angst Collection of Indonesian Puppets represents an important new chapter in Yale’s relationship to Indonesia. Wesleyan began teaching Javanese music and dance performance in the early 1960’s and pioneered the first performances outside of Indonesia of all-night shadow theater (wayang kulit) when Sumarsam joined its faculty in 1972. It was the first university in the world to design a new building, the World Music Hall, as a home and performance space for its Javanese gamelan. Primary to its renowned World Music Archives are its many unique field recordings from central Java.
AICEF saw its role as catalyzing a more permanent link between each of these universities with arguably Indonesia’s most significant wellspring of culture and scholarship: Yogyakarta. AICEF provided grants to both institutions for academic symposia, helped to finance the processing of performer’s visas, provided daily logistics and ground transportation for the Sultan and his assistants, and served as the principal
liaison to the government and palace officials in Yogyakarta.