Despite the strange spelling of the name, Jember Fashion Carnaval 2016 was a smartly thought out and well executed carnival. If you have heard of Rio di Janeiro or Notting Hill, then you should put this on your calendar for next year. I’ve been to a few other festivals, like Wakatobi Wave and Tanah Merah in Papua, and I wondered how this one would measure up.
I was offered the last minute chance to visit JFC2016 and jumped at it. Jember is in East Java and doesn’t yet have a runway that can handle jet planes, so I flew to Surabaya and spent the night in Best Western Papilio. The hotel was a decent 4 star and my room, with floor level windows, was on the vertigo inducing 36th floor.
At night we sought out Rawon Setan, the famous home of the eponymous beef soup. Setan is the Devil in Indonesian and the idea is that the soup is so good, Satan must have had a hand in it’s creation. It was good, and I had two bowls! Rawon is an East Java regional speciality. It’s a spicy beef broth, served with young beansprouts, rice and a spicy sambal.
Next day was a short propeller flight to Jember, which is historically famous for growing tobacco. When I arrived, my travelling companion pointed out the large buildings with thatched roofs and told me they were tobacco plants drying in the sun before shipping. There was also a private plane on the runway which caused some speculation among the passengers.
In the town centre, there was a lot of activity. I checked out the campursari music by the Bupati’s house. Then I stalked about the stalls, taking photos and chatting to the gathering crowds.
Jember Fashion Carnaval 2016
Jember Fashion Carnaval 2016 has been running since 2001 and was started by local designer Dynand Fariz, who was aiming to refocus and regenerate the Jember area which is facing the impact of declining global tobacco consumption.
This year, the main theme was Revival – reawakening Indonesia – and also ten sub-themes of Garuda, Hortus, Technocyber, Woods, Paradisaea, Refugees, Ocean, Chandelier, Olympic and Barong. The parade started with a walk-by of the down-to-earth fisheries minister Ibu Susi, who was very popular, and stopped for a few selfies with the crowd lining the parade ground.
Jember Fashion Carnaval 2016 seemed to be a success. For me, the highlight was the way the themes had been developed to incorporate many of the contemporary issues facing Indonesia on a sophisticated level.
The underlying ideology of taking responsibility for the environment, the improvement of relationships between all classes of humanity, and the realignment of traditional means of production to the modern technological era came through clearly and persuasively.
The narrative surrounding the booming techno soundtrack explained that each performer had taken responsibility for their own costume and developed it as part of their work for the year leading up to the event.
Some of them weighed up to 40kg and I could imagine that it would be really difficult to face into any kind of wind.
Amusingly, a person sitting near me said some of them looked like Pokemon characters!
Jember Fashion Carnaval 2016 is aiming to become a greater destination for international and domestic tourists, and is a great example of how people who become famous and successful can remain true to their roots, and aim to put something back.
Back to Surabaya
Suddenly, it started to rain and so we jumped into the car and headed for Surabaya. I heard that it’s not possible to take off from Jember in a propellor plane after about 3pm due to nasty crosswinds. It was a long drive, and we stopped on the way for dinner at Bromo Asri, on the foothills of Bromo mountain. I’ll be back here to climb this hill sometime.
Overall Jember Fashion Carnaval 2016
- Amazing costumes and floats
- Friendly people
- Well thought through themes with a clear contemporary message
- Access – no direct flight from Jakarta
- Unusual encounters with local officials
Jember is in East Java, Indonesia