"Preserving the palace`s traditional culture is the call of my soul. This desire will never end as long as I live, and no one can stop me," said Koes Murtiyah Pakubuwono, which immediately drew applause from the audience.
On that day, the 52-year-old lady, popularly known as Murtiyah Pakubuwono, received an international award relating to arts and culture called the "Fukuoka Prize" from the Japanese government for her outstanding achievement in preserving and promoting the Javanese court culture.
Fukuoka Prize is certainly not an award that can be won easily. The international prize is only awarded to individuals or groups considered to have made a significant contribution to the preservation of Asian culture. Murtiyah Pakubuwono now belongs to that elite group.
G.R.Ay.Koes Murtiyah Pakubuwono is a cultural activist from Central Java, who was born in 1960 as the Javanese princess of Surakarta Palace.
The Javanese princess is heir to a tradition of court culture which has continued for 300 years in the royal house of Mataram in Central Java.
When she was a child, Murtiyah began learning the court dances, which had been handed down from generation to generation at the Javanese court, as a prerogative of royalty. Her talent was recognized early on.
During her upbringing as a member of the royal family, she became deeply concerned about the continuation of the traditional culture in the face of modernization of the Javanese society and economy.
In 1982, she started studying Javanese literature at `Sebelas Maret` State University to further deepen her knowledge about the culture of Java.
Having received a thorough education on Javanese culture during her childhood, she has always strove to promote the traditional court dance while supporting the preservation of central Javanese traditional culture.
Cultural preservation efforts
Murtiyah Pakubuwono, the daughter of Pakubuwono XII, has been preserving and promoting the Javanese court dance in various ways, one of them being through public performances amid full-scale gamelan music concerts.
Based on data collected from the Fukuoka Prize committee, she has conducted more than 20 shows themed around Javanese court dance at the national and international levels.
"I did my first international performance when I was 24 years old. It was entitled `Court Traditional Dance of Surakarta`, and I performed it in Japan, Europe, and the USA," Murtiyah explained.
Some of the dance performances were presented at international festivals, such as Asia Art Festival in Hong Kong, Next Wave Festival in USA, and Quartiers D`ete Festival in France.
Not only that, Murtiyah, supported by her courtiers and other traditional artists of Surakarta Palace, held `Keraton Nusantara Festival` several times between 1995 and 2008 across Indonesia.
The Javanese princess recalled her struggling days when she started studying and promoting the Javanese court dance.
"If I go back 45 years, when I started learning to dance, and when I did dance performances every year to promote Javanese culture in Japan and other countries worldwide, I never thought that I would be rewarded for what I stand for," she stated.
Furthermore, in cooperation with Japanese record company `King Record`, Murtiyah recorded and released a CD on "Srimpi Sangapati", an ancient gamelan music piece that used to accompany Javanese court dances, in an effort to promote Javanese court culture and its significance.
Thanks to such efforts, Javanese court dance has become increasingly popular both at home and abroad.
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