Papuans have been severely underrepresented in mainstream Indonesian media, and the appointment of non-Papuan celebrities to represent a major event hosted by the province — no matter how popular they are — is not going to help matters at all, as pointed out by actor/comedian Arie Kriting.
Posting on his Instagram page and Twitter yesterday, Arie called out the appointment of popular celebrity couple Nagita Slavina and Raffi Ahmad as “icons” of the upcoming National Games (PON) in Papua, with Nagita in particular promoting the event by wearing a traditional Papuan costume in an official photoshoot. The 20th edition of the quadrennial sporting event is slated for October, with popular West Papuan-born soccer legend Boaz Solossa chosen as the event’s ambassador.
Arie said that appointing Raffi and Nagita felt off.
View this post on Instagram
“The appointment of Nagita Slavina as the ambassador of the 20th PON in Papua can encourage cultural appropriation in the end. Papuan women should be represented directly by Papuan women,” Arie wrote in the post.
Arie said Papuan singer Nowela should instead be appointed as a PON icon to represent her home province, while Raffi and Nagita should be reassigned in another ambassadorial role as he acknowledged their star power is invaluable in promoting the event.
The general public appears to be divided about Arie’s take. Many on Twitter shared the comedian’s sentiment while others on Instagram (many of whom seems to be fans of Raffi and Nagita) accused the 36-year-old of being unable to “read the news properly” because he mistook the couple as ambassadors of the sports event when they were actually assigned as icons — an issue he later addressed in an edited caption.
“But the issue is cultural appropriation. In the end, what will be highlighted by the media will be like this. Papuan women aren’t well-represented. That’s why, [just reappoint Raffi-Nagita] as friends of the ambassador, so they don’t overlap,” Arie wrote.
A number of other Indonesian celebrities voiced their support for Arie in the comments, including actress Dian Sastrowardoyo, director Hanung Bramantyo, fashion designer Didiet Maulana, and Nowela herself.
Arie, whose real name is Satriaddin Maharinga Djongki, was born in the Southeast Sulawesi capital of Kendari to parents from the Wakatobi regency. As someone from Eastern Indonesia, Arie has centered much of his comedy on the struggles faced by people from the region. Online, Arie has been known for speaking up on issues such as racism against Eastern Indonesians, including Papuans.
Hopefully, this discussion regarding cultural appropriation in the national scope will push forward fairer representation for underrepresented people in Indonesia.
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!