Chatham University

With 260 million people, Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world by population, following India, China and the US. It is also the world’s largest Muslim nation, although it contains significant Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities. It consists of 17,000 islands, with the main island of Java being the most densely populated island in the world. The capital of Jakarta has over 10 million inhabitants, and the Greater Jakarta region has 30 million people.

Its geographic location in Southeast Asia has historically been part of the main trading routes from Asia to Europe. It was formerly known as both the Spice Islands and the Dutch East Indies. Long a part of the Dutch colonial system, it was occupied by the Japanese during WWII, and won its independence from the Netherlands in 1949.

It is currently the 16th largest economy in the world, and is expected to be the 7th largest by 2030. It is a major exporter of natural resources and is now a manufacturer of many goods sold in international markets. Its currency is the rupiah, and Bahasa Indonesia is the main national language with many regional dialects.



Indonesian art and culture reflects the historic influences on the islands from many outside civilizations. Traders throughout history have stayed and brought their own traditions and faiths to the islands. European, Middle Eastern and East Asian countries have influenced the local Javanese, Balinese and other island cultures.

Malay, Arab, Indian and Chinese traders introduced Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism to the country. The European traders introduced both Protestantism and Catholicism to Indonesia, introducing a variety of faiths beyond the ones already practiced by the native population. As the Spice Islands were colonized by the Dutch, they became known as the Dutch East Indies. As the country finally achieved independence, its unique position reflected a country with a national identify with many outside influences that are still evident today in its art, architecture, craft and music.

With time, these influences became part of the artistic and cultural heritage of the nation. The unique art forms of the country include music of the gamelan orchestra, the intricately crafted fabrics of batik, the dance of both Java and Bali, and the entertainment of the wayung kulit, or shadow puppetry.



The philosophical organization of the country is symbolized by the Garuda Pancasila. Its motto is "Unity through Diversity" and rests on a framework of five principles. These are a belief in a divinity, social justice for all, democracy, unity and a civilized humanity.


About Dee Lestari


Dee LestariMs. Lestari is a well-known singer as well as author within Indonesia and beyond. She has published nine books, including the Supernova series which we will be utilizing as part of our first year writing composition courses.

She has a political science degree from Parahyangan University in Bandung. She currently lives with her husband and two children in suburban Jakarta.

Upcoming Events

Ms. Lestari will be with us for a presentation via Skype in November.

Resources & Learning






Indonesia Map

Map of Canada