In Java and Bali, gamelan music accompanies dances, theatre productions and religious celebrations. Gamelan orchestras may have up to forty players each. The instruments include gongs, drums, flutes, stringed instruments and instruments similar to xylophones. Javanese gamelan music is slow and solemn, whereas Balinese gamelan music is loud and fast.

Dancers start training for the classical dances of Java and Bali from the age of six. Javanese dance is controlled and subtle. Each movement has a symbolic meaning. Balinese dance includes more abrupt movements. The female dancers wear elaborate headdresses and grow long nails to emphasize their hand movements.

Wayang is Indonesian puppetry. Puppet shows tell the stories of the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Wayang kulit uses intricately detailed shadow puppets made from buffalo hide. Wayang golek uses three-dimensional wooden puppets.

Indonesians produce elaborate and beautiful textiles, using natural dyes made from plants. Ikat is produced by tying threads together before dyeing the fabric to produce a design. The Javanese produce beautiful batik. Fine patterns are drawn in wax on fabric. The cloth is then dyed to colour the areas that are not covered in wax. This process is repeated until a detailed pattern appears. Songket is made by weaving silk with silver and gold thread.

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The kris is a traditional Javanese handcrafted dagger with a wavy blade. These daggers are believed to have supernatural powers. According to custom, a father gives his son a kris when the son comes of age. The number of curves and the pattern on the blade have symbolic meaning.
Tramoedya Ananta Toer is Indonesia's most well-known author. He spent almost 14 years in jail because he criticized the government in his writing. Mochtar Lubis is another renowned author. Twilight in Djakarta is his most famous novel. In this work he criticizes corruption and speaks out about poverty in Indonesia.

Garin Nugroho is Indonesia's best-known contemporary film director. He has won international awards for his feature films and documentaries. Bulan Tertusuk Ilalang (And the Moon Dances), 1995, won awards at film festivals in Berlin, Nantes, Singapore and Japan in 1996.

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The kratons (royal courts) of Indonesia still exist in places such as Yogyakarta, Cirebon and Surakarta (also known as Solo). They have no political function, but are cultural institutions that employ gamelan musicians and classical dancers, maintain collections of traditional instruments and other artifacts, and preserve Indonesia's cultural heritage.