Everything started back when Agni ‘Agi’ Malagina, Feri ‘Ompei’ Latief, Ellen Kusuma, and Astri ‘Atre’ Apriyani paid a visit to Lasem, a small town in Rembang, Central Java, on separate missions in 2015.
Agni (Chinese Study Program, Faculty of Humanities, Universitas Indonesia) and Ompei (a professional photographer) were carrying out research that was to be published as a special report on National Geographic Indonesia. Meanwhile, Atre (a travel blogger) and Ellen (an editor and travel blogger) were writing articles to be published in their blogs and several magazines.
Back then, it occurred to Ellen to say “Aku kesengsem Lasem.” ‘Kesengsem’ is an Indonesian word that is borrowed from Javanese, meaning ‘to fall head over heels in love with someone,’ or to be enchanted by someone, such that one loses his or her mind. Then we realized that we—including Mas Baskoro ‘Pop’, Om Stephanus Hannie, Om Romy, Mas Ateng—fell head over heels in love with the people of Lasem that we stumbled across!
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say such a thing; we did fall in love with Lasem shortly after we set foot in Lasem. On top of its simplicity, Lasem also possesses unusually rich history and mesmerizing architectural legacies.
Gus Zaim and Mr. Boen Hong, prominent figures in Lasem Old Town who were friends since childhood. (Photo by Syefri Luwis)
The people of “Little China” of Lasem gradually joined us in spreading the ‘virus’ #kesengsemlasem through a wide range of social media platforms. On February 9, 2016, Kesengsem Lasem was birthed out of this eagerness to promote the historical and architectural legacies of the town. Supported by Rudy Hartono, Soebagio Soekidjan, Gandor Sugiharto, Soesantio, Gus Zaim, Alex ‘Leklek’ A. Wachyudi, and other stakeholders in Lasem, including academics from the Department of Architecture, Sebelas Maret University, Solo, Mbak Kusumaningdyah Rully and her team, researcher Syerfi Luwis, and Suwanti (a student at the Faculty of Humanities, Universitas Indonesia), Kesengsem Lasem was founded so that the people of Lasem, their diaspora, and general public alike can have the same language in the cultural preservation of Lasem and grow familiar with the three terms have become the focal points of this movement: Heritage, Preservation, and Beauty (which shows up in the right place).
This is neither an exclusive nor an inflexible community. The community members of Kesengsem Lasem are not only tied together by its activities or movement but also bound by the collective emotion and awareness to preserve both tangible and intangible cultural legacies in Lasem; as such, everybody is welcome to be a part of this movement. Let’s love and visit Lasem!
“Visit Lasem once in your life, and the yearning of coming back will rattle in your mind countlessly,” says a Text Editor of National Geographic Indonesia, Mahandis Yoanata Thamrin.
We’d like to extend our gratitude to Didi Kasim, Chief Editor of National Geographic Indonesia, who has helped spread this DANGEROUS VIRUS: Kesengsem Lasem!
Email Address: email@example.com
Instagram: Kesengsem Lasem
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Steller: Kesengsem Lasem
Gathering point: Karangturi St, Lane 4, No.7