#kesengsemlasem, which means ‘to be madly in love with Lasem,’ is a collective ‘emotional movement’ initiated by several travelers who have a fondness for the social and cultural landscapes of Lasem Old Town.

The initiative took root in a journey undertaken by a researcher from the Faculty of Humanities Universitas Indonesia and a National Geographic Indonesia’s photographer, Feri Latief. At the time, they were writing a report for the National Geographic Chinese New Year edition and National Geographic Indonesia Traveler February 2016 edition.  Since August 2015, they have locked arms with various communities in Lasem and visited the town multiple times in order to look thoroughly at its varied facets and have a well-rounded understanding of the town. The #kesengsemlasem was founded on a strong purpose. The community owns a technological basis in Lasem and is supported by people from a wide range of professions and geographical regions. These people include journalists, researchers, lecturers, photographers, students, santries (students in Islamic boarding schools), heritage activists, entrepreneurs, housewives, and teachers; all come from such cities as Jakarta, Solo, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Rembang, and Lasem.

The community members began the movement with some simple activities. They traveled across the town and produced writings about its mesmerizing richness of history. On top of that, they also captured the beauties of Lasem and put them in circulation through social media platforms; all was intended to raise the awareness of Lasem’s heritages.  To put it simply, #kesengsemlasem was a movement geared toward raising people’s awareness of Lasem through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Steller, Website, and internet radio—Kesengsem Lasem. “We have a plethora of photo collections. I thought that the photos taken by Mas Feri Latief could be put to good use, rather than end up being saved in the hard-disk,” uttered Agni, later asking Feri, who are fond of the theme of human interests, to share the photos on social media. Quite unexpectedly, the idea of creating a social media campaign was largely supported by the initiators of Kesengsem Lasem, such as Feri Latief, Astri Apriyani, Ellen Kusuma, Stephanus Hannie, Romy Yulius, Rudy Hartono, Alex Wahyudi, Baskoro, Syefri Luwis, Agni Malagina, and Kusuma Rully.

After the coverage of Lasem was published in National Geographic Indonesia and NGI Traveler February 2016 Edition, the Kesengsem Lasem Community began spreading the hash tag #kesengsemlasem around. To be precise, it was on February 9, 2016, exactly a day after the Chinese New Year celebration. The name Kesengsem Lasem itself was birthed out of a unique experience too. “Ellen coined the name,” said Agni. She continued, “Back then I got perplexed when NGI Editor asked me to describe my impression of Lasem, so I chatted with Ellen for some inspiration on Whatsapp and the name simply crossed her mind! That is such a beautiful name, and there’s a rhyme in it too!”  

The community’s first and foremost activity included raising people’s awareness of, as well as prompting them to take pride in, the tangible and intangible heritages of Lasem Old Town. They put photos and articles about Lasem in circulation through social media, such as their Facebook fans-page and Instagram. The movement earned a wide attention, especially from the people of Lasem who have come to live in other cities. “Oh that’s my hometown!” Inge Chandra, a Facebook user, commented on one of the photos. He was born in Lasem and moved to Manado over two decades ago. The hash tag #kesengsemlasem is starting to be widely used by Lasem high school students who are on Istagram.

Kesengsem Lasem is not a formal organization with a well-defined structure; it is open to anyone who shares the same purpose of preserving the cultural heritages of Lasem. Then they worked together with a cultural awareness community (Pokdarwis), staging a Gamelan performance. The performance was on the same day as Cengbeng ceremony (a pilgrimage to a cemetery), which was carried out by the Chinese in Lasem on April 5, 2016. In the event, the very well-known dancer, Didik ‘Nini Thowok,’ was dancing to the beat of Gamelan music.

 

This article is written by Kesengsem Lasem and is also available on: http://infoselebriti.asia/2016/06/14/kesengsem-lasem-wadah-berkumpulnya-pecinta-lasem/