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A bright and memorable term has ended. H. E. Ms. Sri Astari Rasjid, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Republic of Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia and Albania,

said farewell to us with an extremely elegant event, which took place on June 30 in the Sculpture yard of Square 500 following the strict anti-epidemic measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the event Her Excellency presented to her guests - a small circle of fellow ambassadors and dear Bulgarian friends, her book "Art of Diplomacy", in which she shares moments from her life and her mandate as ambassador from 2016 to 2020. She also surprised them with an exciting, specially prepared video, in which she brilliantly performs the song "Tell me, white cloud" in Bulgarian. Then she invited them to see the space in the National Gallery, where her valuable donation of Indonesian art is on display. Sophisticated and impressive, like everything she did during her tenure in Sofia.

The "Artist-Ambassador", as we all called her, initiated and established such important cultural events that they have become traditions that we are sure will continue in the future - the Asian Festival and the "Wonders of Indonesia". The "Woman Ambassador" gave so much beauty and love to our country that Bulgaria responded with the same. H. E. Ms. Sri Astari Rasjid leaves our country with the Madara Horseman order first degree, with many certificates and awards and with the greatest gift - the gratitude and love of the people.

See more about her mission in Bulgaria HERE.

Before leaving Bulgaria, H. E. Ms. Sri Astari Rasjid shared with us some thoughts on her book "Art of Diplomacy" especially for the readers of Diplomatic Spectrum:

The book, "Art of Diplomacy" is a compilation of many interviews with Indonesian and Bulgarian Journalists, during my four-year Ambassadorship in Bulgaria. It is an outlook on different stages of my life journey to explore and define many aspects of my activities as an Indonesian Artist and in this time, as an Indonesian Ambassador.

It was a great honor when Indonesian President Joko Widodo appointed me as the head of mission to Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Albania in 2016. I am grateful for this appointment, as it has been a privilege to represent my nation in this part of Balkan region, which has a unique and rich culture in Europe. In my mission term, I did all that I could to represent my country with love and passion.

The book "Art of Diplomacy", includes a very wide range of topics such as my personal and professional lives, as well as the philosophies and ideas behind my activities as the head of Indonesian mission in Sofia.

The Bulgarian interviewers not only focused keenly on questions regarding Indonesia, but also curious to know about Bulgaria in the eyes of Indonesians.

The first chapter of the book is about my childhood

Since my early childhood, I was inspired by my creative mother and intrigued by the richness of our Indonesian culture.

This chapter is mostly on the remembrance of my parents whom the book is dedicated. 

The Trinity of Love, Compassion and Honesty were their most important legacy that still inspires our family. May their souls rest in the heaven of God.

Nobody knows what the future will bring us, while our simple daily lives, would make us ready for the future.

The second chapter of the book is about the process of preparation for a mission

The chapter is called "Ever Ready Secretary" which like the other chapters, comes from the title of one of my artworks.

When I decided to compile this book, it was very interesting to see my art works from the past thirty years until recently, mostly resonate and relate with what I am doing and experiencing during my diplomatic life. Indeed, life is a self-enriching progress based on the previous stages we fulfilled.

In this chapter I have explained about my education, Corporate life, mother hood incorporated and finally how I became a professional Artist.

In spite of my fears of the uncertainty triggered by creativity, I was courageous enough to decide in the course of my midlife to become a fulltime artist and pursued my passion and my dreams. This was totally against my Mother’s wish who was very certain that artists will stay poor in life.

In creating my art works, I have been using Indonesian traditional icons and elements as ideas and metaphors for provoking and questioning current global issues as well as proposing new thoughts that promote peace, compassion, equality and humanity.

My life journey has been interesting but it was not always a walk in the park. I also faced my share of challenges. They said: "when you stumble, there is where your treasure lies", I went rock bottom to find the jewels of forgiveness and compassion. After any crisis I faced, I became more motivated and stronger, to walk the path with strength and faith.

In this chapter, some pages are about my Indonesian heroes that I learned a lot from their lives. They are RA Kartini, Nyi Ageng Serang, Prince Diponegoro, and Admiral Keumalahayatiof Aceh.

Kartini was the pioneer of woman emancipation in Indonesia while the last three were Indonesian national heroes andI made a series of art inspired by their legends.

The third chapter of the book is about my mission

I entitled the chapter with the name of my art work, "Loyally Holding", as I loyally hold the mission and the trust of my government on me as an Artist-Ambassador.

During the last four and half years, I put 100% of myself in my mission at any given time.

Diplomacy for me is an art, too—the art of painting peace and harmony, beauty and tolerance, on the canvas of international relations for the interests of mankind. Like art, diplomacy also requires some skills such as effective communicating, connecting, and presenting.

In our mission, we are supposed to present nothing but the best, par excellence.

The fourth chapter of the book is about my beloved country Indonesia

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, consisting of over 17,000 islands. There are more than 700 languages and dialects spoken throughout the islands. However, a common language, Bahasa Indonesia is the official language spoken by every Indonesian.

Indonesia is a fertile, colorful, beautiful, and mystical land with a rich cultural heritage. The true beauty of Indonesia is in the heart of its people, in the soul of the nation, and in its cultural heritage.

Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. Other religions and philosophies are also well respected and practiced. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and other faiths and creeds are present and respected by the whole nation.

The motto of the Indonesian Nation is "Unity in Diversity", as we Indonesians know the value of being "many" and at the same time being united in "one"!

We are like a tree with many branches. Indeed, the different branches of the tree are a blessing because they bring greenery, fruits, flowers, and shades.

Indonesia is eternally grateful to the wisdom of our founding father, President Soekarno. During his fight for Indonesian independence, a Dutch priest with one intriguing question challenged Soekarno: "Where will you place your Hindu mother, your Muslim wife and children, and your Christian helpers, in this Independent Nation of yours?"

His contemplation resulted in the Pancasila (five principles), which became the basic philosophy for modern Indonesia.

The first principle is "Belief in the one and only God". This principle emphasizes the spiritual side of Indonesian culture. Believing in God means, we have the same origin and the same creator. Having the same origin unites us as humans to love each other and also to have a just and civilized interaction with our fellow humans.

The second principle is "A just and civilized humanity", which is a strong base for morality and ethics. This serves as the foundation for mutual respect, love, and compassion of Indonesians toward each and every nation.

The third principle is "A unified Indonesia", which defines the call for national pride and nationalism. This rules our country to be unified and protected by our people. This principle transmits the feeling of love for Indonesia to our veins, to protect our land, and call us Indonesians and to have the pride of being Indonesian.

The fourth principle is "Democracy, led by the wisdom of the representatives of the people". This is the principle to empower the State based on the public’s will to prevent totalitarianism.

The fifth principle is "Social justice for all Indonesians". It is the principle that guarantees the welfare of our nation, justice, and respects the basic rights of everyone.

As you see, these five principles not only bring the nation together in the form of a unified nation, but it brings people together as the creations of God, to love each other regardless of religious differences, and to be tolerant towards other religious communities.

The fifth chapter of the book is about my mission lands

Hopefully the Bulgarian, North Macedonian and Albanian people, find my genuine appreciation towards their countries in this chapter.

Eastern Europe is considered as the cultural part of European continent, where their native traditions and customs are still alive.

Bulgarians are well protecting their culture, as they are well aware of the emergence of preserving their heritages to safeguard the roots of identity for future generations.

Living between Asia and Europe and interactions with different people in the cross road of civilizations for centuries made Bulgarians a very tolerant and peace-loving people. They are kind and sincere toward friends and strangers, at the same time proud of being Bulgarian. Bulgarians embrace other cultures and nations and try to learn about their history and philosophies. This is a true sign of flexibility and enriching approach. This will be an asset for the future of Bulgarian people.

Bulgaria, with strong roots in history seeks fresh branches of knowledge, art and inspiration. The Bulgarian Cyrillic Alphabet was adopted and adapted into the Russian language. This is a fact that confirms Bulgarians were always searching and appreciating knowledge.

The sixth chapter of the book is about my diplomacy

As my mission strategy was cultural diplomacy, many of the questions were about the concepts, methods of implementation, as well as the achievements of my mission in different aspects of bilateral relation and public diplomacy.

Universities and education system always hold the highest degree of importance for well-being of a nation. My first action in Bulgaria at the very beginning of my mission, was activation of the Indonesian language course at Sofia University. I am glad to tell you that lots of Bulgarians are interested to enroll in the Indonesian Language course and culture, which enables them to have a better opportunity for their connections relating to Indonesia.

In this chapter I have explained to the interviewers, my ideas behind initiation of Asian Festival and chain programs and exhibitions entitled "Wonders of Indonesia", based on my mission strategy, cultural diplomacy.

Through Asian Festival, we could bring Iranian and Saudis, India and Pakistan, South Korea and North Korea together. The Philosophy behind Asian Festival was the Indonesian Motto of "Unity in Diversity", which in Bulgarian context comes as "Together We Stand Stronger".

In my experience, Cultural Diplomacy, is the most effective way to promote human culture, creating connectivity and paving roads for mutual understanding and establishing a tolerant world for uniting human societies and pave the path towards global peace.

These principles, eventually will open opportunities to promote trade, tourism and investment.

This was proven by almost 330% increase of the trade value between Bulgaria and Indonesia in 2018 and more than 500% increase of trade balance, in the first quadrimester of 2020 compared with the previous years. To be honest, the material results and the numbers are not that much significant for me compared with the importance of establishing the foundation for the bilateral relations through "Cultural Diplomacy".

The seventh chapter of the book includes some thoughts about the future

What I see in the world today, the process of Westernization is declining and Asia is rising. We are going to see a new phenomenon in the world that I call it "Easternization".

The East has a substantial treasure to offer humanity in today’s world. We have spirituality, family bonds, and complex traditions with deep philosophies and meanings, empowered by authentic art and genuine expression of human values. Those are the values the world is searching for, nowadays.

I see the future gives more roles to Indonesia, as our country has a unique cultural power. In a painting from 20 years ago that also comes in the book, I was talking about rising Asia and shifting the power and wealth towards the East.

I am glad to tell you that Bulgaria also will be bolder on global map in the 21st century as a cultural power in Europe.

The eighth chapter of the book is an unplanned one, about the unpredicted pandemic which shocked and changed the world

Interestingly I had many art works to bring in the context of this long interview about the isolation time due to COVID-19 virus.

The last chapter of the book is my TEDxVitosha talk on Cultural Diplomacy

Bulgaria as a cultural land, might be the reason why I was chosen as the head of Indonesian mission here, that’s why I formulated my strategy as "Cultural Diplomacy".

Through cultural diplomacy, we can create harmony and promote peace. Through cultures, we connect people to celebrate the "Unity of Humanity", as we Indonesian say, "Unity in Diversity."

Cultural Diplomacy creates mutual trust and understanding between nations. In my experience, Cultural Diplomacy proved to be an effective and excellent way to promote, Connectivity, Peace, Tolerance, and Harmony among nations. As love ties people, culture ties nations together.

To conclude my talk, I wish you to know that my love for Bulgarian nation is everlasting.

Acknowledgments: 

I am very thankful to the Government of Bulgaria, for the "Madara Horseman" first degree order, given to me by the Bulgarian President H. E. Rumen Radev.

My sincere thanks also goes to the Vice President Mrs. Iliana Yotova who launched the book "Art of Diplomacy".

I am also thankful to the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce for the Diploma Award for contribution to the business relation between Bulgaria and Indonesia.

And My Sincere thanks to Prof. Irena Peteva for the special "Honorary Placate Award" from the University of Library Studies and Information Technologies. 

I am also thankful to Prof. Minchev for the "distinguished time capsule for the future" on behalf of the IT department of Academy of Science.

I would like to thank all my Asian Ambassador Colleagues in Sofia for their great support to the yearly Asian Festival, to the Mayor of Sofia Mrs. Fandakova and the Municipality of Sofia.

To all my fellow Ambassadors in Sofia and especially to my 23 women Ambassador group for their support and friendship throughout the years. 

To all my Bulgarian friends for their friendship and support during my 4 years mission here in Bulgaria, you will always stay in my heart.

If you still have the time, I would also like to invite you to view our Permanent Indonesian Heritage Collection, which I have donated to the National Gallery, during my Minister of Foreign Affairs visit to Sofia end of last year 2019.

I especially thank all the team of my book who are in Bulgaria and in Indonesia for their tremendous hard work to make this book possible:

-The Editor in Bulgaria: Mr. Nabi Masoumi, whom on behalf the editors presented a very comprehensive explanation about the content of the book. It is a short history of my life journey and my artistic life that resonate and compliment my Ambassadorship mission.

-The Editor in Indonesia: Ms. Sekar Ayu Asmara who was supposed to be present with us here, but due to the Pandemic Lockdown she is not able to be here with us.

-The Book Designer in Indonesia: Mr. Lans Brahmantyo for the nice design of the book.

-The Publisher and the Printer in Sofia: Mrs. Anastasia Boneva,

-Our leading Bulgarian journalist friend Olia Al Ahmad for giving me the special interview during the Pandemic covid-19, it is in one chapter of my book and all also to all the journalist who interviewed me in Bulgaria and created the substance for the book.

-To the translators of the book: Ms. Aisha Fauzia, Tomina Vasileva, Galina Kirova.

-To the Director of the National Gallery: Mrs. Yara Bubnova, her deputy Mr. Nikolay Oshtavaliyshki, and all the team for the generous support throughout the years working with our Indonesian Embassy.

-Last but not least to all my Indonesian Embassy Staff in Sofia for their great support and hard work to make this event possible.

When I am far from your land and miss your country, I will sing the song "Oblache le Bialo". I have put time to record the song with beautiful Bulgarian landscape, to show my appreciation towards Bulgarian nation for being so kind to me, during my mission.

At the end, I invite you to listen to the song, and May God bless our nations.

Blagodaria Vi Mnogo.

The photos are provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in the Republic of Bulgaria.

Above: H. E. Mrs. Sri Astari Rasjid, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Republic of Bulgaria, upon receiving the Madara Horseman Order first degree from President Rumen Radev. She, in turn, gave him her book, "Art of Diplomacy".

Below, First row: Her Excellency presents the President and the Vice President with their portraits painted by her; H. E. Ms. Sri Astari Rasjid upon receiving the honorary diploma for contribution to the development of business relations between Bulgaria and Indonesia by Mr. Tsvetan Simeonov, President of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Honorary Badge "70 years of UniBIT" by Prof. Irena Peteva , Rector of the University of Library Science and Information Technology.

Second row: moments from the presentation of the book "Art of Diplomacy"