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Redefining Indigenous

By: Richard Williams
Posted: June 4, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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The region of Nusuntara runs all the way from Myanmar to the Malay Peninsula, and from Indonesia to the Philippines, yet is another vast area that has a multitude of magnificent treatments and indigenous ingredients. One can experience the imaginative integrative massage from Peranakan Silat (regional martial arts); incorporating the movements into a body massage ,or try Pijit Javanese indigenous massage that has been passed on for generations and is so entrenched in the Javanese daily ritual that it is a way of life.

Embracing indigenous

Jamu has become very popular, and in Asia has become as common as Swedish massage on many a spa menu. There is enchantment involved with Asian treatments not only for their rituals and beliefs, but also from the historical aspect. Here is something that involves wonderful natural resources, recipes, medicines and massage that has been passed on from generation to generation, often produced and manufactured locally, providing employment for people in the villages and passed down from old family recipes and knowledge.

Urut and Jamu often merge in regard to the types of ingredients and treatments. The Malay methodologies focus on specific benefits from their massage therapies, namely for post-pregnancy, assisting the mother’s body to readjust and heal through the massage and also from herbal wraps, soups and elixirs much like the Chinese style. There also are treatments specifically for men, for virility and vitality, and general treatments for slimming and detoxification.

Susan Jane-Beers, author of Jamu: The Ancient Indonesian Art of Herbal Healing (Periplus Editions, 2001), says that with the current global fascination with all things alternative and Eastern, everyone may well hear more about Jamu as the Western world continues to borrow from Eastern knowledge.

For spa businesses in Asia, it has become very apparent that creating an identity that espouses the indigenous values of the country and offers services that utilize the local, natural ingredients, and also by managing brands that can be tailored specifically toward one’s theme and philosophy, is highly attractive to the market one wishes to attract, often because of the international clientele who seek unique experiences and memorable treatments.