Post A: The Complex Context of Batik Textiles

Cultural traditions are an important part of any local community. These traditions create a sense of belonging within this community as stories and historical meaning are often embedded in these traditions. The batik textile practice in Indonesia is strongly engrained in these local communities, dating back to the 1800’s. Each village has its own distinctive style of batik as the motifs used in the textiles have been passed down through generations, not dissimilar to methods of story telling used by the Aborigines through their dot painting or Guatemalans in their textile weaving.

To the untrained eye batik designs are just beautiful, colourful patterns on cloth but each designs carries it’s own significance and was once representative of social status. Many designs were reserved only for Yogyakarta royalty or the Kingdom family. Although today these designs are available for any tourist to purchase on the street it is important to understand the meaning these designs hold for the local community. One of these patterns is the Parang Rusak pattern meaning “Big Knife” which represents courage and was reserved only for the King. This design must be produced in very particular way, each line drawn in a single breath. Some people believe that this motif tells the story of creation, “others believe, this design was created by Sultan Agung of Mataram (1613-1645) after a meditation on the South coast of Java” (Rohima, 2012) and that it symbolises the power of the waves in the ocean.

(Parang Rusak pattern Images from

Another design that tells a beautiful story is the Sawat Pattern, which translates in Javanese to “Strike”. This motif tells the legend of the Garuda bird, a mythical creature with the body of a man and the head of and wings of an eagle who carries a Hindi God up into the heavens where the gods have the power to strike down evil. This motif demonstrates the hybrid of Hindi and Islamic Mataram religions that is present in Yogyakarta. A design such as this would have been forbidden in many of the islands of Java during the 17th century that were predominantly of Islamic faith. The ban on the depiction of humans and animals initiated a more abstract form of batik motifs, “stylised and modified ornaments as symbols, such as flowers and geometric patterns, known as ceplok. The ceplok patterns were the way in which batik makers attempted to get around the prohibition, creating simple elements which represented animals and people in a non-realistic form” (Florek, 2011).

(Sawat pattern Images from
Batik motifs represent the beliefs of the Indonesian people, this is why the patterns vary between villages as people’s context and values shape the designs.


Briliana N. Rohima, 2012, The Forbidden Designs in Batik Yogyakarta, lianrohima, viewed 1 May 2015 <;

Chandra Endoputro, 2007, Intangable Heritage, UNESCO, viewed 2 May 2015, <;

Stan Florek, 2011, Batik: The Forbidden Designs of Java, Australian Museum, Australia, viewed 2 May 2015, <>

Post C: The Globalisation of Bali

Indonesia is one of the top tourist destinations for Australia with over 900 00 Australian’s travelling there in 2013 but it wasn’t always like this. I spoke to Kaye Quiney, founder of Ozzie Mozzie Nets, a homeware and bed linen company on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, who has been visiting Indonesia since the 1970’s. She has watched the country transform over the years as Western influence has made it’s mark.

Kaye first visited Bali in 1973 when the only others making this journey were surfers embarking on the ‘hippy trail’ through South-East Asia. Kuta was nothing but a village with accommodation costing no more that $1 a day and meals costing 50 cents. The luxuries that you would now find were non-existent; you bathed from a small basin and slept under sarongs. It was a magical place to be as it was so far removed from Western Culture. Kaye visited Bali twice more in the 70’s, bringing back batik sarongs which she would use as fabric to create drawstring pants, bolsters and other small things that she would sell at Spring St Gallery in Chatswood.kaye1
(Left: Kaye featured in Vogue in 1982 with the start of the brand Right: Kaye’s Kimonos made in Bali from contemporary Batik fabrics. Images from

Kaye didn’t visit Bali again until the 90’s and within the space of only a decade Western Influence had started to creep into the country with familiar shops popping up and resorts being built. “I was just weeping, Bali was unrecognisable” (Quiney, 2015). The untouched paradise that she once knew was starting to transform into the tourist destination that it now is today. This act of globalisation had many effects on the local paradigm, Western influence triggered a change not only on the visual aspect of the community but on the beliefs and attitudes of the Balinese people. Resulting in many of their art forms changing and adapting to this new worldview. Batik resist dying started to break away from the traditional motifs and new patterns started to appear. “The culture that emerges reflects interaction with various interlocutors” (Hitchcock, date unknown)

Dispite Kaye’s initial dismay at the rapid rate of change and homogonisation in Indonesia she continued visiting Bali as her business grew, bringing back boxes of beautiful fabrics to be sold as sarongs and used in her own creations. In the early 2000’s she started manufacturing her own clothes in Bali. She took over vintage patterns of clothing she was selling at Paddington markets in the 70’s and had them made in contemporary batik fabrics. Some of these fabrics created by a Balinese woman who, through this act of globalisation, had become partners with a French woman. Together they create wonderful contemporary batik fabrics with a mixture of influences from around the world.


Michael Hitchcock, date unknown, Bali: A Paradise Globalised, IIAS, London, viewed 7 May 2015, <;

Angela Saurine, Lisa Cornish, 2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Australians took a record number of overseas trips in the past year, News.Com, Australia, Viewed 7 May 2015 <>

Interview with Kaye Quiney, May 2015


Post D: Indonesian Culture- Warias

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. It is estimated that around 86% of Javanese people are Muslim. Even though Javanese culture is known for its openness, Islamic law does not approve of deviation. As a result there are only a few places to worship for Javanese Muslims who fall outside the boundaries of Islamic law (Brooks, 2012).

When a man or woman wants to learn how to pray there is a place to go, but for transvestites, practising the Islamic religion, they are simply not accepted. A Waria as they are known is an Indonesian transsexual or “Indonesia’s third sex”. The Islamic law, which is now the dominant religion in Indonesia, only acknowledges male and female, transvestites have been forbidden, making it difficult to practise their faith. They believe that even if all of Islamic state doesn’t accept them, god does. The Senin-Kamis School in Yogyakarta is an Islamic school for Javanese transvestites. The main purpose of the boarding school is to provide a place for the Warias to worship, a place to feel comfortable and to be accepted. Most Warias lead unhealthy lifestyles, especially those working as prostitutes at night. Most young transvestites start working as prostitutes because they leave their homes without any money. A lot of transvestites now are changing directions from prostitution to street singing, where the income is better and more predictable, making around Rp100000 ($10) per day.

Injecting silicon into their faces and breasts helps the girls feel more feminine. Breast implantation is an expensive procedure, which is why they usually get injections that are more affordable. Different from the transvestites that we may know or hear about, Warias accept what god has made them, and for that reason do not wish to have sex-reassignment surgeries. “We believe we are born as men and must return to God as men.”

They want to live their lives accepted by society, like any normal woman would. Even though their situation is far from perfect, there is a strong determination to better themselves. It takes courage. Their main opinion is that it is their relationship with god that matters in the end and not their relationship with people. With lipstick in their pockets, and god on their side, it seems a Waria, can have a fighting chance.

Waria -vice



Vice, ‘Indonesia’s Transsexual Muslims (Documentary)’, viewed 3rd May 2015,

The Blog, ‘Tales of a Waria’, viewed 3rd May 2015,

The Advocate, date unknown, ‘Who are the Waria’, viewed 3rd May 2015

Image1:, viewed 3rd May 2015

Image2:, viewed 3rd May 2015

Post C: Interview Sarah Nathan

I conducted an interview with my friend Sarah Nathan, whom I went to boarding school with for 3 years. I had experienced a lot of different people from different cultures/countries over my time living in Sydney but no one quiet as interesting as Sarah. Sarah has grown up and lived in Jakarta her whole life with her mum Elizabeth, Dad John and brother David. “My mum is Chinese and dad is Indonesian”. I asked her what it was like growing up in Indonesia with a Chinese mother and Indonesian father. “It was pretty normal, there are quiet a lot of families in Indonesia with the same situation, I mean yes at times there were some racial comments, but I love my parents so I moved on quickly.” When Sarah was in year 7 she was sent to an International school in Jakarta. “This is where I first started to learn English. English was so hard to learn and I struggled.”

With a bit of wealth behind the family name Sarah and her brother were fortunate enough to be raised with a proper education. After a few years Sarah moved to Sydney Australia where she attended Kambala, Rosebay as a boarder in year 9. “Moving to Sydney was very scary, especially when mum and dad left me. I had travelled to Sydney on numerous occasions as my uncle lived there and it was always such a wonderful and beautiful place to visit, but I had never been there alone. When I first started classes at Kambala I was terrified, I didn’t know anyone, and I struggled with the English language. Luckily for me it usually resulted in the girls laughing at me because of the way I said things, so I’d just laugh with them, and soon enough I had made friends that I will keep forever”. It took Sarah about 2 years to become fluent in English. She was always the life behind any entertainment at school doing stupid and hilariously things that made us all laugh for hours.

Her mum and dad would come and visit a few times a year, and take us out for hot chocolates and sweets. Trying to communicate with them was difficult and Sarah would always talk to her parents in Bahasa. Sarah is now studying at the University of Sydney doing a degree in Commerce. “I consider Indonesia now as my second home and Sydney my first. I go back and visit my family during the holidays sometimes but I have now set up a better lifestyle for myself here were I can earn a proper income and be successful. I love going home and Indonesia will always be my home.”

Sarah and brother David


Interview with Sarah Nathan


Post B: Waste reduction, Fujimae Tidal Flat, City of Nagoya, Japan

B) The city of Nagoya, Japan lies on the Nobi Plain in the centre of Japan, with a population of approximately 2.2 million. The area is composed of a diverse landscape that covers 326.45 sqkm. (Convention of Biological Diversity, Japan). The area now is almost completely urbanised with only a few remaining woodland areas which is threatening local plant species, with a further problem of foreign species. Atmospheric and water pollution have increased considerably with the industrialisation and urbanisation with an impact of climate change as another major concern.

Public Participation in Design for Sustainability Fumio Hasegawa is an economics graduate of Nagoya City University, and has been employed by the City of Nagoya since 1975 of which he is now deputy director general. Hasegawa gave a presentation at the World Economic Forum an international conference in Turin, Italy, where he illustrated the fascinating history of Nagoya from the construction of its castle 400 years ago, to the devastation of World War II and the 1959 Ise Bay Typhoon, to its remarkable turnaround in becoming a prosperous industrial city, home to Toyota, Brothers Industries and more. It is a city with a strong cultural identity and the will to change.

In 1999 Nagoya launched the “Emergency Announcement for Garbage Awareness,” a campaign to reduce waste without having to construct a new landfill on the tidal wetland of Fuji-Higata. To achieve this goal, the City of Nagoya called for public cooperation in a huge recycling operation. The target was to reduce waste by 20%. They managed to reduce it by 60%, and the preservation of the tidal wetland was ensured. The preservation of the wetland has implemented educational programs and environmental awareness. These efforts have both prolonged the usage of existing landfill sites, and enabled the preservation of the Fujimae Tidal Flats. Although the overall volume of garbage and recyclables has only reduced slightly, the city is aggressively promoting the achievement to reduce landfill waste to 20, 000 tons annually. To achieve this they are promoting (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) among citizens.

This successful campaign has made action of a more sustainable future a priority for the city and its citizens. With the support of local Government and industries and the innovative help of the public, the city of Nagoya now provides an excellent example of a win-to-win approach, where in the face of a crisis they were able to lead toward more sustainable behaviours and social well being to provide a more promising future.

Trends in Waste/ Recyclable resources processing volumes


Convention on Biological Diversity, City of Nagoya Japan, viewed 2nd May 2015,

Waste reduction through citizen collaboration and conservation of the Fujimae Tidal Flat, City of Nagoya, Japan, viewed 2nd May 2015,

The Best Design Policies, New York, 2008, viewed 2nd May 2015,

Image1:, viewed2nd May 2015

Image2:, viewed 2nd May 2015

Post A: Indonesia’s Social and Political Context

Indonesia recently witnessed dramatic changes in its economic, political and spatial landscape. There is an uneven economic development between religions in urban and rural areas, which thus result in wide gaps in per capita income. This economic context places an understanding on specific mechanisms that may vary from one country or region to the next, depending on the institutional context within which they take place.

The fall of Sutarto in 1998 transformed the political landscape of Indonesia from an authoritarian regime toward a more democratic society. Greater autonomy is being delegated in areas such as public works, health, education, agriculture, industry, trade and environment. Indonesia is now regarded as a middle-income country given its sustained economic growth in the past 15 years. In recent years Indonesia has shown an increase in the Human Development Index (HDI), corresponding to improvements in most social indicators.

Indonesia is a high-context society, meaning that Indonesians are more likely to rely on implicit communication rather than on explicit messages. They place more time in reading into what is said, and what the words actually mean.

In Europe there is mass development of new and exciting innovative user-centred projects. It is not until now that other countries are coming to terms with the fact that design is a priority on their policy agenda. Song Weizu states that is was not until yesterday that design wasn’t exactly a priority on the Chinese policy agenda as other matters were at stake. This can also be said for many other countries. Indonesia is one of the top ten countries that will contribute to most of the world’s population growth over the next 30 years. (Data from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis–IIASA).

Due to this reason at a spatial level, metropolitan areas are increasingly facing challenges due to rapid urbanization and motorization, which in combination with insufficient investment in transport infrastructure – are linked to urban poverty and social exclusion. Major investments have been made on a recent design initiative made in Bus Rapid Transit systems in Jakarta and Bandung to elevate the roads where the buses travel.

This system has been designed to provide citizens with a fast public transport system to help reduce rush hour traffic. The buses run in dedicated lanes and the regional government subsidizes ticket prices. As of 2014, the buses carried more than 350,000 passengers per day with more than 500 buses in operation.

Designers all over the world, reflect current trends as well as social and economic situations. Critical questions are asked about how we think and see ourselves. One of the many challenges within the design industry is balancing creativity with the demands of cost-effective and innovative construction. A customer’s satisfaction with a product depends on the context of its use. Everything is interpreted through some context. A very important part of our job as designers is to create a visual context that enhances what our designs are trying to communicate. Context also comes from those who view and interpret the design. A visual impression is constructed as soon as someone sees it.


A Governance Approach, date unknown, ‘Local and Regional Dimensions in Indonesia’, viewed 20th April, 2015,

New Product Development, date unknown, ‘What Is Context’, viewed 20th April 2015,

Encyclopaedia of Business 2nd Ed, 2015 ‘Indonesia Doing Business’,viewed 20th April 2015,

Vanderbeeken. M, 2008, ‘The Best Design Policies’, viewed 20th April 2015,

Empowerment of Women and Girls, date unknown, ‘Social, economic and political context in Indonesia’, viewed 20th April 2015,

Image1:, viewed 20th April 2015

Image2:, viewed 20th April 2015

POST A : Visualising Political History

Art and design culture acts in direct correlation and response to the situational context from which it has arisen, exemplifying a visual barometer of social and political change. Indonesia’s rich history of social and political reform and unrest through Dutch occupation and authoritarian rule has had an immense influence upon the nation’s art practice. In its present development into a post colonial, democratic nation, Indonesian art is a reflection of the delicate balance between western and traditional ideologies and the assimilation of both within the realm of contemporary art and design.

Map of the Silk Road shows direction of international trade into Indonesia bringing with it foreign customs and ideology

Prior to the 19th century, Indonesian art was predominantly decorative, with spiritual connotations – a reaction to international traders and the introduction of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism and later Islam (Soemantri 1998). After several centuries of Dutch colonization, western influences became most prolific upon Indonesian art during the 19th century. Indonesian painters delved into art movements dominating Europe at the time, adopting Romanticism in their approach (Wright 1994). Talent flourished and indigenous Indonesian painters such as Raden Saleh, were likened to famed French Romantic Eugène Delacroix, despite their contextual opposites.

Six Horsemen Chasing Deer, 1860, Raden Saleh, Oil on canvas
Moroccan Horsemen in Military Action, 1832, Eugene Delacroix, Oil on canvas

In the early half of the 20th century, Indonesia underwent a growing sense of nationalism. Japanese occupation replaced Dutch reign briefly during WWII, and encouraged Indonesia’s independence movement. Throughout this revolutionary period, artists rejected former Eurocentric practices and as Wright puts ‘instead of duplicating western artistic developments and concerns, modern Indonesians were, after four centuries of increasing colonization, preoccupied with questions of nationalism and identity.’ Artists and writers began to form Sanggar (artist groups) that adopted socialist realism and produced radical egalitarian themed works that exposed the harsh reality of public life. In rise of the New Order Era in 1965, many participants of artist groups such as Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat (LEKRA) faced accusations of communist propaganda, and thus were killed or imprisoned.

War and Peace, 1950, Hendra Gunawan (member of LEKRA), Oil on canvas

The Suharto era saw a dramatic political influence upon the nation, the New York Times stating ‘Suharto achieved stability and economic growth, but these gains were overshadowed by intense corruption, a repressive militaristic state, and “a convulsion of mass bloodletting.’ ­Despite penalties, artists continued to produce rebellious, anti-regimist works through satire and irony; ‘they were an avant-garde radically redefining art’ (Vickers 2013). An analysis of Indonesian art in the contemporary sphere requires an understanding of its unique contextual complexity that differs greatly from international and in particular, western paradigms. Art critique is governed by Eurocentric standards of conventional aesthetics as well as commercial potential. Thus, contemporary Indonesian artists face difficulties in attaining recognition as ‘art world institutions and officials posit a hierarchy of themes or motifs considered worthy of being celebrated in art’ (Wright 1994). Throughout history and even presently, art and design in Indonesia is representative of the nations developing democracy, its internal social and political context and in turn its extensive relationship with the international community.

References //

Dwi Marianto, Martinus. ‘Surrealist Painting In Yogykakarta’. PhD Philosophy. University of Wollongong, 1995. Print.,. ‘Indonesian Heritage Series’. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.,. ‘Suharto Dies At 86; Indonesian Dictator Brought Order And Bloodshed – New York Times’. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 May 2015.

Soemantri, Hilda. Indonesian Heritage. Singapore: Archipelago, 1998. Print.

Vickers, Adrian. ‘What Is Contemporary Indonesian Art? – Inside Indonesia’. Inside Indonesia. N.p., 2013. Web. 4 May 2015.

Wichelen, Sonja van. Religion, Politics And Gender In Indonesia. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Wright, Astri. Soul, Spirit, And Mountain. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print.

Images //

Delacroix, Eugene. Moroccan Horsemen In Military Action. 1832. Print.

Gunawan, Hendra. War And Peace. Singapore: National Gallery, 1950. Print.

Hofstra University,. The Silk Road And Arab Sea Routes. 1998. Web. 5 May 2015.

Saleh, Raden. Six Horsemen Chasing Deer. Jakarta: N.p., 1860. Print.