Post C: Indo Living

Jakarta is a “busy, heavily dense city that continually makes you worry” as my friend Lydia Lim describes her city. Having grown up in Jakarta and currently live there, her view of her city has change after living in Sydney and having a family. She moved to Sydney to continue her university studies in Interior Design as well as working after graduating. After 6 years in Sydney she followed her husband back to Jakarta to take over his father’s business.

Jakarta at Night [1]
Lydia is the only person I know who has continually spoken her dislike about living in Jakarta, she states “When you have a kid here you’re constantly worrying about everything that you shouldn’t, like going to the doctors, day care, mall, and banks, you don’t know what their agenda is and that’s scary”. While people may see living in Indonesia can be like royalty with your maids, drivers, and nannies, it is easy to settle in, though it can also show a distinct separation between relationships within the family. The importance of earning money and creating a safety net is what drives the people today, “it is difficult to separate work and family when needed, whereas in Sydney you the weekend is the rest days and you know that work will be put aside on those days” as Lydia explains how her husband’s work constantly interferes with rest days. The culture within Indonesia seem to be changing with current generations, the need to focus on work and business outweigh family and personal relationships. Although the need to provide for families play an important role in many of these situations, with opportunities that allow the wife to be a stay at home also in consideration.

Lydia gave insight to the changing notions within Indonesia’s culture, the aspects of distant relationship in family and safety in the city are what drives her dislike of Jakarta, constantly comparing to Sydney. Whilst there are positives in having her family like her parents and mother in law see her child grow up, there is a continual unsettling feeling living in Jakarta. The endless worry of her child growing up in Indonesia and the somewhat limited possibilities that she is open to, like great education, good doctors, government benefits, the list is never-ending. She said “living with peace of mind is what I want, and I don’t have that here in Jakarta like I did in Sydney”. She hopes to return to Sydney soon.

Lydia L. interviewed by Rachel Hansen on 12th February 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Countries and Their Cultures 2009, Indonesia, viewed on 13th February 2017, <>

Expat Arrivals 2017, Moving to Indonesia, viewed on the 14th February 2017, <>

[1] Rachel Hansen 2015.

Design in a Political Climate

Often, design initiatives are not necessarily linked to designers, artists or organisations in an official capacity. There are many contexts where people create art but instead of calling themselves designers or artists, they more closely identify with activists. This is most often the case in places that are somewhat politically unstable. Countries like Indonesia and Italy share this sense of disillusionment when thinking about their governments. Locals use graffiti and street art as a form of expression to fight the political climate of their countries. While these people are inspired activists, they ultimately design every aspect of their work.


what kind of values are we going to inherit.jpg
Huffington Post. 2013, ‘What kind of values are we going to inherit?’.


During a recent trip to Indonesia, I discussed the national politics with a local artist and activist from Surakarta. Currently living in Yogyakarta, Benk Riyade shared his work with me, highlighting the power of art’s ability to question society norms and educate the masses in an informal environment. Riyade was working on a mural under the bridge in Kampung Kali Kode. He (Riyade, B. 2017, interview, 3 February) wanted his work to educate the working class about Indonesia’s current political climate.

Whilst Benk Riyade’s work is considered street art, a form of creativity that is often criticised by heavy weights in the fine arts world, it is ultimately an expression of skill and imagination. When asked he (Riyade, B. 2017, interview, 3 February) agreed that he was an artist, but only as a product of his real work which was education and, in my opinion, activism.


Qi, Y. 2017.


While on an overnight trip to Genova, the amount of politically fuelled illegal graffiti was astounding. At this time, Italy was struggling with the influx of refugees from Syria with 262,482 recorded refugees in 2015/16 (Clayton, J. 2016). Each of these street artworks was carefully curated and designed by anonymous activists to send a message in support of or in opposition to current governmental foreign policies. One of the most significant artworks was of a 23-year-old Italian boy, Carlo Giuliani, who, during a G8 protest in Genova, was shot by police (Boschi, F. 2016). The instability in the area which allowed for events such as this to occur left many outraged and distrustful, leading some, like the artist of this particular portrait, to channel their activism into street art by reminding officials of their past mistakes.

Clement-Couzner, M. 2012


The power of Riyade’s work and the anonymous street art is in the design, allowing these artists to communicate their ideas with the wider public through a non-verbal means. Each expression of activism is carefully designed to ensure that they affect their audience in the way that they were intended to.


Other Articles of similar Interest – The Porch Light Program



Boschi, F. 2016, ‘Pronte tredicimila firme per cancellare la vergogna della targa a Carlo Guiliani’, il Giornale Politica, 21 July 2016, viewed 15 February 2016, <;.

Clayton, J. 2016, ‘Over 300,00 refugees and migrants cross Med so far in 2016’, RefWorld UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, 20 September 2016, viewed 15 February 2017, <,,UNHCR,,ITA,,57e143884,0.html>.

Clement-Couzner, M. 2012, Carlo Giuliani, fcollective, viewed 15 February 2017, <;.

Huffington Post. 2013, Yogyakarta Street Art, Huffington Post, viewed 15 February 2017, <;.

Riyade, B. 2017, Interviewed by Eliza Nugan, Indonesia, 3 February.

Qi, Y. 2017, Riyade in Kampung Kali Kode, 3 February.

Post D : Batik 101

Indonesian batik is an art form that is globally recognised, a traditional form that has been practice for centuries in Indonesia. The art of batik is decorating cloths, using wax and dying it. To create a batik, areas of cloth are blocked by using hot wax with a brush or drawing using a special tool called the canting made specifically for the batik process, it is then used over it before dying it with natural ingredients to make up the colours, repeating the process to make layers. Once done with the design and the process the cloth is boiled downs to clean the cloth of the hot wax.

While it is not known where it originated, people believe the batik art form reached its peak in of ‘artistic expression’ in Indonesia, mainly in Central Java. Javanese people have perfected the design of batik making it their own and adding to their history. Though the designs of modern batik still stem from traditional designs many contemporary design have changed to suit the style of the independent designer. Using more variety of tools and fabrics to create their works as well as artistic freedom to create their own works.

Designs of the batik vary depending on the occasion, though there are popular batik designs that can be found throughout some of the batik designs. Kawung, Ceplok and Parang are certain designs that had specific meanings to them. Kawung is an old design that can be found in many temples such as Prambanan in Yogyakarta, it suggests the meaning to represent flora such as kapok or aren. Ceplok is a geometric design that symoblises flowers, bud, animals and seeds, it is mainly used within the Muslim religion as it represents some of their beliefs. Parang was once used within the royal courts of Central Java, it indicates meanings such as ‘rugged rock, ‘knife pattern’ or ‘broken blade’. The designs found also showed of social standings, like the Parang design it was used by the royal family in Yogyakarta showing their higher rank by the designs of the batiks.

Batiks continually play a major role within the Indonesian society, during festivities like weddings or Independence Day, many Indonesians wear their batik in celebration. Batik design is highly influenced by their history and its meaning, traditional designs from batik continue to thrive in modern Indonesia with the influx of tourism in many cities.


The Batik Guild 2011, What Is Batik?, viewed on 14th February 2017,<>

Asia Art 2008, Indonesian Batik, viewed on 14th February 2017, <>

Living in Indonesia 2017, Batik, The Traditional Fabric of Indonesia, viewed on the 15th February 2017, <>

Australian Muesum 2011, Batik: The Forbidden Designs of Java, viewed on the 15th February 2017, <>


[1] [2] Living in Indonesia 2017, Batik, The Traditional Fabric of Indonesia, viewed on the 15th February 2017, <>

[3] Rachel Hansen 2017,


POST B : Litre Of Light

As is commonly known worldwide, there are two types of lighting, natural and artificial. Natural lighting  is sourced from the sun therefore is free compared to artificial lighting, which is sourced from fossil fuel such as natural gas and coal used to generate energy and is only attainable with money, which is grim for underprivileged households. And as the years go by, the world is becoming overpopulated resulting in a lack of space, hence living in a packed area where there are little to no windows and sufficient daylight. Especially in tropical countries where the houses are made darker and roofs are extended to avoid the sun and rain resulting a very dark room/shack.

To solve this problem, Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian inventor, created a cheap and sustainable decent lighting designed for the underprivileged. All it needs is a two litre plastic bottle, filled with purified water and bleach (to keep the water clean), which is measured to be around 40 to 600 watts. Then installed onto the roof of the houses, fixed with polyester resin to avoid leaks. It’s a simple refraction of sunlight, explained Moser. [Gibby Zoel 2013]

[Yoneda 2016]]

With the help of Diaz Illam, a social entrepreneur, they started a global movement called “Litre of Light” which is a not-for-profit organization and is funded by donations and sponsors such as Pepsi, Underground Logic and Orange Fix. Their end goal is to educate the community on how to manufacture and install the solar bottle bulb, in hopes to create new job opportunities for the community.

[Directo n.d]

This would be substantial for the kampung Kali Code as the location is able to absorb more than enough light to illuminate the homes of the Kali Code community.

Global warming is such a broad topic relating to many world wide issues. But one of the leading cause is the excessive use of electricity. This project was created for the people who are struggling to afford decent lighting for their homes (not to mention how this would be ideal for situations such as blackouts), but if this is applied globally at all households, although very unlikely to happen, imagine how much money and energy we could save altogether.


“It’s a divine light. God gave the sun to everyone, and light is for everyone. Whoever wants it saves money. You can’t get an electric shock from it, and it doesn’t cost a penny.” – MOSER.

Yoneda, Y. 2012, Litre of light, Inhabitat, viewed 15 Febuary 2017, <;.

Directo, J. n.d, Illac Diaz inspects a solar light bulb, Getty Images, viewed 15 Febuary 2017,<;.

Gibby Zoel 2013, Alfredo Moser:Bottle light inventor proud to be poor, BBC, Brazil, viewed 14th Febuary 2017, <;.

POST A : Kemeja Kotak-Kotak (Plaid Shirt)

A plaid shirt is a very basic and popular style of clothing worn and owned by many worldwide. But in Indonesia, a plaid shirt (particularly in red and black) symbolizes something of which the citizens are very much aware of. In 2012 Jokowi and Ahok were governor candidates running a political campaign for the upcoming election. And every time they were seen in public, both Jokowi and Ahok were always wearing the same red plaid shirt. This quickly became their identity and plaid shirt became a trend to wear, especially for Ahok and Jokowi supporters.

On October 2014, Jokowi took a temporary leave as Ahok’s partner to serve as the president, whom then was inaugurated by the President Jokowi himself as the governor on November 2014. Fast forward to September 2016, it was declared that Ahok had paired up with Djarot for the next upcoming election in 2017 [Ahok-Djarot 2016]. And up until now, still wearing the plaid shirt as their party’s identity.

The principle aspect of their decision to continue the plaid as their identity is said [Natasya 2016] to preserve and prolong what Jokowi and Ahok started back in 2012 as well as to follow in the footsteps of the previous great governors of Indonesia.

At the time, it was not addressed as to why both Ahok’s party were constantly seen in the red plaid shirt, which raised the citizen’s curiosity. It was later found that there is a simple and  philosophical reason behind this persistent attire.

Djarot and Ahok’s spokeswoman Nevi Ervina stated that the idea came from Ahok, as he believed that the plaid shirt is identical to hard workers. He also stated that there is a difference between the plaid shirt in 2012 and the one in 2017. [Liputan6 2016]

“Jokowi’s shirt had a smaller and more colorful squares, whereas Ahok’s current plaid shirt has larger squares.”, Nevi stated.

She also explained that the color red symbolizes leadership, black representing the community and the willingness to get down and dirty.

Following up to Ahok’s reasoning of the plaid pattern, in line with the history of it [Jill Specter 2013], the criss-crossed pattern was indeed worn mainly for service and labor-oriented workers back in the 1960’s. It was then that lumberjacks became synonymous to red plaid shirts.


Using fashion to convey a political message which represents its identity is indeed a unique form of design in a local context.

Ahok-Djarot 2016, Liputan6, viewed 13t Feb 2017, <>. 

Creative, B, n.d, The Brawny Man in His Red Plaid ShirtBlasco Creative, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <>. 

Jill Specter 2013, A History Of Plaid, Aesthetic Crit, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <>. 

Liputan6 2016, Apa Bedanya Baju Kotak-Kotak Milik Ahok dan Jokowi, Liputan6, Indonesia, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <>. 

Natasya, C. 2016, ‘Ahok-Djarot Kenapa Kemeja Kotak – Kotak?’, RepublikHotNews, weblog, Indonesia, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <>. 

PosKotaNews 2012, Baju Kotak-Kotak Jokowi Ahok, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <;.

Shop, T n.d, Kain Kemeja Kotak Ahok Tenun, Tokopedia, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <;.

Post C: Yogyakartan Street Art


by Marcella Cheng

Our group mural project in Kali Code was the first time any of us had ever used spray paint in our art-making, and so we were relieved to have been given the assistance of a young Yogyakartan street artist by the name of Mosaif. While he seemed mostly amused at our clumsy attempts, he was always more than happy to help clean up our continuously dripping mural and to answer any questions I had.

As it turned out, Mosaif had been painting since he was young, for about ten years or so, since his high school and university days. He said that most of the street artists start out young like him, just quickly tagging walls to slowly master the spray can. It was interesting to find out this bit of information, as the attitudes towards “graffiti” in Australia tend to be extremely negative and usually illegal. While we would consider young street artists as vandals, Mosaif described the activity as a fun trend and a popular way for the youth to express themselves. This was another reason why street art was more prevalent in Yoygyakarta than Jakarta, he explained, as there was far more youth here.


Upon researching, this should hardly be surprising as the street art trend can be tracked back as early as 1998, where political graffiti first emerged mostly from student movements during the Reformasi era. In a time of great political upheaval, it is easy to understand how young people especially would have found “putting spray-can nozzle to wall” as a way to engage in political “self-expression and national identification”, a way to claim their city (Lee, 2013). Lee continues to unravel street art as a form of communication between people of all classes, where anyone could read or view the visual protests and in turn, draw their own response. These wall murals have become “an omnipresent feature of New Indonesia’s urban landscape” that Wilson describes as having a “strong social consciousness interlaced with humour… a bold aesthetic and strong commitment to craft” that could only come from the voices of Indonesian youth.

Another reason why street art is far more popular in Indonesia than Australia, for example, is the incredibly cheap prices of the materials. Even I was shocked, when Mosaif took me to the paint store, that the prices per can averaged from 13000rp to 5500rp (which is $1 – $5 AUD)! When we compared these prices to Australia’s, which averaged $10 per can, as well as the lack of walls to even paint in Sydney, it’s no wonder the art form seems to flourish in Yogya.


All photographs by me (Marcella Cheng)

Mosaif, February 2, 2017, interview

Lee, D 2013, ”Anybody Can Do It’: Aesthetic Empowerment, Urban Citizenship, and the Naturalization of Indonesian Graffiti and Street Art’, City & Society, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 304-327

Wilson, M. 2003, Sama-Sama/Together, viewed 13 February 2017,
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