POST A: Political Cartoons in Indonesia

Political art is prevalent around the world and comes in many visual forms, such as paintings and cartoons. It is created usually as a comment on political corruption and inequalities in society as a result of the law. The design of these comics is born out of both the physical and cognitive political context surrounding the social zeitgeist of the time.

kompas_areyouoptimistic_040112.jpgCorruption, mafia, violence… (APSN 2012)

Indonesia gained a rapid bout of political consciousness around the last period of the Dutch Colonial Rule, “as a result of major social and economic changes and the impact of Western-style education and the ideas of reformist Islam (Alfian 1971).” After the publication of Herbert Feith’s Indonesian Political Thinking, Indonesians became exposed to and aware of, “a wide-ranging collection of writings and speeches by important Indonesian politicians and intellectuals (Jackson & Pye 1978).” This enabled Indonesians to become aware of and educated about the political activity in their country, allowing them to engage with politics through activism.

Of all the politically responsive works created around this time, cartoons were the most popular and distributable. G.M. Sudarta’s Oom Pasikom and Dwi Koendoro’s Panji Koming are two of Indonesia’s oldest political comics.

oom (1).jpg(Bahasa Indonesia 2007)

Oom Pasikom, a political and social cartoon established in 1967 aimed to make news humorous in order to not disturb the Indonesian people. The philosophy behind Sudarta’s cartoons, in his words, was to, “make those in government we criticise to smile, and make people smile to bring up their aspirations (Lent 2015).” Oom Pasikom was even adapted into a film in 1992 using live action and animation.

35-Tahun-Panji-Koming-e1413249865255-750x400.jpg(Kintakun Collection 2014)

Panji Koming, in Koendoro’s words encompasses, “anything of social, political significance (Lent 2015).” Oftentimes, Koendoro’s Panji Koming comic strips would not pass editorial review due to its sensitive themes. The name Panji Koming also tells the viewer what to expect from the comic strips. “Panji is an old Javanese title for mid-ranking royalty. Koming means stunted or small-minded in the Javanese language (Lent 2015).” Calling the titular character of the comic by this name allowed for Koendoro to associate people in elite positions with ignorance.

Political cartoons in Indonesia used to be about the topics of, “nationalism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-capitalism (Iswahyudi 2013).” But now Indonesia is in the period called the Reformasi (Reform), post the colonialism, nationalism and communism. The political comics nowadays focus on, “criticizing the government, the parliament and the judicial institution (Iswahyudi 2013).”

Cartoons have been the perfect way for the Indonesian people to comment on their country’s politics as visual language is the easiest to understand and can utilise principles such as humour, satire, irony and sarcasm through pictorial metaphors and narratives. They also give way for, “creating collective consciences by people without access to bureaucratic or other institutionalized forms of political control (Jackson & Pye 1978).”



Alfian 1971, ‘Review: Review: “Indonesian Political Thinking”: A Review: Indonesian Political Thinking: 1945-1965 by Herbert Feith; Lance Castles’, JSTOR, no. 11, pp. 193-200, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Asia Pacific Solidarity Net 2012, Corruption, mafia, violence…, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Bahasa Indonesia 2007, STOP GLOBAL WARMING, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Cartoons Are Like Medical Records 2013, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Jackson, K.D. & Pye, L.W. 1978, Political Power and Communications in Indonesia, University of California Press, California.

Kintakun Collection 2014, 35 Tahun Panji Koming, viewed February 14 2017, <>.

Lent, J.A. 2015, Asian Comics, Univ. Press of Mississippi, Mississippi.

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