POST C: Religion and smoking in Ambon?

In order to get a better understanding of Ambonese culture and the effects of smoking had on Ambon, I interviewed Arif, a small family restaurant owner in Ambon whose venue is one of the few that is strictly smoke-free.

Arif photo.PNG
Figure 1. Arif standing in front of his smoke-free restaurant. Photographer: Yllianna Maneze.


I was interested in gaining an insight into Ambonese culture as well as history and whether there was a connection between religion and smoking culture, as Arif claimed the reason he didn’t allow smoking in his restaurant because it was the ‘House of the Lord’. A study done claims that those who participate in a high amount of religious activities have a higher chance of be a non-smoker (Widyaningrum & Yu 2018; U.S Department of State 2010). As we were conversing about Ambonese culture, he stated that the people were very communal and there were many mixed races and religions which is true for most of Indonesia. He also brought up the riots that occurred in Ambon during 1999. These riots were an ethnopolitical conflict triggered by a relatively minor fight between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim youth. The real reason is still unclear, but Arif states that there was a looming ethnoreligious tension in the city, predominately between the Christian and Muslim. The neighbourhoods used to be a mixing pot of ethnicities and religion, but post-war Arif described it like a ‘shadow’ dividing the city.

It was interesting how Arif brought up the darker past of Ambon when I asked him about smoking. Thinking in a wider context, Indonesia unites over 200 million people with over 300 ethnicities, 250 languages and 6,000 islands. One would believe that with such a wide range of cultures there would be many different types of faiths however, only 6 religions are officially recognised by the government (U.S Department of State 2010).

Some groups have turned to religion to stop smoking which has become portrayed as rooted into Indonesian culture and tradition. For example, Islamic groups have tried to ban smoking as forbidden under Islam and united with anti-smoking lobbies to stop tobacco sponsored events. Arif states that the bibles teachings preach that smoking is bad for you, he also knows passive smoking has harmful effects and because of his strong family values he chooses not to smoke. Religion could possibly be an overlooked aspect to incorporate into a non-smoking campaign.



Bebas Bernapas 2019, “Meet Arif”, Instagram post, 23 January, viewed 24 January 2019, <;.

U.S Department of State 2010, International Religious Freedom Report 2010, viewed 30 January 2019, <>.

Widyaningrum, N. & Yu, J. 2018, ‘Tobacco Use Among the Adult Muslim Population in Indonesia: A Preliminary Study on Religion, Cultural, and Socioeconomic Factors’, Journal of Drug Issues,   vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 676-88.


POST C: Assiz from Ambon

Interviewer: Madison Chan
Interviewee: Assiz Mahu

Time: 40min
20 Jan 2019

The aim of the task was to get insight into the daily life of an Ambonese resident and their perspective on tobacco. Interviewing as a research design method was chosen not only because it enables us to inquire about one’s social world, but is actually a significant constituent of the kind of society one lives in (Brooks & Horrocks & King 2019).

Assiz Mahu is a 22-year-old male who was born and raised in Ambon, Indonesia. As neutrality is the byword of interviews (Gubrium & Holstein 2001), I lead with the unbiased and open-ended question,

‘What are your thoughts on smoking?’

Mahu’s immediate response was,

‘I do not smoke…it is bad for you and not good for your body.’

How did he come to this confident conclusion? Not only did Mahu witness anti-tobacco campaigns on the street but he also conducted his own independent research on YouTube. I found it interesting that when I mentioned emphysema and COPDs, he was not aware of these terms. The only impacts of smoking Mahu knew about was that it made you ‘sick’ and ‘cough a lot’. However, despite not knowing this terminology, it seemed Mahu’s association of tobacco with ‘being sick’ was powerful enough for him to not risk even trying a cigarette.

It is suggested, that people are motivated to form accurate perceptions of reality and react accordingly – to comply and conform – in order to develop and preserve meaningful social relationships, and to maintain a favourable self-concept (Cialdini & Goldstein 2004). Mahu’s friends have all complied to smoking because they believe it makes them strong. They have called Mahu a ‘sissy’ and ‘not a man’ for not smoking but he did not care because he understood the impacts. It was admirable that Mahu valued his health over social conformity considering Ambon was largely based on community and unity.

As the respondent is someone who can provide detailed descriptions of his or her thoughts, feelings, and activities (Gubrium & Holstein 2001), I was intrigued about Mahu’s personal experiences with tobacco. It was clear smoking was a sign of masculinity. His dad was a former smoker, his two older brothers smoked and so did his male friends. Yet, when I asked ‘why is this?’, Mahu struggled to go beyond the reasoning of ‘it’s our culture…it’s habit…you’re a bad and shameful woman if you do…why?…just because,’ which supports my argument of smoking as an unquestionable and normal behaviour in my previous blog Smoke, Eat, Drink, Repeat.

Although Mahu was aware of smoking impacts, he has accepted it as a norm. The following stories were unfamiliar and shocking to me, but for Mahu, this was his everyday life. Mahu’s job was security in the women’s prison Lapas Perempuan Kelas III, and claimed that there was ‘rarely a case of tobacco’. The exception: when prisoners had a headache or blocked sinuses, the doctor would prescribe them with one cigarette a day for relief. At the high school that Mahu attended, there was a no smoking policy. Students would hide behind the walls and if they were caught, the punishment from the teachers involved smoking five cigarettes at the same time. Mahu admitted, ‘sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.’

Madison Chan (right), Assix Mahu (left) (Mahu 2019)




Brooks, J. & Horrocks, C. & King, N. 2019, Interviews in Quality Research, SAGE Publications, London.

Cialdini, J. & Goldstein, N. 2004, ‘Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity’, Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 591-621.

Gubrium, J. & Holstein, J. 2001, The Handbook of Interview Research, SAGE Publications, London.

Mahu, A. 2019, Photograph, Ambon.

POST C: Ninik’s perspective

Ninik, 25 years-old is a general practitioner in Ambon, who agrees that a significant portion of the Ambonese population are habitual smokers (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). Although, an insufficient amount of time in the 4 years of medical college in Indonesia is devoted to the harms of tobacco (Prabandari 2015), Ninik is fully aware of the effects and actively persuades the people around her to refrain from smoking. Ninik believes that the reason why Ambonese men smoke is to release stress, especially while they are working, causing it to become an addictive and detrimental habit.

Figure 1: men smoking in Ambon

She suggests that people often start smoking in junior high school, around the age of 14 and continue to the practice for their whole lives. In Australia, a customer must be at least 18 years of age with valid identification to purchase cigarettes (Youth Law Australia 2018). I therefore asked if there was a similar age limit imposed on buying cigarettes in Indonesia. Ninik responded with no, as children frequently buy cigarettes for their parents, shopkeepers thus do not question children of their motives for purchasing cigarettes. Prabandari concurs, stating that the initiation of smoking in Indonesia begins at a young age, with 18% even reporting to have begun between the ages of 10 and 14 (Prabandari 2015).

Figure 2: young boys smoking in a park in Ambon

Although most smokers in Indonesia are male and it is commonly held that females do not smoke, a few women do take up the practice (Barraclough 1999). When questioned whether women smoke, Ninik however answered “not really” and “not at all” (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). This is because Ninik believes that Muslims see smoking as a “useless thing” that they should not attempt (2019, pers. comm., 21 January). After subsequent research, I discovered that the use of tobacco for Islamic believers is haram, forbidden (Huda 2018). Despite that, many Muslims still smoke as the opinion that smoking is haram is still moderately new and thus not all Muslims have adopted it as a cultural norm (Huda 2018).

Furthermore, Ninik also stressed the detrimental effects of second-hand smoking, which is worse than primary smoking. This is a serious issue as the harm of second-hand smoke is little recognised within Indonesia (Permitasari 2018), resulting in men regularly smoking in enclosed spaces, such as mini-buses and trains (Barraclough 1999). Furthermore, 85% of male smokers also smoke within the home daily, exposing their family members to harmful consequences (Prabandari 2015). The interview with Ninik and research allowed me to gain deeper insights into the tobacco situation in Ambon and Indonesia.

Figure 3: photo with Ninik (second from left)



Barraclough, S. 1999, ‘Women and tobacco in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 327-332.

Huda 2018, Is Smoking Allowed in Islam?, ThoughtCo, viewed 29 Janurary 2019, <;.

Permitasari A.L., Satibi S. & Kristina, S.A. 2018, ‘National burden of cancer attributable to secondhand smoking in Indonesia’, Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol. 19, no. 7, pp. 1951-1955.

Prabandari Y., Nichter M., Nichter M., Padmawathi R. & Muramoto M. 2015, ‘Laying the groundwork for Tobacco Cessation Education in medical colleges in Indonesia’, Education for Health, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 169.

Youth Law Australia 2018, Cigarettes, Australia, viewed 30th January 2019, <;.



POST C: Looking through the lens of Ambonese Puskesmas

For the sake of primary research and getting to know the health situation amongst the local population, I chose to interview someone who works from a Puskesmas, a government-mandated community health centre, which can often provide some of the services a hospital might as well. Having gone to a boarding school with strict rules, she and her friends didn’t smoke throughout their teenage years and has never smoked a cigarette to this day. In her opinion, it’s a bad habit that can be easily eradicated from Ambonese culture.

51007071_2289563254606683_8324944717678641152_nHeidy Nivaan (middle)

In my interview with Puskesmas Karang Pajang’s general practitioner, H. Nivaan (2019, pers. comm., 18 January), we spoke about her experience with patients who smoke or breathe in second-hand smoke frequently. Nivaan says that Ambon faces problems with diseases such as tuberculosis, one of the most common lung diseases there, with studies (Boon et al. 2007) suggesting that passive smoking may increase the risk of acquiring tuberculosis, especially for those within the same household as someone afflicted. Older patients will often say they have smoked since they were young and it hasn’t done them any harm, but will come to the Puskesmas with significant signs of COPD such as shortness of breath and coughing, and won’t know they have something like emphysema until they get to a hospital. In cases such as these, people who are diagnosed with TB do not stop smoking, and they do not believe that smoking was the cause of harm.  

Perhaps the most surprising discovery I heard from Nivaan is that most people are not aware of the harm second-hand smoke can cause (Nichter et al. 2009). According to an article in the Jakarta Post (2001), Indonesia is believed to be a hazardous area for second-hand smoke due to the number of smokers, which is believed to have reached 141.44. million. Nivaan says that people will smoke even near babies or their pregnant spouse, and mothers will come to the clinic with sick children not knowing that it is their husband’s smoking that is causing them harm. For such vulnerable groups, raising awareness seems to be the first step to eradicating tobacco-related diseases, but for those who do not want to quit after being educated about such dangers, there is nothing more that can be done from the side of medical health professionals in Ambon.


Boon, D. S., Verver, S., Marais, B. J., Enarson, D. A., Lombard, C. J., Bateman, E. D., Irusen, E., Jithoo, A., Gie, R. P., Borgdorff, M. W. & Beyers, N. 2007, ‘Association between passive smoking and infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis in children’, Pediatrics, vol. 199, no. 4, pp. 734-739.

‘Firms urged to help smoke-free campaign’ 2001, The Jakarta Post, 26 May, p. 2.

Nichter, M., Padmawati, S., Danardono, M., Ng, N., Pradanbari, Y. & Nichter, M. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, viewed 17 January 2019, <>.

POST A: Design activism challenges. A comparison of tobacco advertising between Indonesia and the USA.

The tobacco industry has had great success in Indonesia now being the 2nd largest tobacco market in the world (Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2017). Designers play a major role in this by shaping the identity of the tobacco branding through packaging and promotion to mislead consumers away from its negative health effects. Current trends in the market advertise cigarettes as mild or low-tar, for example since 2002 the major brand Gudang Guram in Indonesia has the GG mild brand to cater to changing consumer preferences. This demonstrates some of the strategies designers utilise to keep their consumers loyal to the brand.

The big Indonesian tobacco company Sampoerna hosted a ‘Go Ahead Challenge’ competition which involved designing a limited edition A Mild cigarette package (Astuti, Assunta & Freeman 2018). The winning design was a red fingerprint with the tag “Go Ahead, be yourself and be brave!”. Through their website over a million people voted for the design indicating the large community of active users. These tactics allow the tobacco industry to be heavily rooted in Indonesian youth culture, the economy and politics.

a mild
Figure 1. Sampoerna website displaying the winning design of a competition to design a cigarette packet. The middle image is the designed packet. To the right is the inside of the packet with a description of the design and the tagline.


In the case of tobacco control, Indonesia is one of the few countries that is not WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WFTC) compliant, on the other hand, the USA is WFTC compliant. When the toxicity of tobacco was unclear in the past, many people in the USA were sold by the idea of smoking through revolutionary tobacco companies’ advertisements. The American cigarette brand Marlboro was the company to utilise ‘lifestyle advertising’, a type of advertisement that ties the product to an aspect of life. The tv advertisement depicts Marlboro man, a fictional persona became the archetype of manliness and freedom and it was a highly successful. This kind of powerful lifestyle advertising is still seen today in Indonesian cigarette ads. The difference is that in the USA, nicotine advertisements like Marlboro Man were banned from television and radio in 1970 (White, Oliffe & Bottorff 2012), however in Indonesia advertisements are still allowed to be played on television after prime time.

Designers face the challenge of not only fighting the constructed image of tobacco but also all the stakeholders, such as smokers, the tobacco industry, sellers, buyers, etc. Julier puts forward that design activism is something that begins in social, environmental and political issues and the designer’s role is to ‘intervene funtionally’ in them (Julier 2013). The US national campaign, ‘truth’ is dedicated to empowering youth to become more knowledgeable about big tobacco and helping them quit. They focus on pop culture, community and the environment, through events and utilising social media to make an engaging site for youth to access is something to learn from.


truth 2.png
Figure 2. Screenshot of the ‘truth’ site. #IDRATHERBUY is highlighted.


Astuti, P.A.S., Assunta, M. & Freeman, B. 2018, ‘Raising generation ‘A’: a case study of millennial tobacco company marketing in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 27, no. e1, pp. e49.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids 2017, The Toll of Tobacco in Indonesia, viewed 30 January 2019, <;.

Julier, G. 2013, ‘From Design Culture to Design Activism’, Design and Culture, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 215-36.

truth Take Action, viewed 30 January 2019, <;.

White, C., Oliffe, J.L. & Bottorff, J.L. 2012, ‘From the Physician to the Marlboro Man’, Men and Masculinities, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 526-47.


Post A: Designing for Good

When people think of design they may have a fixed idea of what it may consist of, however design is malleable and can be compromised of tangible and intangible aspects that designers are able to use to communicate ideas and messages for a variety of motives. It can be used for commercial goods, advertising or simply creating aesthetically pleasing things although some designers like New Yorker Patricia Moore embarked on a 3 year experiment disguised as an 85 year old, travelling around North America to experience life as a senior citizen (Mike Press & Rachel Cooper, 2003). 

“At a time when populations throughout the industrialised world are ageing rapidly, with life expectancy rising, the birthrate slowing down and most consumer spending power already in the hands of those aged over 50, design professionals have to find new ways of seeing the world through the eyes of others…”

Mike Press, Rachel Cooper

I think using alternative methods in order to better understand what consumers want is important regardless of what area of design it may be. Designers hold responsibility for their work whether they are working for profit or to make a difference, Indonesian marketing and advertisements for example strategically target male and female consumers in different ways usually linking gendered stereotypes to products.

A well known example of this is their association of masculinity and smoking, alluding that smoking makes you appear stronger, in control and more of a “man” while quitting is like giving up. figures 1 and 2 below were just two of the many creatively designed advertisements most likely aimed at males aged below 30, bold ads being able to reach audience of all ages would be easily understood regardless of language barriers.

Figure.1 ‘Never Quit’ Figure.2 ‘We are stronger’

A similar issue according to Sandra C.Jones and Christopher A.Magee is the lack of alcoholic advertisement regulations in Australia which are reaching under 18’s much easier than expected. According to their study conducted on Australian teenagers aged 12-15 they were exposed to “alcohol advertisements on television, in newspapers and magazines, on the Internet, on billboards/posters and pro- motional materials and in bottleshops, bars and pubs.”(Sandra Jones, Christopher Majee, 2003) whom also admit to drinking alcohol in the past 4 weeks.

Designers can and should be used as catalysts for good, however when designing for companies that make profit off of their customers habits e.g. gambling, drinking etc, there may be a disconnect between design and the possible negative outcomes the product or packaging is associated with.

Mike Press, Rachel Cooper, 2003, ’The Design Experience – The Role of Design and Designers in the Twenty-First Century’, Viewed 27 Jan 2019.


Sandra C. Jones and Christopher A. Magee, 2003,‘Exposure to Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Consumption among Australian Adolescents’, Viewed 27 Jan 2019.


BLOG POST C: Interview

To gain an unusual perspective into tobacco use and its surrounding health issues, full-time employer of Philip Morris international, Abdul Aziz Purnama Adi (2019, pers. Comm., 14 January), was interviewed. Aziz, as he prefers, distributes tobacco products throughout Indonesia and considers himself a casual smoker. Aziz argues for tobacco, asserting the product is harmless, and all health-issues said to surround cigarettes are merely the act of a conspiracy. Despite his positive views on smoking, further analysis and investigation could reveal several discrepancies in Aziz’s statements.

Aziz outlines tobacco as a form of “good medicine which helps to clear the mind.” He reinforces its positive qualities asserting that he is yet to meet anyone who’s health or wellbeing has been negatively affected by smoking. Although studies reveal “Tobacco kills 225,720 people each year” in Indonesia (World Health Organization 2018). His outlook is heavily influenced by the novel Membunuh Indonesia Konspirasi Global Penghancuran Kretek, Aziz explaining “I do not believe the graphic imagery on cigarette packets” nor that “health issues exist or are a direct cause of smoking full-time. Perhaps his fixed perspective is somewhat due to lack of knowledge, Aziz also mentioning that he does not remember receiving education in school about the impacts of smoking.

Conversely, Aziz recognizes tobaccos potential to be somewhat “harmful.” He explains that smoking ten cigarettes a day is the suitable amount, however, if someone was to consume any greater than this quantity, that is when it can become damaging. With regards to smoking more than ten a day, Aziz believes: “this is when it begins to control you, you become addicted” but cigarettes “are okay when you can control the tobacco, and it’s regulated.” He was quick to reinforce however that “the problem here is not the tobacco itself but the over and uncontrolled usage of it.” While he blatantly disregards tobacco as the cause of any health issues, it is odd that he opposes to smoking around children: “I’ll never smoke around children.” Why must he refrain himself from doing so if cigarettes do not cause any direct harm? Unable to admit the dangerous consequences associated with smoking, Aziz’s employer ironically can, their website promoting smoking as harmful: “We are dedicated to doing something very dramatic – we want to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products as fast as possible… we have more than 400 scientists, engineers, and technicians developing less harmful alternatives to cigarettes” (Philip Morris 2019). And while Aziz could aim to emulate his employer, recognizing the harm and moving towards a smoke-free future, perhaps the Philip Morris company could have the courtesy of completely eradicating themselves.

Left to right: Aziz, Marissa & Ady

BLOG C: Environment as an Influence

To gain further information on tobacco use in Indonesia, I consulted 25-year-old Abdul Aziz Purnama Adi (2019, pers. comm., 14 January), a full time employee for Philip Morris International distributing tobacco products across Indonesia. This discussion determined how an individual’s surrounding environment significantly influences and manipulates their views on tobacco.

Aziz was first exposed to cigarettes in the home when his mother, father and uncle would smoke around him inside the house. He himself began experimenting with smoking in Junior High School and became a regular smoker in college. This behaviour seems to be considered normal as he stated many other students also smoked, supporting the statistic that “nearly nine out of ten adult daily smokers started smoking before they were 18 years old” (Scott 2018). He claimed he didn’t receive any education on the detrimental impacts and consequences of smoking, however the punishment if caught smoking on school premises was expulsion. He does believe that children should be educated about how to control their use of tobacco.

In addition to Aziz’s home and school environment, he has been exposed to cigarettes through pro-tobacco advertisements saturating Indonesia. These advertisements are detrimental to individuals – especially youth – as they mislead them to believe cigarettes are not harmful to health. Tobacco companies take advantage of this in their advertising (without explicitly saying so) by purposefully target youth as 37% of the Indonesian population (approximately 100 million people) are under the age of 20 (Tjandra 2018). The power of these companies is made evident when Aziz claimed that the “graphic visuals on cigarette packaging is a conspiracy” and the presented health problems are not a result of smoking.

Now as an employee for Philip Morris International – one of the largest tobacco companies globally – Aziz has become a “casual” smoker to calm his mind. He claims the company does not force the employees to smoke, although the majority do. He sees no harm in working for the company and promoting tobacco products as he believes “smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day is a good amount,” which directly correlates and supports the statistic from a recent study that “80% of physicians practicing in Indonesia believed that smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day was not harmful for health” (Haddock et al. 2007).


Abdul Aziz Purnama Adi (left of image).


Haddock, C., Lando, H., Ng, N., Nitcher, M., Mahardinata, N., Muramoto, M., Okah, F., Padmawati, R., Poston, W., Prabandari, Y., Pyle, S. 2007, ‘Physician assessment of patient smoking in Indonesia: a public health priority’, Tobacco Control, vol. 16, no. 3, pp.190-196.

Scott, J.E. 2018, ‘17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health’, Tobacco Induced Diseases, vol. 16, pp. 178, viewed 13 January 2019, <,84281,0,2.html&gt;.

Tjandra, N. 2018, ‘Disneyland for Big Tobacco’: how Indonesia’s lax smoking laws are helping next generation to get hooked, News, The Conversation, Victoria, viewed 9 January 2019, <;.

Post C: A different perspective on tobacco

It is evident after extensive research and observations during my time in Ambon that the tobacco problem is quite worse than I had expected in the coming weeks before arriving, under the impression it was just as toxic as any other country. Focusing on the amount of advertisements I never really got an inside look at how people view tobacco use, specifically non-smokers until meeting Yudith Wacanno a regular visitor of Pattimura park while working on my group’s mural design. Yudith approached us recognising the anti smoking symbol from afar with her friend who ironically was smoking and observing. 

After explaining the intentions of the mural Yudith revealed she was also against tobacco use and why she felt so strongly about the topic. We first discussed why smoking is so evident in men rather than women and the causes that entice people to begin smoking in the first place. she explained that in recent years the amount of women who smoke has gradually risen, according to her own observations with friends and family… however it is an act that women often practice in their homes rather than in public due to the negative associations such as rebellion and prostitution.

Yudith has many friends who smoke but has made it clear that she does not like them smoking around her in an enclosed space such as cafes, restaurants, at home or while driving, unfortunately it is not that easy to escape second hand smoke in a small city like Ambon nor are there many people who are aware of the effects of it. Yudith has many friends who smoke but has made it clear that she does not like them smoking around her in an enclosed space such as cafes, restaurants, at home or while driving, unfortunately it is not that easy to escape second hand smoke in a small city like Ambon nor are there many people who are aware of the effects of it.

It’s just not comfortable being in public sometimes”- Yudith Waccano

Yudith opposes smoking due to seeing her fathers health slowly disintegrate since she was a child, like most boys aged as young as 12 her father began smoking at this age during school. In 2005 38% of boys smoked while 41% of boys aged between 13-15 currently smoke (Marie Dhumieres n.d.), although this is a small increase it’s still extremely problematic as most children are not receiving education about the implications of smoking from school, the government or more importantly at home from their parents. She then goes on to say that the most probable causes for smoking would be directly linked to stress and smokers not having access to resources that would support one to successfully quit. With the recent decision to stop tobacco funded music events, Ambon and Indonesia as a whole have a long way to go until they can reach a tobacco-free life.

Marie Dhumieres,The number of children smoking in Indonesia is getting out of control’, Global Post, Viewed 24 Jan 2019.


Nawi Ng, L. Weinehall, A. Ohman, 2006, ’If I don’t smoke, I’m not a real man’ — Indonesian boys’ views about smoking, Viewed 24 Jan 2019.


Group Blog Post: Ambon Manise Mural

The brief our group was given was to run a “workshop”. Our initial ideas were extremely broad, we wanted to do an engaging activity that involved children to educate the dangers of tobacco early. Our brainstorming then took a turn and became more focused once we were asked if we wanted to use the prominent “Ambon Manis” wall as space for our workshop. We then began brainstorming ideas for a visually appealing and symbolic mural that simultaneously welcomed audience participation.


Design Process:

Our design process involved many stakeholders and cultures being taken into account. We knew Mural paintings are a great way to get the involvement of the community whilst conveying a strong message (Cherbo et al. 2008), so the opportunity to present an important, anti-smoking message to help influence the Ambonese public weighed heavy on our minds. We focussed on creating different concepts that captured the message and Ambon in different ways.

We began with research of the site and the local Ambon area in General, using the primary information we gathered through our wanders to help influence the first concepts. A focus on keeping Ambon ‘Sweet’ and ‘Full of music’ became the centre of the design concepts, using colours of the ground within the park as a colour palette for our mock-ups. We also looked at designs involving simple colours and shapes so that anyone would be able to assist the mural-painting process regardless of artistic ability. We thought about audience participation, concluding that people helping paint, and the public place their hand-print on the mural in support for a smoke-free Ambon would reach a larger audience of smokers and non-smokers. From this, we began creating and iterating designs, presenting multiple finalised mock-ups for approval focusing on the theme of hands, music, colour whilst tying it to the unique and beautiful cityscape of Ambon.


(Photograph Showing the geometrically patterned ground behind the wall mural Elliott 2019)


Our first mural proposal (figure 1) explored the concept of quitting for someone else, focusing around the hand gesture of crossed fingers, signifying a “promise”, as you are also unable to smoke if your fingers are crossed. We then wanted smokers to stamp their hand in agreement if they wanted to quit smoking, writing a message saying “for” and the name of the person they wish to quit for. However, after presenting our ideas to the tutors, we received feedback stating that people usually only quit for themselves and that the hand gesture might not translate culturally. This made us aware of the difficulties of our task as we must consider the cultural difference and develop a universal visual language to communicate our idea. Furthermore, after some research, we realised that the crossed fingers symbol was seen as rude Vietnamese culture (McManus 2019) and thus decided to refrain from using it as we don’t want to unintentionally offend people.

screen shot 2019-01-26 at 1.31.59 pm

(Figure 1)

The second theme (Figure 2) focused on the aspect of audience participation, ensuring the mural became a representation of the people. Through using the local people’s handprints in a range of designs, we aimed to make the mural feel unique and personal to the people involved. The idea to cross out the fingers carried through from the first proposal, becoming a metaphor of stopping smoking, with participants crossing their own handprint fingers to reflect their dedication to decreasing smoking in Ambon. The wing-shaped imagery was to draw in audience participation in the form of social media posts like Instagram. However, due to the number of hands required and the coordination of so many people we decided to look into other options.

wall examples-01wall examples-02wall examples-03

(Figure 2)

With the large signs in the park already displaying ‘Ambon’ and ‘Malise’ meaning sweet, our third design category was music (figure 3). We wanted to Concentrate on Ambon as the city of music, message of quit smoking so you can “sing” and keep the music going, using music signs and handprints. However, it was felt this design idea strayed away from the main message, the message of anti-smoking.

music2colourful cityambon1

(Figure 3)

We learnt through the meeting with Vital Strategies and our Tutors that Ambonese culture prefers far more direct messages, not as many metaphorical designs as we had been more accustomed to. This key insight led us down the road to creating the final mural, no ambiguous split of dark ambon and light ambon reflecting before and after of smoking, but a clear, straight forward sign reflecting the meaning of Seng Mau Rokok.

So within our final artwork (figure 4), we put the emphasis on the city and the people within it, a city full of music, sweetness and colour. By using large, geometrical shapes it allowed people of all painting ability to come and participate. The Large mountains parallel the skyline of Ambon looking out South West, with reference to our view from the hotel roof. The hands that cover the bottom step are the hands of the Ambonese people, supporting a want for a smoke-free environment. A straight forward no-smoking sign replaces the sun in the landscape, ensuring the true meaning of the mural is visible from everywhere within the park. Seng Mau Rokok follows the jagged landscape to make sure they are always visible wherever someone takes a photo for social media. We believe this mural provides a more inviting message to the community, helps highlight the healthy lifestyles on display at the park and hope to raise awareness of the issue of tobacco within Ambon.


(Figure 4: Final Mural Painted Elliott 2019)

Logistics & Obstacles

We had several things to consider before planning and designing our mural: the message being produced, materials and cost, time and date and trying to work around the unpredictable weather. After our final design was approved we focused on how we could encourage people to participate and found that there were many people that visited the park during the morning, afternoon and even after dark so it was quite easy to spread the word around especially when we began marking up the mural before painting began. Letting the locals know about our mural painting workshop was quite easy as the locals were very welcoming and curious so they often approached us, however for good measure we decided to make a digital poster (Figure 5) to clarify date, time and place to hopefully encourage even more people to participate.

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 10.03.02 am

(Figure 5, the invitational poster)

The first day of painting started off well with several people joining in after we marked each geometric shape within the outlines with a different colour of paint, which made it easier for more people to help out too regardless of their level of skill in painting. Ironically many of the volunteers were smokers but had easily recognised what our mural was based on and decided to continue anyway. Our group encountered some challenges along the way, such as finding colours that matched our palettes we based our design on, marking up the wall to scale, weather impacts and finally not being able to complete our mural according to our anticipated timeline. Continuing on with our mural under the guidance of our studio leaders we completed it and documented our process through a compilation of photographs, videos and time-lapses.

(The Locals helping paint Elliott 2019)

Our hopes the mural:

We hope this mural continues to attract attention and get the people of Ambon thinking about their Tobacco choices. We have seen the impact it has already had, turning heads and sparking conversations about smoking. As the park already holds strong ties to a healthy lifestyle, we hope this mural helps make a stance against smoking and sparks similar, anti-smoking themed murals around Indonesia.


(Inspiring the next generation to not smoke Elliott 2019)


(Group Jambu, left to right: Brad Bawden, Jackson Elliott, Alice Guo, Marie-Celeste Dagher)



Cherbo, J., Stewart, R. & Wyszomirski, M. (eds) 2008, Understanding the Arts and Creative Sector in the United States, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick.

McManus, M.R. 2019, 10 Obscene Hand Gestures from Around the World, Culture, viewed 24 Jan 2019, <;.

Mimi Nichter, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Viewed 24 Jan 2019.<;

Elliott, J. 2019, Ambon Photography