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

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