Tobacco marketing in Indonesia is among some of the most ruthless in the world, known to target culture, religion and identity (Danardono et. al. 2009). While the government continues to allow such manipulation for economic gain, it is left up to the people to stand up against the tobacco industry, and voice their rejection. One of the most powerful vehicles for change is design. The tobacco industry has grown and thrived in Yogyakarta, due to creative marketing techniques and design. If designers refused to provide their skills to these causes, or used these tactics in the reversal, the system of stakeholders could be disrupted.
This movement of design activism is already stirring in Central Java, as individuals expose manipulation techniques and voice their rejection. Canadian photographer, Michelle Siu, was shocked by the impact the tobacco industry is having on children in Indonesia, as she came across children as young as 2 smoking (Sui 2014). Using her creative skills in photography she captured these witnesses and collated them, to spread awareness of its devastating effects. Her photos are incredibly moving, as they capture heartbreaking innocence. They appear almost staged, to someone who has never witnessed the extremity of tobacco culture in Indonesia. Due to their skilfully aesthetic nature, they capture and withhold attention, demonstrating the power of communication through visuals, and the potential of design activism to promote social change (Markussen 2012).
The tobacco industry has a history within Indonesia of exercising its unregulated advertising to the extreme, through the sponsorship of concerts and festivals to target the younger generations. (Henriksen 2012). Within recent years the citizens of Indonesia and the international public health community have called out such moves, not only for the tobacco companies wrong doing but the celebrities and artists negligence. These small acts of shaming artists for allowing such paid sponsorship has caused major artists such as Alicia Keys and Kelly Clarkson to pull out of contracts, losing tobacco companies thousands of dollars (SEATCA 2010). Doing so demonstrates the power of the people to generate change, despite the lack of government initiative to benefit the health of the nation.
- Danardono, M., Nichter, M., Ng, N., Padmawati, S., & Prabandari, Y. 2009, ‘Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia’, Tobacco Control, vol. 18, pp. 98-107.
- Henriksen, L. 2012, ‘Comprehensive tobacco marketing restrictions: promotion, packaging, price and place’, Tobacco Control, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 147-153.
- Markussen, T. 2012, The disruptive aesthetics of design activism: enacting design between and art and politics, DesignIssues, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 38-50.
- Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), 2010, ‘International artists performing at Indonesian tobacco-sponsored rock festival despite protests’, 27 September 2010, viewed 20 December 2019, <https://seatca.org/international-artists-performing-at-indonesian-tobacco-sponsored-rock-festival-despite-protests/?fbclid=IwAR0E9-VSCw0pZb1kFDDnNGgjSn_xMxH5R6wlRAzFMG1gM34lkoWxyERXhcE>.
- Sui, M. 2014, ‘Marlboro Boys’, lensculture, veiwed 20 December 2019, <https://www.lensculture.com/articles/michelle-siu-marlboro-boys#slideshow>.