Post C: Tattoo and Tobacco

Although tobacco is depicted to be a social activity in Indonesia, where it is overly associated with positive stereotypes of enhancing masculinity by exercising, indirectly forcing reflection of social and political status. Yet few individuals have recontextualised smoking, integrating tobacco into their lifestyles with completely different reasons and directions compared to the general public of Indonesia. El Kamprettoz, is a tattoo artist located in the centre of Yogyakarta City, who utilises smoking as a method to support creativity and influence artistic vision, stating that his creativity thrives and peaks when relaxing with a cigarette.

Nanjang University of Arts Exhibition 2019, left to right, Setu Legi, Bay Widodo, El Kamprettoz

El Kamprettoz has been doing tattoo for more than twenty years in Indonesia, he uses tattoo to be a platform of this artistic works. Yet being in a mainly conservative Muslim country, where individuals who have tattoos are usually associated with criminal activity and stereotypically of having a mutinous nature, has made strictures for Kamprettoz to freely express his works. Only decades ago Indonesia was exposed to the extrajudicial killings called Petrus Killings during 1983-1985, where Suharto, the second president of Indonesia, unannounced, exercised undercover snipers for alleged criminals  to be publicly executed. This terrorized the general public, creating a paranoia of discrimination to those who appeared in a nonconformist fashion. The public was encouraged to report men with tattoos to the police. This enforced the stigma, eradicating most tattoo business, or forcing them into underground  markets, where tobacco and drugs became a popular source of payment for artworks. Creating a tattoo culture around these devices creates a liability issue for the tattoo artist who reject such drugs, portrayed to be more tamed and less passionate.

Smoking becomes this meditative practice, especially for artists, smoking, psychologically allows a space and time to separate yourself from the hectic nature of life. Kamprettoz, believes smoking is more a statement of the mind. Although, nicotine helps with concentration and relaxation, he states that it is mostly the belief of such effects, which assists him and his daily life. This is understanding of tobacco was once mutual,  during the 15th century, Nicotiana acquired a reputation of being a ‘holy herb’ and ‘God’s remedy’, having a therapeutic medicinal benefit to most bodily ailments such as catarrh, cold, fevers and digestive issues. More recently in 1991, those associated with nicotine lacked the most relationship with neuropsychiatric diseases.

The first published illustration of Nicotiana tabacum by Pena and De L’Obel, 1570-1571

Paul A. Newhouse & John R. Hughs 1991, The role of nicotine and nicotinic mechanisms in neuropsychiatric disease, British Journal of Addiction, Wiley Online Library, viewed 20October 2019

Anne Charlton 2004, Medicinal uses of tobacco in history, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda MD, USA, viewed 20 October 2019

Benedict R. O’G Anderson 2001, Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia, Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program Cornell University Ithaca, New York, viewed 20 October 2019

Simon Chapman 1995, Smokers: why do they start- and continue?, World Health Forum, Viewed 20 October 2019

Mimi Nitcher, Mark Nitcher, S. Padmawati, M.Darnardono, N. Ng & Y. Parbandari, Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia 2009, Tobacco Control volume 18, Issue 12, BMJ Journals, viewed 20 October 2019

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