Post A: Exploiting Notions of Creativity and Empowerment

Recognised as one of Indonesia’s art hubs, Yogyakarta is home to over fifty art and cultural spaces (Bruhn 2015). With photography and film collectives, experimental music spaces, cultural studies centres and more, it is not difficult for artists (established or aspiring) to explore and find their ‘niche’ within this city. Alongside commercial success, these artists have the freedom to challenge authority in public spaces, but more importantly have the agency to create a gateway for social change.

“Working collectively in alternative spaces breeds a more organic understanding and attachment to a politics that challenges both capitalist and state orthodoxy” (Abbot, cited in Bruhn 2015).

However, it wasn’t always this way.

The DIY culture surrounding the art communities of Yogyakarta only arose from the 1990s amongst activists, sub-cultures and artists. In particular, a cultural activist organisation named Taring Padi was formed there in 1998 when the former president was overthrown by the student and people’s movement. Taring Padi fought for open democratic spaces in society, allowing art to be used as a tool for political expression and education for all (Taring Padi n.d.). To achieve this, they used live music as ‘artistic camouflage’ to spread their message and communicated to the people through big banners, performance art and their punk and rock ‘n’ roll lyrics (Indonesia Art Activism and Rock ‘n’ Roll 2002).

(Harmony gives strength: Weapons don’t overpower humanity, 1998)

As a cultural movement, ‘everything that we voice, all the yells that we holler we use a different form, that’s art’ (Indonesia Art Activism and Rock ‘n’ Roll 2002).

However, many tobacco companies are feeding into the arts scene, using tactics that allow themselves to be heavily rooted into Indonesian and Javanese youth and activist culture. The Indonesian tobacco company Sampoerna has linked itself as a sponsor to the concert series SoundrenAline.

SoundrenAline (The Beat 2019)
Line up for SoundrenAline with smoking warning (SoundrenAline 2019)

Its marketing activities have expanded into social media to influence the youth to associate smoking with music, creativity and self-expression. A clear example of this is their ‘Go Ahead Challenge’ which encouraged people to get involved in designing a limited edition A Mild cigarette package (Astuti, Assunta & Freeman 2018). The winner was a young Indonesian artist and his design features a red finger print, with the words ‘Go Ahead, be yourself & be brave!’ lining the interior packaging. This ‘creativity’ and ‘empowerment’ message was shared at the concert, along with the new limited-edition cigarette pack, and more than 65,000 Instagram posts marked with the A brand marketing hashtags were found (Astuti & Freeman 2018).

Considering the roots of design activism in Indonesia, and how it arose as an art movement for the people, this exploitation of idealised notions of creativity by the tobacco industry is far from fair. Thus, while it may be difficult to get governments to play a more dominant role in restricting tobacco advertising and sponsorship by enforcing already existing regulation, artists and creatives can utilise their practice and engagement with local communities to confront these contemporary concerns.

Stakeholder Map


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. 1.

Astuti, P.A.S. & Freeman, B. 2018, ‘Tobacco company in Indonesia skirts regulation, uses music concerts and social media for marketing’, The Conversation, 31 July, viewed 22 December 2019, <;.

Bruhn, K. 2015, ‘Art and Social Engagement in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: Ketjilbergerak and the Legacy of Taring Padi’, Seismopolite, 29 December, viewed 22 December 2019, <;.

Indonesia Art Activism and Rock ‘n’ Roll 2002, Monograph, House of the Red Monkey, Indonesia.

Taring Padi n.d., About Taring Padi, viewed 22 December 2019, <;.


Post C: Football Sponsors and Tobacco

Football is the most popular sport in Indonesia. Everywhere you look, children are wearing football jerseys, and teenagers are playing football. Many cigarette brands sponsor professional teams, and game coverage. For example, Djarum, an Indonesian Kretek manufacturer sponsored the top football league from 2005-2011, to the tune of over 6.5 million dollars in 2011. (AFF, 2010).

Ega, 24, is in his last semester of college, where he studies economic management majoring in human resources. While he admitted to trying cigarettes as a teenager, he never pursued tobacco because his father does not smoke. “I follow my dad.” Ega is a keen football player and a die-hard Cristiano Ronaldo fan. “He is big, strong and compact, he can jump very high!” I asked him how he would react if Ronaldo took up smoking, and interestingly, unlike most of the young men that football sponsors target, Ega claimed that he would not be impressed. “Even if my idol smoked, I would not think cigarettes were cool.” 

Ega, 24, from Yogyakarta.

Although his friends encourage him to smoke, Ega chooses not to because he knows about the health detriments and “I know I can save a lot of my money if I don’t”. Ega dreams of visiting Times Square when he graduates, and it’s clear that his strong self-efficacy influenced by his parents, and high level of education, is what gives him the strength over his friends to not take up tobacco use. “An individual’s evaluation that they have the physical capacity (to avoid tobacco) will enhance evasion” (Elshatarat, 2016). 

Ega believes that due to tobacco’s strong relationship with the football scene, the sport is not as healthy and beneficial as it should be. About half of his team smoke, and spectators are allowed to smoke, even on the indoor courts. “They (the football association) know it’s bad, but want the profit. It’s evil in a way.” I expressed how different sponsorship is in western countries, and how our sportspeople encourage the youth not to smoke, until Ega reminded me that we might not be so different after all. “It’s just like Liverpool though, they promoted Carlsberg, that’s a beer!” Talking to Ega made me realise that tobacco isn’t the only problem, it’s the media and the way sponsorships and advertisements prioritise profit, no matter where they are in the world. He gave me hope though; his intelligence and personal strength is admirable and I can soon see people like Ega inspiring the younger generation.

Spot the difference: An Indonesian Football team’s jerseys, with tobacco company Dunhill printed across the front, vs English Premier League team Liverpool’s jerseys with sponsor Carlsberg Beer.


AFF 2010, DJARUM INCREASE ISL SPONSORSHIP TO USD4.5 MILLION, Asean Football Federation, Indonesia, viewed 21 December 2019, <>.

Elshatarat, R., Yacoub, M., Khraim, F., Saleh, Z., & Afaneh, T. (2016). Self-efficacy in treating tobacco use: A review article. Proceedings of Singapore Healthcare25(4), 243–248.