POST D: The Art of Painting in Indonesia

Painting is one of the world’s oldest forms of art and is prevalent all over the world. Indonesia is an artistically diverse archipelago that has held art at its soul for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest, pre-historic cave paintings in the world were discovered in the caves near Maros in the southern island of Sulawesi around 50 years ago and have now been dated using uranium decay levels to be over 39,900 years old (Thomson 2014).

The island of Bali is where painting has been highly developed over the years and artists from here are famous for their paintings. Balinese paintings have been rooted in Balinese culture but have also been heavily influenced by the various countries that have been affiliated with Indonesia over time. Such as India, before the 19th Century, from where, “artistic and religious traditions were introduced… over a thousand years ago through the prism of ancient Javanese culture (Vickers 2012).” This is why many Balinese paintings are a combination of Hindu-Javanese folklore, mythology and, religious and communal life. Traditional Balinese paintings are noteworthy for their, “highly vigorous yet refined intricate art which [resemble] baroque folk art with tropical themes (Antique Java, Indonesian painted wood temple n.d.).”

Further, into the 19th Century, the Dutch colonised Indonesia. At this time, more Western influences came into Indonesian art. Raden Saleh, an Arab-Javanese painter was the pioneer of modernist Indonesian art. He was heavily influenced by the Romanticism art movement and also expressed his cultural origins through his paintings. He created one of Indonesia’s most famous paintings, Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro (The Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro) as a response to Dutch artist Nicolaas Pieneman’s The Submission of Prince Dipo Negoro to General De Kock, which, in his belief, inaccurately depicted the true events of the scene (Effendy n.d.).

R Saleh, Penangkapan P Diponegoro 1957.jpgPenangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro by Raden Saleh (Effendy n.d.)

In the 20th Century, around the 1920s and 1930s, Indonesia started displaying more patriotism. Since the Romanticism movement was inherently Western, Indonesians believed they should not continue to develop it into their painting practice. Artists like Ida Bagus Made and Basuki Abdullah emerged during this time and drew their inspiration from the natural world. Further into the 1940s, Indonesian artists started combining Western techniques with Southeast Asian imagery. Later in the 1960s, artists started to embrace abstract expressionism and weaved Islamic themes and content into their paintings. This was also a time where art started to become political, but the political inclinations soon faded out as they were assumed to harbour communist affinities (Wright 1994).

3329ee1c910dc02e706b914cb967e919_w522.jpgJelekong’s painters can handle a range of subjects that find favour with buyers around Indonesia (Adriansyah 2013)

In 1965, Odin Rohidin, painter and former dramatic actor, pioneered painting in Jelekong, a sub-district of Baleendah in Bandung. Since its beginning, Jelekong has become a painting village whose residents, ranging from 10 to 55 years of age, utilise a multitude of techniques to visualise their ideas. The many paintings created here are marketed domestically and also exported overseas. Further, “Quite a few Jelekong painters have participated in exhibitions in Berlin, Germany, the Netherlands, Dubai and other countries in the Middle East (Adriansyah 2013).”

It can be garnered that Indonesia has had a long and diverse history of paintings, evolving from pre-historic times through to contemporary representations that find favour all over the world, and that art is still held in high regard by many Indonesians today.



Adriansyah, A.2013, ‘West Java’s village of painting’, viewed 15 February 2017, <>.

Antique Java, Indonesian painted wood temple n.d., viewed 16 February 2017, <>.

Effendy,R. n.d., ‘On Appropriation’, viewed 16 February 2017, <>.

Thomson, H. 2014, ‘Rock (Art) of Ages: Indonesian Cave Paintings Are 40,000 Years Old’, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Vickers, A. 2012, Balinese Art, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon, VT, USA.

Wright, A. 1994, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press.

POST C: The Traditional Textile Industry in Indonesia – An Interview

As someone from an illustration and graphic design background, when I met with the opportunity to learn about the textile industry – a design industry I am not familiar with – from someone with a strong background in textile design in Indonesia, I immediately took up the chance. Mr M.N. Subramanian, current Senior President and Managing Director of PT. Five Star Textile Indonesia, has well over 40 years of experience working in the textile industry in a number of countries such as the USA, India, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.  He has worked for a few years in Surabaya, and has been working in Bandung for the past 6 years.

sadfgjhyukj.pngExamples of lace and embroidery work in PT. Five Star Textile Indonesia (Sridharan 2017)

I asked Mr Subramanian about the traditional textile industry and whether it is being overshadowed by contemporary textile companies, such as Unkl347, in Indonesia’s increasingly contemporary milieu. He immediately responded that there is, “no doubt the modern textile clothing industry is gaining popularity, but it is no threat to the traditional textile manufacturing and markets in Indonesia (2017, pers. comm., 27 January).” Steadfastly, he affirmed that traditional products cannot be replaced, though the commerciality of the contemporary textile/clothing scene may make some dents. Further, he went on to describe the differences between traditional textile manufacturing and contemporary textile units, saying, “The product range is different. In traditional manufacturing, the industry concentrates mainly on spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, and finishing.  The garment industries buy these products and make ready-made garments for final consumers,” and contrarily, “the newly formed contemporary textile units mostly make branded apparels for the final consumers selling in the retail shops. They mostly buy their raw materials like yarns, fabrics, etc. from the traditional textile companies (2017, pers. comm., 27 January).” He went on to say that contemporary branded items are usually more popular due to their premium prices and saleability.

Youth in Indonesia are now creating indie clothing lines, “that use international commercial culture as the visual vernacular of their designs (Luvaas 2008).” The clothes they design are sold at urban, youthful stores called distro and, “are some of the most popular brands among teenagers and university students (Luvaas 2008).” Mr Subramanian says that although the traditional and contemporary textile sectors seemingly run parallel to each other, they, “are actually interdependent and will co-exist (2017, pers. comm., 27 January),” since contemporary brands purchase their textiles from traditional textile companies.

Further, I wanted to ask Mr Subramanian about the technologies used in textile design and whether modern technologies and techniques are necessary to create prominent textile design. He proceeded to take me on a tour of the PT. Five Star Textile Indonesia factory to take a look at some of the technologies and equipment used.

IMG_8539.JPGemAARO technology from India (Sridharan 2017)

IMG_8560.JPGSaurer 4040 technology from Germany (Sridharan 2017)

Emphasis is placed on design, and the ideas and innovations generated are arguably the most important aspect of textile design. Mr Subramanian stated, “Computerized modern technology only helps in developing such ideas into designs faster (2017, pers. comm., 27 January),” as modifications can be easily made, as per the customer’s wishes. Traditional methods, on the other hand, take many days to modify, which can irritate some customers, making them impatient and disinterested. Mr Subramanian disclosed, “Speed brings business due to modern technology so that we can retain customers.” He also disclosed that his factory in Bandung exports embroidered textiles to around 26 countries all over the world.

This interview helped me open my eyes to the textile industry and allowed me to gain further respect for traditional textile practices and companies. As can be concluded, both the traditional textile industry and contemporary textile/clothing companies require the support of each other to function and are both valid and needed in society.


Luvaas, B. 2008, ‘Global fashion, remixed’, Inside Indonesia, 22 June, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

POST B: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Many people believe that the root causes of respiratory and lung problems stem from smoking, but there are a host of other causes that can lead to these health issues too. One such cause is the, “exposure to toxic smoke from traditional cooking practices (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016).” Established in 2010, and primarily located in, “Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016),” The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves aims to provide clean cookstoves to countries, eventually globally, in order to reduce the level of black carbon emitted into the atmosphere, reduce deforestation, and, most importantly, reduce household air pollution caused by traditional cooking practices which will save the lives of the many women and children exposed to the toxic smoke every day.

map.JPG(Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016)

This public-private partnership works with the social enterprise, The Paradigm Project, which is, “working to create sustainable social, economic and environmental value within developing world communities (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2012).” By 2020, The Paradigm Project aims to deliver and install 5 million clean cookstoves in developing countries across the globe.

Cooking using an open wood fire allows for the chemical components from the wood to be released into the surrounding space and atmosphere. Since the wood fires used for cooking are usually built indoors or within a closed/compact area, the particles and toxins from the smoke tend to cloud around the women and children nearby, kindling a host of health problems.

cookstove410.jpg(Bruce 2011)

The constituents of wood fire smoke include carbon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particle matter, methane, mould spores, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a number of aldehydes, oxygenated monoaromatics, and a multitude of other toxic and suffocating chemicals (Helmenstine 2017). Exposure to chemicals such as these lead to fatally chronic and acute health problems such as, “child pneumonia, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease, as well as low birth-weights in children born to mothers whose pregnancies are spent breathing toxic fumes from traditional cookstoves (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016).” The World Health Organisation notes that smoke exposure from wood fire cooking stoves is the, “fourth leading risk factor for disease in developing countries, and causes 4.3 million premature deaths per year (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016).”

ertyu.pngTwo examples of the clean cookstoves. Ethanol-powered on the left, and solar-powered on the right. (Clean Cooking Catalog n.d.)

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is comprised of a dedicated, interdisciplinary, racially diverse team who work together in order to keep the mission running smoothly and allowing for its growth. They are funded by, “grants and investments from governments, corporations, foundations, civil society, investors, and individuals (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016),” who support their work and want to help the Alliance grow. They have also partnered with, “more than 1,600 diverse partners from around the world including national and multilateral partners, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, investors, foundations, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, trade associations, and women’s cooperatives (Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016).”

As more of these environmentally friendly clean cookstoves, that are safer for the health of the women and children around them, continue to spread around developing countries across the world, smoke emissions will radically reduce and household air pollution will diminish as a current high contender of health problems.


Bruce, N. 2011, Wood smoke from cooking fires linked to pneumonia, cognitive impacts, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

Clean Cooking Catalog n.d., Stoves, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

Clean Cookstoves 2016, Focus Countries, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016, Health, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves 2016, Our Partners, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

Helmenstine, A.M. 2017, Smoke Chemistry, About Education, New York City, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2014, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves – The Paradigm Project, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

POST A: Political Cartoons in Indonesia

Political art is prevalent around the world and comes in many visual forms, such as paintings and cartoons. It is created usually as a comment on political corruption and inequalities in society as a result of the law. The design of these comics is born out of both the physical and cognitive political context surrounding the social zeitgeist of the time.

kompas_areyouoptimistic_040112.jpgCorruption, mafia, violence… (APSN 2012)

Indonesia gained a rapid bout of political consciousness around the last period of the Dutch Colonial Rule, “as a result of major social and economic changes and the impact of Western-style education and the ideas of reformist Islam (Alfian 1971).” After the publication of Herbert Feith’s Indonesian Political Thinking, Indonesians became exposed to and aware of, “a wide-ranging collection of writings and speeches by important Indonesian politicians and intellectuals (Jackson & Pye 1978).” This enabled Indonesians to become aware of and educated about the political activity in their country, allowing them to engage with politics through activism.

Of all the politically responsive works created around this time, cartoons were the most popular and distributable. G.M. Sudarta’s Oom Pasikom and Dwi Koendoro’s Panji Koming are two of Indonesia’s oldest political comics.

oom (1).jpg(Bahasa Indonesia 2007)

Oom Pasikom, a political and social cartoon established in 1967 aimed to make news humorous in order to not disturb the Indonesian people. The philosophy behind Sudarta’s cartoons, in his words, was to, “make those in government we criticise to smile, and make people smile to bring up their aspirations (Lent 2015).” Oom Pasikom was even adapted into a film in 1992 using live action and animation.

35-Tahun-Panji-Koming-e1413249865255-750x400.jpg(Kintakun Collection 2014)

Panji Koming, in Koendoro’s words encompasses, “anything of social, political significance (Lent 2015).” Oftentimes, Koendoro’s Panji Koming comic strips would not pass editorial review due to its sensitive themes. The name Panji Koming also tells the viewer what to expect from the comic strips. “Panji is an old Javanese title for mid-ranking royalty. Koming means stunted or small-minded in the Javanese language (Lent 2015).” Calling the titular character of the comic by this name allowed for Koendoro to associate people in elite positions with ignorance.

Political cartoons in Indonesia used to be about the topics of, “nationalism, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-capitalism (Iswahyudi 2013).” But now Indonesia is in the period called the Reformasi (Reform), post the colonialism, nationalism and communism. The political comics nowadays focus on, “criticizing the government, the parliament and the judicial institution (Iswahyudi 2013).”

Cartoons have been the perfect way for the Indonesian people to comment on their country’s politics as visual language is the easiest to understand and can utilise principles such as humour, satire, irony and sarcasm through pictorial metaphors and narratives. They also give way for, “creating collective consciences by people without access to bureaucratic or other institutionalized forms of political control (Jackson & Pye 1978).”



Alfian 1971, ‘Review: Review: “Indonesian Political Thinking”: A Review: Indonesian Political Thinking: 1945-1965 by Herbert Feith; Lance Castles’, JSTOR, no. 11, pp. 193-200, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Asia Pacific Solidarity Net 2012, Corruption, mafia, violence…, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Bahasa Indonesia 2007, STOP GLOBAL WARMING, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Cartoons Are Like Medical Records 2013, viewed 14 February 2017, <>.

Jackson, K.D. & Pye, L.W. 1978, Political Power and Communications in Indonesia, University of California Press, California.

Kintakun Collection 2014, 35 Tahun Panji Koming, viewed February 14 2017, <>.

Lent, J.A. 2015, Asian Comics, Univ. Press of Mississippi, Mississippi.