POST C: Incorporation of Culture in Indonesian Art Forms

Like the nation itself, Indonesia’s art and design can be considered diverse and culturally rich, with culture being the main element of Indonesian Art. In order to develop a more profound understanding of how culture is incorporated into Indonesian art forms, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liana Hardiyanto, a 34-year-old woman who was born and raised in an Indonesian community where art is respected and deemed as an important medium to illustrate Indonesian culture.

When conducting the interview with Liana, one thing she constantly delved upon was the importance of culture, in not only her life, but also of those apart of the Indonesian community living in Indonesia, as well as other foreign countries. In saying this, she aspires to pass on all the cultural knowledge and practices which she has learnt growing up, to not only “her children, but also to the following generations” (2015, pers. comm, 26 April). As “rich” as Indonesia is [like Liana says], its culture is “defined by arts, religious beliefs as well as customs passed from one generation to another” (Unknown, 2001, pp.134).

The uniqueness of Indonesia’s art and design originates in “the harmonies, blend of intelligent life, wisdom and freshness” of the artwork (Unknown, 2008). With Indonesian art and handicrafts, like batik and ikat, becoming more prominent, “culture itself has become art” (Jones, 2013, pp.10), allowing artists to use local materials such as wood, metal, clay and stone.

Through the continuation of the interview, Liana (2015, pers. comm, 26 April) emphasizes Batik as one of Indonesia’s culturally rich and decorative art forms, which has begun to be recognized in western cultures. Batik, is a method of creating intricate patterns by dying cloth. To resist the dye, hot wax is applied to the cloth using a canting. Once dyed and the wax is removed, those areas remain as its original colour, in turn creating vibrant yet decorative art which often depicts visuals of Indonesian culture and environment.

In 2000, Liana moved to Melbourne from Jakarta in hopes of further pursuing her studies. During the 5 years of studying Food Science at RMIT University, Liana found that “Australian art forms were very different to those she grew up learning and observing in Jakarta”(2015, pers. comm, 26 April). As technical and abstract as Australian art may be, it very much “lacks a traditional element, which is very prominent in Indonesian art”(2015, pers. comm, 26 April). She further observed that “where Australian art focuses on aesthetics and technique, Indonesian art focuses on precision and vibrant colours” (2015, pers. comm, 26 April).

A local Surabaya woman precisely and carefully painting at Indonesia’s largest Art Market (Photo courtesy of Djoko Kristiono)

This interview gave an extended insight into the importance of culture within Indonesia’s rich art forms, in turn becoming one of Indonesia’s true national riches.


2015, pers. comm, 26 April (Liana Hardiyanto)

Jones, J, 2013, Culture, Power, and Authoritarianism in the Indonesian State: Cultural Policy across the Twentieth Century to the Reform Era, Brill Publication, book, pp.10

Kristiono, D, 2011, Indonesian Art Market Opening in Surabaya, Demotix, viewed 30 April 2015, <;

Primary Society and Environment, 2001, R.I.C Publications, book, pp.134

West Java Cultural Art, 2008, Indonesia Cultural and Art, viewed 30 April 2015, <;

POST D: Transvestites ‘Warias’ in Indonesia

Within Indonesian culture, some aspects are not deemed as ‘diterima’ or acceptable in certain societies. Transvestites ‘Warias’ are considered outcasts and are often looked down upon by the Indonesian Islamic society. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with about 86% of Javanese people being practicing Muslims. Although Javanese culture is seen as quite open and laid back, Islamic law still disapproves of people, like Warias, who choose to divert themselves from the accepted norm (Brooks, 2012). Due to their decision to divert themselves from the accepted norm, Warias are not welcome to joined Islamic schools, where Islamic prayer and rituals are practiced (Brooks, 2012). It is due to this diversity that Warias are often outcast by their families, schools and other Islamic organisations or communities which they may be a part of. In attempt to address these issues and give Warias a safe place to worship and practice their culture and beliefs, an Islamic Boarding School for Javanese transvestites called Senin-Kamis School was abolished (Brooks, 2012). Run by Maryani, a 50-year-old transvestite, this school is not only a place of worship and learning, but a place where Warias are accepted and comfortable to be themselves without fear of being judged or belittled (Brooks, 2012).

Maryani and other Warias praying in Senin-Kamis (Photo courtesy of Terje Toomistu, 2011)

Most Warias in Indonesia are prone to violence and poverty, meaning, in most instances, they are unable to get a respectable, high paying job, instead their “job opportunities are generally limited to prostitution, working as street entertainers, working in beauty salons, acting on television or playing caricatures of themselves” (Brooks, n.d.). According to Advocacy Group Lembaga Swadaya Masyarakat Keluarga Besar Waria Yogyakarta (LSM Kebaya) “16% of Warias work as street performers,  47% as sex workers with a minimal 1% of Warias being teachers or college students” (Putri, 2014). With their vibrant voices and their love for Javanese romance songs, Waria street performers perform on streets and at traffic intersections for money. Through both the kind and disrespectful people whom they meet on a daily basis, they tend make 80,000 rupiah ($9) on a good day (Brooks, n.d.).

Two Warias who work as street entertainers to earn money (Photo courtesy of Oliver Purser, 2012)

Maryani mentions that Warias will be able “to blend in and be accepted into society” (Maryani, 2012) but this serves as an obstacle for them as they are constantly glared at and mocked by people of society. Even with such negativity around them, Warias still believe that God is the only one who is able to be judge them and through their belief, “influence their peers to worship God” (Brooks, 2012). Many Warias, like Maryani, hope to be able to live their life accepted in their society and culture, “like a normal woman would” (Maryani, 2012). Reference: Brooks, H, 2012, Vice Guide to Travel: The Warias, VICE, Documentary (YouTube), viewed 27 April 2015, <; Brooks, H, 2012, Warias, Come out and Plaaayayay: Muslim Indonesian Transvestites are Persecuted but Beautiful, VICE, viewed 28 April 2015, <; Dominguez, D, 2011, Waria:The Lives, Struggle & Issues raised by Yogyakarta’s Transgender Community,, viewed 28 April 2015, <; Putri, D, 2014, Talk to Her: Waria in Indonesia, SPARKsummit, viewed 29 April 2015, <;

POST B: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge

The Bill and Miranda Gates Foundation have introduced a program called The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program. In 2011, this program introduced a design initiative, The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC), which brought forward sustainable sanitation solutions in developing countries, like India and Kenya.

It is evident that improved sanitation holds great importance and is majorly required in such developing countries. It is estimated that approximately 40% of the world’s population, 2.5 billion people, have little to inadequate sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation is a major cause of diarrhea in children living in developing countries, causing major bacterial diseases, in turn, 700,000 children perish each year due to diarrhea (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, 2015).

A toilet facility built by a public-private partnership in hopes of improving urban sanitation in Nairobi, Kenya (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, 2015).

Based on Fundamental Engineering processes, grants have been “awarded to sixteen researchers around the world who are using innovative approaches for the safe and sustainable management of human waste” (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, 2015). In addition to this, other investments have been implemented to reinvent the toilet. Through these grants and investments, the foundation is able focus on issues, such as waste, which has the potential of long-term effects (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Overview, 2012).

The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge has the hope of designing a toilet which is able to remove human waste, making it profitable as it obtains valuable resources such as clean water, energy as well as nutrients. Loughborough University has developed a user friendly, fully operational household toilet system that transforms feces into biochar through hydrothermal carbonization of fecal sludge” (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, 2015).

Fully operating household toilet system created by Lougborough University, to transform feces into biochar (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, 2015).

In order to achieve this design initiative of reinventing the toilet, cost is taken into consideration, with the overall cost being less than US$0.05 cents per user, per each day (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, 2015). In doing so, this challenge demonstrates sustainable, yet financially profitable sanitation services which operate in urban areas in developing countries.

This challenge has already been implemented in many developing nations, like India. In 2013, through the collaboration of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Government of India and India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge was launched in India, in the long run this will support sanitation research as well as development projects which are conducted to extend affordable sanitation research to the more poorer communities (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, 2015). This challenge, in partnership with Gates Foundation and BIRAC, strive to reduce the mortality rate of women and children, and come to a reasonable and practical method of beating infectious diseases, while undertaking scientific and technical agricultural and nutritional advancements (Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, 2015).

Through funding provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and partnering sponsors, ‘The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program’ are able to set up a design initiative, The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. With its still ongoing progress, they hope to continue to introduce and bring forward practical and sustainable sanitation solutions, which in the long run, hope to improve the health and overall lifestyle of people living in developing countries.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2015, Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, viewed 22 April 2015, <;

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2015, Water,Sanitation & Hygiene, viewed 22 April 2015, <;

Gates, B Gates, M & Buffett,W, 2012, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene: Strategy Overview, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pp.7, viewed 23 April 2015, <;

POST A: How Design is Shaped by Social and Ecological Contexts

Over the years, people have become increasingly aware of how society has changed and continue to do so through design methods and initiative. Developing knowledge, around Indonesia’s social and ecological context, plays a key role in shaping design. New processes may be developed in order to address these social, political and environmental statements. Kandangan-based product designer, Singgih Kartono utilized these social and environmental context to design vintage, hand crafted radios. The Magno Radios are fabricated from local sustainable wood like rosewood, East Indian pine wood and Mahogany. In designing this radio, “Kartono envisioned the project as a way of boosting both forest and community regeneration in the region” (Josephmark, n.d.). In saying this, Kartono’s company, Magno Design, focuses on involving local residences in the crafting of these unique, hand-made items, while at the same time they focus on the long-term ecological goals. And it is because of this that only 80 trees are used, but in turn 10,000 more are planted in its place. Keeping this in mind, Kartono emphasizes his belief that “less wood, more work; cut less, plant more” (Design with Benefits, 2015), and with that it would boost the surrounding villages, socially and ecologically.

Youths planting trees to replace those that where used by Magno Design (Design with Benefits, 2015).

In social context, Magno Design provides a level of craftsmanship to the workers, allowing them to utilize this knowledge and continue with their daily lives in their home village, while at the same time continue to sustain their community. Many countries, like Australia and America, mass-produce electronics constructed out of metal and plastic, but Magno Design strives to steer clear of this and instead introduce a refreshing response to design through social and ecological context. It was due to this response that Kartono is able to use a low-tech material like wood to construct a “relatively high-tech” functioning radio, which relays sound (Dunn, 2014).

One of Singgih’s Magno Radios (Singgih, n.d.)

Wood is considered cheap, yet precious and demonstrates authentic use of natural, ecological material. Magno ensures that the wood is left unvarnished, but wood oil is applied to bring out the highlights of the wood grains, yet at the same time display its natural colours (Dunn, 2014). This ensures the wood remains in its natural state, thus presenting the handicraft in its natural form or context. The uniqueness of Kartono’s handcrafted designs is shaped by local context. Through the use of local and native materials, Magno Design ensures that both social and ecological contexts are taken into consideration when each item is being crafted. In saying this, this allows for social and economic stability, as it provides numerous jobs for local farmers, while at the same time provides workers with useful skills and knowledge in handicraft works, which they are able to than continue to demonstrate within their community.


Design with Benefits, 2015, Cut Less-Plant More, viewed 22 April 2015, <; Dunn L, J., 2014, Wooden

Radios, Bamboo Bicycles and Human Cocoons, Inside Indonesia, viewed 23 April 2015,<;

JosephMark, n.d., Magno Wooden Radio, Design of the World, viewed 22 April 2015, <;

Kartono, S., Magno Design, viewed 23 April 2015, <;