Designing in partnership with Vital Strategies and the community of Banjarmasin was a experience in cross-cultural, interdisciplinary collaboration that required observation and negotiation both with the local community and global stakeholders.
The Not for Profit organisation Vital Strategies, work with social and environmental issues in local settings to reflect on major global issues. The collaborative campaign that we been involved on revolves around the growing problem of tobacco consumption in Indonesia, in particular amongst the youth of Banjarmasin. Our first hand observations combining primary and secondary research allowed us to gain a sense of how the cultural history and economic state of tobacco itself has influenced the popularity of tobacco consumption in Indonesia today.
Observational Documentation of Day in Banjarmasin (Group Manggis, 2018)
Concept Development: A Response to our Observations
Our brief required us to ‘add an element to the junkung’. We were wary of making changes to the existing colour and vibrancy of the boats as their wooden structures are ornately and decoratively painted. Instead, we observed the potential of the acil acil hats, as distinctive features of the river boats, and a key space to be seen from afar and above. Our project aims to hero the women behind one of the most iconic aspects of Banjarmasin culture; engage with the youth; start a conversation about healthy living; all whilst spreading the word and building excitement for our Friday festival. Inspired by the generosity and enthusiasm of the local youth we’ve met in our short time here, our project is a response to the integral collaborative spirit of Banjarmasin.
Primary research surrounding our task consisted predominantly of formal and informal interviews. In preparation for the event we surveyed two key stakeholders: the student workshop participants, and the acil-acil. At the Sunday morning markets, and with the help of some local friends, we found that the acil-acil were enthusiastic towards the sketched prototypes we showed them; they were excited about the hats being free, and even began choosing which design they liked most.
Informal interviews with our student workshop participants brought about two crucial amendments to our plan. The first of which was to extend the hours of the workshop to accommodate for more high school students, which alleviated a lot of the stress we had about not having enough participants. The second revision came about in response to a few of our friends being unsure of their design and painting abilities and participation in the workshop. To remedy this, we created a template with several template and design ideas, as well as clear, translated instructions to aid clarity and accessibility. Furthermore, to accommodate for the collaborative painting of the hats to to go as smoothly as possible, we prepped the hats with a base coat. This acted as a guide of where the writing would sit and a inner circle for the workshop participants to paint their design within.
The Design Process:
We sourced 70 hats, paint, drop sheets, brushes and snacks. The choice of paint was chosen through a process of elimination and prototyping. We tested to see how quickly it would dry, if it was water soluble and how strong the fumes were. We decided that the design would be in a centralised circle with hashtags on the outer rim. Each individual participant would have the freedom of creating their own design within the central circle to create uniformity. On the outer rim the hashtags would be placed and the only black feature for clear visibility.
When speaking with people potentially joining the workshop, found that some weren’t as confident with painting their own design, thus we created a simple guide with examples and instructions for the people attending. We aimed to make this predominantly visual and easily transferable so to cut down difficulties encountered by a the language and encourage people passing by to get involved.
We decided on the location of the watch tower (Menara Pandang) for its central location, communal ground floor space, and open area; being easily visible to people passing along the river. This public space also allowed us to capture the public’s attention, raise awareness of our anti smoking message before the event, and also building anticipation. We also designed a social media flyer to promote the event on platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp which are popular in Banjarmasin. The willingness of the community and the contacts we made over the past two weeks allowed the word to be spread quickly and resulted in a successful day.
As a result of the connections we made during our stay in Banjarmasin we were able to run a community based workshop. The numbers of helpers created a time efficient way of painting the hats. All 70 hats were completed by early afternoon and ready for the dress rehearsal. We aimed to make the painting workshop into an ‘event’ where a mutual cross cultural trust could be reached and established. As is emphasised in Tom Boellstorff’s words: “The need to establish trust in order to develop a stable relationship is universal… developing trust is an issue that has to be resolved in any multicultural collaboration”.
We aimed to do this through the act of invitation and creation where the action of painting – a non verbal activity created a platform to break down barriers of cultural difference and create a channel of communication. This opening we used to promote healthy living and the anti-smoking notion. The hats were designed for longevity with the hope that they will be worn well after the event. The paint selected is waterproof to assist in giving the hats further durability. The bright and uniquely hand-painted hats are made with care and are the antithesis to the tobacco advertisement commercial and sensationalised images. The hats promote a communal, celebratory image.
The impact of the hat event went beyond the day as we were delighted with the turnout of our local friends, UTS student, government staff, vital strategies members, and a number of the public. This impact was made threefold as it generated interested in the festival, a visit from a local news team, and the Health Department meant greater publicity of the anti-smoking message. The public response and willingness to be involved and welcome us, made the experience an enriching cross-cultural collaboration, and a testament to the warm spirit of Banjarmasin. In this light, we endeavoured to tackle a global phenomenon through a local initiative.
The unique and iconic structure of the floating markets are integral to Banjarmasin’s historical and cultural identity and embody their proud culture. The markets thrives in creating a communal social hub this fabricated a platform heightened by their ability to move up and down the central river. The care and handcrafted additions to the traditional hats, combines the traditional past and a message of healthy living for the future. We hope it will continue to exist, spreading a positive anti-tobacco message as it moves up and down the flowing heart of Banjarmasin, well after the event.
Watch a short video of the workshop here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BeDHkMuA4YI/?taken-by=galeribanjarmasin
Chadra, S. (2017) Suwandi Chandra Photography. Floating Markets, Banjarmasin. Available at: http://www.suwandichandra.com/project/banjarmasin-south-kalimantan [Accessed 14th January, 2018]
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