POST D – Glorious Tempe 

1200px-tempeh_tempe(Midori, 2006)

The UTS Lab B trip to Yogyakarta was a time of many new experiences for me. My first time in Asia. My first time in Indonesia. And my first experience of the wonderful local delicacy tempe. After this pivotal culinary experience, I decided to research the humble Indonesian staple and establish it’s history and origins.

Tempeh or tempe is a traditional soy product created through a process of fermentation and culturing which causes the soybean to congeal and set into a kind of cake. Tempe differs from tofu in that it does not originate from China, but rather from Indonesia (most likely on the island of Java). The earliest known reference to the soybean staple appears in the Serat Centhini, in 1815, but tempeh could have emerged as early as the 17th century as a byproduct of the Chinese tofu industry in Indonesia. Ong Hok Ham, a Chinese-Indonesian historian – proposes that early, primitive forms of tempeh were the product of excess soybeans from the tofu industry that grew pale fungi and were discovered to be edible (Ubud Food Festival, 2017). Some claim that tempe is in ‘an adaptation of tofu to the tropical climate of Indonesia’ (Diversity of Nature and Culture 2014). Though tofu and tempe are both whole soybean products they also differ in texture, flavor and nutritional value. Tempe has a firmer texture and an earthier flavor, and has higher dietary fiber and protein. Close second to meat and fish, soy (and by extension tempe) is one of Indonesia’s main sources of protein. Perhaps this is why it is known as ‘Javanese meat.’

sliced_tempeh_cropped(Amus, 2017)

Tempe ‘has it’s own place in the heart of every Indonesian’ and is eaten by itself or as a complementary side dish to meals that feature chicken, meat or fish (Diversity of Nature and Culture 2014). Often marinated in various different spices or herbs it’s relatively cheap but highly nutritious nature has made it an intrinsic part of the Indonesia culinary landscape. It is also popular in Japan, Europe and America.

Despite tempe’s status as an Indonesian, indigenous superfood, a dominant meal that ‘characterises  Indonesia, just as kimchi does for Korea or miso and nato does for Japan’ (Ubud Food Festival, 2017) as much as 70% of Indonesia’s soybeans are imported. Producing tempe locally is still problematic because of environmental concerns surrounding tempe production. Production requires plenty of water and energy, and these waste products are often disposed of in rivers or sewage which pollutes the environment. As an affordable and nutritious food staple, many Indonesians are pushing for strategic government investment into the development of a strong tempe production network – especially given concerns about food security with the Southeast Asia region. Ever since the 2007 Indonesia riots and protests in response to a food crisis which saw the cost of staples such as rice and soybeans spike dramatically, Indonesian policymakers have endeavored to ensure all citizens have access to healthy and affordable food (Inside Indonesia,  2013). Perhaps tempe could be the answer to these problems. As Professor Winarno notes, ‘Tempe holds a variety of developmental possibilities not only in the culinary field but also in the fields of medicine, the agricultural industry, and bioprocessing. Tempe is Indonesia’s unique treasure” (Ubud Food Festival, 2017).

Tempe and Tofu - Bali, Indonesia(Uncornered Market, 2017)


Amus, B. 2017, Sliced Tempeh, Epicurina, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

Diversity of Nature and Culture 2014, ‘Tempe’ Traditional Food From Indonesia, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2013, Feeding Indonesia, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Midori, S. 2006, Traditional Tempeh, Wikimedia, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

Tasty Indonesian Food 2017, How to Make Tempe, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Ubud Food Festival 2017, Indonesian Superfoods: Tempe, viewed 14 February 2017, <;.

Uncornered Market. 2017, Tempe and Tofu, Uncornered Market, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

POST B – Icelandic Youth Against Drugs  

trainspotting(Trainspotting, 1996)

In the film Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, Renton provides this sage advice ‘You’re an addict. So be addicted, just be addicted to something else.’ (Trainspotting 2, 2017) This is more or less the philosophy adopted by Harvey Milkman and Gudberg Jónsson, psychology researchers who represent a public health movement centered on countering adolescent substance abuse.

Milkman began his research into behavioural addiction when he was an intern in a New York Psychiatric Hospital, in the early 1970’s. His research explored the idea that human beings were not addicted exclusively to a particular drug, but rather to fluctuations in their brain chemistry, and that people’s choice of either heroin or amphetamines was dictated by how they chose to manage stress (by numbing it or confronting it). “People can be addicted to drink, cars, money, sex, calories, cocaine – whatever,” says Milkman. “The idea of behavioral addiction became our trademark” (Mosaic Science, 2017).

In this photograph taken on November 3,(Lopez, 2015)

Milkman hypothesized that people could be on the threshold for substance abuse before they had even come into contact with drugs such as heroin – that coping mechanisms were personal and hardwired, a predisposition to seek out activities that would alter brain chemistry in a specific way. So Milkman proposed a possible solution – “why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs, about people getting high on their own brain chemistry?” (Mosaic Science, 2017)

Milkman and Gudberg met in Iceland in 1991, and sparked the beginnings of this movement in the form or a residential drug treatment center for adolescents, in a small town called Tindar. Essentially Milkman and Gudberg’s philosophy in Iceland is very simple – provide teenagers with natural high alternatives to drugs and crime.

Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. Now Icelandic teens are amongst the most healthy adolescents living in Europe, with the percentage of teenagers who consume alcohol, cannabis, and cigarettes on a daily basis plummeting between 1998 and 2016 (Youth In Europe, 2017).

The simple yet effective strategy Iceland has committed to (known as ‘Youth in Europe’) focuses on providing ‘life-skills training’ (teaching self-awareness, communication skills, and positive thinking) as well as providing teens with an outlet of some kind to help them release stress and feel a sense of community. Teenagers don’t enter the program under the premise of treatment, but of being taught any skill or sport they want to learn: from music to martial arts.

“The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says (Mosaic Science, 2017).

1484684179187-173-iceland-04(Immi, 2017)

Iceland has now integrated its municipalities into a system that benefits the physical and mental health of millions of its young citizens. However, despite the success of the measures taken in Iceland – the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have caught on yet. Could similar systems be used in Australia, or Indonesia, where the war on drugs has taken a two-pronged approach ‘targeting both supply and demand’ rather than approaching the root of the problem? Perhaps such an initiative could enable Australian and Indonesia to look beyond ‘broad-based education campaigns, increased powers for the judiciary and a high-tech crime-fighting capability’ and take a closer look at the basic human needs and instincts that fuel substance abuse (Inside Indonesia, 2007).


Immi, D. 2017, Iceland Teen Substance Abuse, The Atlantic, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2007, Youth Heroin Use, Jakarta, viewed 12 Feb 2017, <;.

Lopez, G. 2015, Methadone Addiction, Vox Media, viewed 13 February 2017, <;.

Miramax, 1996. Trainspotting, Outtake, viewed 12 February 2017, <;.

Mosaic Science 2017, Iceland Knows How to Stop Teen Substance Abuse But The Rest Of The World Isn’t Listening, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

T2 Trainspotting 2017, Motion Picture, TriStar Pictures, Edinburgh.

Youth In Europe 2017, Youth In Europe – Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, viewed 14 Feb 2017, <;.

POST A – The Beautiful Becak

becak-in-a-line1(Katherine, 2013)

A back to front Rickshaw, a reverse Tuk Tuk, closer to a warped rickshaw than a Bajaj, the Becak is a delightful mode of transport and a curious design object which occupies a special place in Indonesian culture, history and design.

The ubiquitous Indonesian interpretation of the cycle rickshaw, Becaks consist of a front facing passenger seat and a main cycle behind. A Becak will fit two passengers comfortably and offers a protective canopy that shades commuters from the sun and a plastic adjustable sheet to aid against rainstorms. Fares are negotiable (a euphemism for haggling) and are determined by traveling distance.

abang_becak_by_liemp(Asahjaya, 2011)

Once a common site in Jakarta these iconic rickshaws have been banned at various times in recent history within the city limits, due to their tendency to contribute to traffic jams (The Vine, 2012). But Yogyakarta and numerous other Javanese cities still boast healthy Becak populations and as Inside Indonesia notes:

‘It is Indonesia, and especially Java, that is the true heartland of the pedicab. The Becak is as much a motif and symbol of Indonesia as the silhouette of a wayang kulit puppet, or the smell of a clove cigarette’ (Inside Indonesia, 2002).

The three-wheeled Becak design varies from city to city, in colour scheme, upholstery, and mechanics but the basic concept is resoundingly popular across Indonesia. A likely descendant of 19th Century Japanese hand-pulled rickshaws the seating design of a Becak allows passengers to sit up front and have a comprehensive view of busy city roads, narrow streets and general metropolitan activity (Living in Indonesia, 2016). The attempts of various municipal governments to outlaw this humble form of transport have largely failed (excepting Jakarta) and there are still countless Becaks populating cityscapes and towns across Indonesia. Despite their enduring image Becaks were only introduced to Indonesia during WWII  – first appearing in Jakarta in 1936 (Top Indonesia, 2016). They were initially favored by Chinese traders – the name Becak originates from Be Chia (Hokkien Dialect for “horse carriage”). They were also known as ‘Roda Tiga’ (The Three Wheels).

trishaw(Liemp. 2017)

Becak drivers make up a considerable percentage of the informal work sector in Indonesia – a much maligned but intrinsic element of the national and local economy.

As Inside Indonesia notes ‘No one knows for sure how many people make up the informal sector in Indonesia. Yet it is a central part of life. But tensions between the city administration and the urban poor – particularly Becak (trishaw) drivers – are high’ (Inside Indonesia, 2002).

The informal sector (street vendors, drivers, and laborers) have little or no legal protection and legislation often does not appreciate or protect their status as vital contributors to community and economy. Despite their obvious charm and popularity amongst tourists, expats and locals Becak still face opposition on some political fronts. Let’s hope that Indonesian municipalities follow Yogyakarta’s example and accept the Becak as an ‘unacknowledged slice of the city community [that] is actually its heart’ (Inside Indonesia, 2002).


Asahjaya. 2011, Becak, Asahjaya’s Place, viewed 12 Feb 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2002, Whose City?, Jakarta, viewed 10 Feb 2017, <;.

Katherine. 2013, Becak, Katherine and Bruno’s Adventures, viewed 10 February 2017 <;.

Liemp. 2017, Abang Becak, Deviant Art, viewed 9 February 2017, <;.

Living in Indonesia 2016, Traditional and Modern Public Transport in Jakarta, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

The Vine 2012, All About Indonesia #4: Modes of Transport – The Becak, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

Top Indonesia, 2016, Becaks, the traditional transportation in Indonesia, Indonesia, viewed 11 Feb 2017, <;.

POST C – Ari Bowo on Traditional Dance and Culture in Java

102921(Ballet Purawisata. 2017)

On my second day in Yogyakarta, Indonesia I decided to visit the Kraton, a palace which serves as the main seat of the Sultan of Yogyakarta and a focus of traditional cultural activity in Java. Still wide-eyed and in the grip of culture shock I arrived in time to witness an abridged version of the Ramayana Ballet – an epic Sanskrit saga told through traditional Javanese dance. When the performance ended I walked around the palace grounds in a daze, processing the beauty and energy of the performance, and stumbled upon Ari’s community studio.

Ari is a traditional craftsman and dancer, part of a community of families whose lives are dedicated to working as craftsmen, artists, and dancers in service of the sultan. Ari studied dance for 12 years under a master dance teacher of Yogyakarta, who introduced Ari to competitive dancing but also taught him how to “begin to introduce the beautiful aspect of life into dancing.”

Dance to Ari is “the most beautiful art that I have ever done and that I ever will.”

dsc_5519(Vagabond Images. 2016)

After his training, he continued dancing – and endeavored to “understand the connection between dancing and life – as a spiritual subject.”

“We try to relate to the atmosphere around us, how we can be honest to self and how comfortable we are when we try to relate to lots of different people. How we can use this emotion in dance to begin to accept things.”

Ari explained elements of Ramayana to me, particularly the binary conflict between protagonist and antagonist, good and evil, Rama and Ravana, which can be seen as an allegory of the Rama’s internal struggle between elements of his personality.

“If there is nothing good there is nothing bad and this is a good way to teach us how to face ourselves and understand parts of ourselves.”

Ari also spoke about beauty in Ramayana, and the importance of masks in representing ‘the surface of the person.’

sendratariramayana(Adam, 2014)

“we should see beautiful things from the inside – beauty is not what they [the dancers] wear but about the movement.”

Sound is also intrinsic to expression in Ramayana, accompanying the transfixing music of gamelan, dancers often wear bells or chimes on their ankles to signify the entrance of giants or demons into the narrative. Characters that are ‘good’ tend to be quiet or silent (Inside Indonesia, 2007).

‘These two sides help understand self’ says Ari ‘but never expect to be a perfect person. It is about how we can feel the process of being self.

Ari decided to stop dancing because, though he enjoyed sharing energy with people through performance, he felt there were not enough positions available for young dancers. His fear was that Javanese dance culture might be lost if the younger generation were not given such opportunities.

“I love this culture and this tradition so personally, that I can’t imagine nobody doing it anymore.”

After much discussion, Ari and I settled upon the word catharsis to explain his experience of dance. Javanese dance is physical and spiritual, traditional and vibrant and enables dancers to respect their ancestors, understand themselves and communicate this energy or feeling to others.

On preserving culture Ari had this to say – “Some people do not want to accept culture that has nothing to do with their own belief. You need to understand the meaning inside a culture or a religion – and not practice on the surface. In Indonesia, but especially in Java – culture and dance is way to communicate with another spirit. We use connections to create beauty.”

prambanan-ramayana-ballet-dance-33(Royal Ambarrukmo, 2017)


Adam, A. 2014, Ramayana Ballet, Antonie’s Travel, viewed 13 Feb 2017, <;.

Ballet Purawisata. 2017, Ramayana Ballet, Magnificant Ramayana Ballet, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

Inside Indonesia 2007, The Theft of Sita, Melbourne, viewed 12 Feb 2017, <;.

Royal Ambarrukmo. 2017, Sendratari Ramayana, Ambarrukmo, viewed 12 February 2017, <;.

Vagabond Images. 2016, Amazing Ramayana Ballet of Java, Vagabond, viewed 10 February 2017, <;.

Project Kambing

In Central Java, Indonesia in early February 2017 the NGO ‘Vital Strategies’ launched the anti-smoking campaign “Tunjukkan Warna Aslimu”, (“Show Your True Colors”) in the village of Kali Code, in Yogyakarta. UTS Sydney sent a team of design students to Yogyakarta to take part in this campaign and support the NGO by creating their own miniature community projects within Kali Code. From this collaboration, our team ‘Project Kambing’ was created.

Kali Code’s early murals, photographed from the bridge above.

Our project began with a briefing with ‘Vital Strategies,’ which also presented a chance to brainstorm project ideas. During this meeting, we established that our project outcome would need to meet 4 key criteria.

1.       Benefit the community of Kali Code
2.       Be practical and tangible
3.       Be visual and creative
4.       Feature a clear and visible anti-smoking message.

Having only visited the village briefly, many of our initial ideas were not site specific or well suited to the needs of the Kampung (village). However, we had observed that the riverside promenade area was incredibly hot and uncomfortable to stand on for extended periods. This lack of protection from the sun discouraged some of the residents from coming down to socialize and play. We settled on a plan for a shade structure which we hoped would enable the community to enjoy the space.

Manon and Karla, with help from Kali Code villagers, setting up a demo shade.

Our brainstorming technique involved Manon and I generated a variety of ideas at rapid fire and Rachel and Yilin quietly establishing which were practical. Many early ideas involved a fan like structure as well as a Becak inspired design which would be adjustable and foldable. These first sketches were accompanied by numerous ambitious side projects (herb gardens, play equipment, hopscotch) which, during our budget meeting with ‘Vital Strategies’ we were able to whittle down to something modest and achievable. We decided to focus purely on creating shade structures which would be secured to the existing riverside metal plant frames. By painting an anti-smoking message on the top of these shade structures we hoped to fulfill the wishes of both the village and the NGO.

We further refined our shade idea on site during the second visit to Kampung Kali Code and it became clear that our design needed to be user centred and site specific – any structure that wasn’t durable, flexible and suited to the environment would become obsolete, or worse inhibit the residents from using the space to carry out daily activities. Tarp, for example, is often used in Australia due to its lightweight and durable properties. But an evening of Indonesia monsoon weather can easily damage a tarp structure. Inspired by local materials, we decided bamboo was best suited for our purposes and we settled on a simple bamboo blind design which would roll over the top of the metal structure.

indo_8Creating stencils out of masking tape for each of the sun shades.

It also became apparent that compromise and adaptability were central to working within Kali Code. There were ideas the village head would immediately veto due to impracticality, materials were not always readily available and weather inhibited progress. These are all challenges that designers face on a daily basis, but which were amplified by the time constraints of our project and the foreign environment.

Team Kambing putting final touches to the anti-smoking imagery on the shades.

Durable and sustainable local materials such as bamboo were not difficult to find and soon we were prototyping our first blind and beginning the process of painting while Manon set to work collaborating with ‘Vital Strategies’ and the village head to create an anti-smoking design for the blinds. The reaction of local villagers to their ‘time bomb’ design illustrates the power of visual communication in overcoming cultural and language barriers.

In the planning, construction and set up of the structures we received assistance and collaborated with numerous people. Vital Strategies acted as valuable translators, mediators, and advisors for our project, while the villagers of Kali Code provided us with crucial feedback, technical help and direction.

indo_6Washing brushes and rollers after painting our sunshades in Kali Code with Nanda (middle) and friend.

The success of our project depended upon our ability to effectively collaborate with various different stakeholders. As undergraduates, this was the first time we had been involved in a professional project and we had to learn how to navigate the interests of the various organizations involved. Our finished product is a testament to our ability not only to work effectively within an interdisciplinary group but also to engage in lively communication, interaction and collaboration with ‘Vital Strategies’ and the tight-knit community of Kali Code to create an effective and holistic outcome.