Indonesian Culture & Parody {POST D}

“Human beings have typically produced a nested hierarchy of spatial scales within which to organise their activities and understand their world” (Harvey 2000).


The world we live in does not come with a guidebook on how to interpret its many intricacies of an anthropological nature (Boellstorf 2002). One way in which the complexities of human nature can be explored is through the use of parody. Parody, or satire, is defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary (2016) as “an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect” as in Toto’s 2012 parody of One Direction’s “What makes you Beautiful”, “JOKOWI DAN BASUKI” (with Eng Subs). This can also be extended to Sacha Stevenson’s humorous imitation of the Indonesian culture in “How to Act Indonesian” (2013). Both have used parody as a tool to comprehend, explore and make comment on the intricate nature of Indonesian society.

Toto (2012), a Jakartan local, uses parody to make comment on the state of affairs in Jakarta. For example,

“How come it’s always this trafficky?
It’s been so long, can’t the solvers be in hurry?
They said they were going to build an MRT
If I knew this
I would have moved to Bali
Instead I’m stuck in Semanggi”

In this stanza, he makes reference to the MRT. MRT refers to Jakarta’s monorail train for mass transportation; however, this is an incomplete development, as it is suspected that within the development fund there has been great corruption (Toto 2012). The pylons once intended for the MRT, now clutter the streets of Jakarta (Toto 2012). Semanggi, an area in Jakarta known for its shopping centres is notorious for its traffic jams (Toto 2012). He then goes on to exclaim, “My Jakarta, how come you are so cruel like this? (Toto 2012)” in reference to constant traffic jams, dirty streets and endless bribery.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.03.40 am.png
Still taken from Toto’s 2012 ‘Jokowi Dan Basuki’

Sacha Stevenson (2013), a Canadian national who has lived in Indonesia for 12 years also parodies Indonesia’s nuances in short Youtube videos, touching on some of the same issues as Toto. Some examples of this are: “Be creative with your driving” (pay off the officer when you’ve done something wrong); “Indonesians are very clean – make sure you mop and clean every day and dispose of your garbage in a “proper” manner” (poor garbage disposal methods); “If your employer doesn’t pay you enough, you may need to learn to steal in a socially acceptable way” (short changing); “It’s not just Indonesian people that hire people based on factors other than their competence but Indonesians are definitely more honest about it. You will find sexism, ageism and other illegal comments printed in the job postings.” (Stevenson 2013).

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.05.34 am.png
Still taken from Sacha Stevenson’s, How to Act Indonesian, 2013

While there is no guidebook on how to interpret the world, it is interesting to see the use of parody from two different perspectives with people of two very different backgrounds, both living in and experiencing Indonesia and all its idiosyncrasies.


Boellstorff, T. 2002, ‘Ethnolocality’, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 24-48.

Harvey, D. 2000, Spaces of hope, Berkeley: University of California Press

Oxford Dictionary 2016, Definition of Parody in English, viewed 11th April 2016,

Stevenson, S. 2013, How to Act Indonesian 1-4, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 10th April 2016,

Toto 2012, “JOKOWI DAN BASUKI” with Eng Subs – “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction [Parody], video recording, Youtube, viewed 10th April 2016,

Re:START Christchurch {Post B}

September 2010, Christchurch, New Zealand, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake was felt throughout the city (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). Only 5 months later, in February 2011, a second 6.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the city leaving behind it a trail of devastation including 185 deaths and a heavily damaged residential areas and CBD (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).

The losses were vast; more than half of Christchurch’s CBD, thousands of residential parcels, and immense stretches of underground infrastructure such as water, sewerage and storm water were extensively damaged or ruined (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). There were many planning issues in regard to moving forward, these included: what to rebuild, where to do so, and when (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).

In 2011, the Christchurch City Council was directed by the national government to develop a restoration plan for the central business district. The draft plan that resulted was delivered to the Earthquake Minister and in April 2012, he ordered CERA to form the Central City Development Unit and formulate a new blueprint plan (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).

Following design concepts, for a pedestrian friendly city, proposed by Danish architect Jan Gehl, Hon. FAIA in 2009, the plans proposed a greener more user-friendly city with a condensed center and a highly recognised built identity (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).


Also within that transition is a great deal of innovation and creativity (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). Out of necessity, following the February 22nd earthquake, the Re:START container mall was born to breathe new life into the devastated Christchurch central city (Re:START 2014). However, this would not be possible if it weren’t for the birth of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority created after the desolation of the two quakes (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). Re:START created by the cities Property and Building Owners group; it was these brains who realised that to wait for new buildings would discourage the return to the CBD, and people needed to be encouraged back to the city as soon as possible (Re:START 2014).


While the use of shipping containers for unconventional purposes are now commonplace both in Christchurch and around the world, at the time, the idea was quite innovative (Re:START 2014). The use of shipping containers used as shops meant that the CBD retail centre was established several years before it otherwise would’ve (Re:START 2014).


“Re:START was made possible with an interest free loan of $3,368,523  from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust and $3000,000 sponsorship from ASB (Re:START 2014).”


In future, Christchurch has foresight to rebuild and build resiliently (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). There is a heightened awareness of risk, the materials needed to rebuild, and the desire to influence outcomes, while climate change and geotechnical risks are being embraced by the city and regional governments when assessing potential infrastructure development (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).  The success of Re:Start has confirmed that even after devastation, in a place which has had 80% of its area demolished, retail can be re-established (Re:Start 2014). When people put their minds toward something, great things happen, just as Christchurch has pulled itself out of the rubble.


Re:Start 2014, 20140614_Restart_0216, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Re:Start 2014, 20140614_Restart_0223, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Re:Start 2014, 20140614_Restart_0230, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Re:Start 2014, Working together for a common goal, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Siembieda, W.J., Johnson, L.A. 2015, ‘Christchurch Recovers’, ABI/Inform Global, viewed 9th April 2016,




Dress: Modesty and Fluidity {Post A}

Walking through the streets and marketplaces of Indonesia today you’ll see women clad in layers of clothing no matter what the weather. All but heads, hands and feet are covered and in respect to Muslim women, even heads are concealed.

But looking back at historical artefacts such as Prambanan Temple, and Hindi temple whose construction began in 850 AD and Borobudur Temple, a Buddhist Temple whose construction began in 750 AD (Borobudur Park 2015), we see, preserved in the walls images on bas-relief (Lee 2010), an Indonesia with very distinctive differences to todays societal interpretation of modesty in dress.

Bas-relief  – Prambanan Temple (Barnes 1995)

The courts of central Java conserved many aspects of ancient culture, garb being one of them (Lee 2010). In the relief pictured above, we see bare breasted women with decorative body chains and jewellery adorning their chests. Heads are covered in ornamental headdresses and their lower half is covered by only a sheer ankle length skirt and opaque fabrics belted around the pelvis. Outside the courts however, common dress changed dramatically. From the 8th – 14th centuries, during the Hindu-Buddhist era, women’s dress was largely influenced by the Indian sojourners:


“their shoulders were bare, their chests were wrapped in a continuous piece of narrow fabric, and from the waist down they wore a sarong fashioned from unsewn cloth” (Lee 2010).


However, in the 14th and 15th centuries following the introduction of Islam and in turn in the 16th century, the arrival of Christians in Indonesia, it was encouraged for women to cover the upper cover the upper half of their body, manifesting in the adoption of jackets and sleeved blouses (Lee 2010).

Indo woman 2
Jogjakartan woman preparing local desserts

Coming to the 20th century in the 1970s, in Islam, we see the rise of conservatism. Although waves of conservatism have been seen before, this is the first time this religious shift brings about a new way of dressing for women whether in strict religious communities or not (Lee 2010). As this measure gained force, even a large population of Javanese women have assumed modest Arabic dress conventions, covering their hair and the majority of their bodies (Lee 2010).

Indo girls
Local girls in Salatiga, Central Java, Indonesia, wearing the Hijab

In Indonesia in the 1990s, the first Anti-Pornography and Porno-Action Bill was drawn up (Pausacker 2008). This Bill not only criminalises pornography, but also makes illegal:


“many kinds of theatre and dance performances, art, forms of dress (such as baring the shoulders and legs) and behaviour of individuals (such as kissing on the lips in public), displaying ‘sensual parts’ of the body or ‘erotic dancing’” (Pausacker 2008).


Apprehension was conveyed by critics about the bill as there was concern that it would “impede everyday life, their regional cultural practices and their freedom of artistic expression. (Pausacker 2008)”

Since the time of the Prambanan and Borobudur Temples, there has been a complete turn around in views on modesty. From bare breasts to barely exposed hands and faces Indonesia has seen the modesty of dress from one extreme to the next.


Barnes, R. 1995, The Yale Indo-Pacific collection 002116 Reliefs at Candi Lara Jonggrang at Prambanan, ArtStor, viewed 10th April,|search|6|All20Collections3A20prambanan|Filtered20Search|||type3D3626kw3Dprambanan26geoIds3D26clsIds3D26collTypes3D26id3Dall26bDate3D26eDate3D26dExact3D26prGeoId3D26origKW3D||9|

Borobudur Park 2015, Fact Sheet: Prambanan, viewed 9 April 2016,

Borobudur Park 2015, Fact Sheet: Borobudur, viewed 9 April 2016,

Lee, C. 2010 The Sarong Kebaya of Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Volume 4 – South Asia and Southeast Asia, viewed 25th March  2016,

Pausacker, H. 2008, Hot Debates, weblog, Inside Indonesia, viewed 30th March 2016,

*All images, unless otherwise stated were taken by the author.

HOUSE OF LAWE: empowering women through design {Post C}

The emancipation of women has been extensively recognised as a central goal in international development, in an interview with Fitria Werdiningsih from House of Lawe, we can see just one example of how the empowerment of women through financial liberty is aiding the goal of international development.

House of Lawe is a community social enterprise based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, that transform traditional hand-woven fabrics into functional products while aiming to contribute to the empowerment of women. All products are designed and produced in traditional Indonesian hand-woven fabrics, and sold both locally and internationally in the US and Japan. Not only are products sold for income, but House of Lawe also has a “Craft Class” initiative, which, is used as a learning centre for developing traditional hand-woven handicrafts.

While it is not a new phenomenon for women in Indonesia to contribute financially to their households, House of Lawe “aims to encourage more women to do so” (Werdiningsih, F. 2016, pers. Comm., 6 April). The workshops are aimed at “empowering women, by encouraging them to, and giving them the means to earn their own income” (Werdiningsih, F. 2016, pers. Comm., 6 April). By these processes, the women who are involved in House of Lawe, are able to contribute to their households financially, substantially improving the household nutrition and raising aspirations for their children’s education.

The conservation of traditional techniques is something that House of Lawe holds as very important to them. While they use new fabrics to create their products, they are also an environmentally conscious enterprise and aim to put measures in place to counteract their environmental impact of their products. One method in which they do this is through the craft classes they run. It is through these craft classes that they aim to teach to the participants the importance of recycling; to do this, their very first crafting module is ‘How to use leftover fabric in order to create economic value’. In this module, they use left over fabrics to make patchwork toys.

House of Lawe have two separate areas they dwell in – business and social. In terms of business, House of Lawe sources “ Lurik”, a traditional Javanese hand-woven fabric; this fabric is traditionally used only for clothing and traditional ceremonies, however, House of Lawe aim to promote the development of Lurik in order to surpass traditional uses and branch out into fashion accessories such as bags, wallets, pouches, home décor and even company merchandise. In regard to their social relationship, House of Lawe “work with local communities, sharing [their] knowledge of industry, business and handicrafts in order to elevate women. [They] share technical, marketing, and entrepreneurial skills.” (Werdiningsih, F. 2016, pers. Comm., 6 April)


House of Lawe 2015, Our Work 3, viewed 6 April 2016.

House of Lawe 2015, Conserving Tradition, Empowering Women, viewed 6 April 2016, 2016, Tracing the History of Lurik Fabric, viewed 7 April 2016,