POST A : Visualising Political History

Art and design culture acts in direct correlation and response to the situational context from which it has arisen, exemplifying a visual barometer of social and political change. Indonesia’s rich history of social and political reform and unrest through Dutch occupation and authoritarian rule has had an immense influence upon the nation’s art practice. In its present development into a post colonial, democratic nation, Indonesian art is a reflection of the delicate balance between western and traditional ideologies and the assimilation of both within the realm of contemporary art and design.

Map of the Silk Road shows direction of international trade into Indonesia bringing with it foreign customs and ideology

Prior to the 19th century, Indonesian art was predominantly decorative, with spiritual connotations – a reaction to international traders and the introduction of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism and later Islam (Soemantri 1998). After several centuries of Dutch colonization, western influences became most prolific upon Indonesian art during the 19th century. Indonesian painters delved into art movements dominating Europe at the time, adopting Romanticism in their approach (Wright 1994). Talent flourished and indigenous Indonesian painters such as Raden Saleh, were likened to famed French Romantic Eugène Delacroix, despite their contextual opposites.

Six Horsemen Chasing Deer, 1860, Raden Saleh, Oil on canvas
Moroccan Horsemen in Military Action, 1832, Eugene Delacroix, Oil on canvas

In the early half of the 20th century, Indonesia underwent a growing sense of nationalism. Japanese occupation replaced Dutch reign briefly during WWII, and encouraged Indonesia’s independence movement. Throughout this revolutionary period, artists rejected former Eurocentric practices and as Wright puts ‘instead of duplicating western artistic developments and concerns, modern Indonesians were, after four centuries of increasing colonization, preoccupied with questions of nationalism and identity.’ Artists and writers began to form Sanggar (artist groups) that adopted socialist realism and produced radical egalitarian themed works that exposed the harsh reality of public life. In rise of the New Order Era in 1965, many participants of artist groups such as Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat (LEKRA) faced accusations of communist propaganda, and thus were killed or imprisoned.

War and Peace, 1950, Hendra Gunawan (member of LEKRA), Oil on canvas

The Suharto era saw a dramatic political influence upon the nation, the New York Times stating ‘Suharto achieved stability and economic growth, but these gains were overshadowed by intense corruption, a repressive militaristic state, and “a convulsion of mass bloodletting.’ ­Despite penalties, artists continued to produce rebellious, anti-regimist works through satire and irony; ‘they were an avant-garde radically redefining art’ (Vickers 2013). An analysis of Indonesian art in the contemporary sphere requires an understanding of its unique contextual complexity that differs greatly from international and in particular, western paradigms. Art critique is governed by Eurocentric standards of conventional aesthetics as well as commercial potential. Thus, contemporary Indonesian artists face difficulties in attaining recognition as ‘art world institutions and officials posit a hierarchy of themes or motifs considered worthy of being celebrated in art’ (Wright 1994). Throughout history and even presently, art and design in Indonesia is representative of the nations developing democracy, its internal social and political context and in turn its extensive relationship with the international community.

References //

Dwi Marianto, Martinus. ‘Surrealist Painting In Yogykakarta’. PhD Philosophy. University of Wollongong, 1995. Print.,. ‘Indonesian Heritage Series’. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.,. ‘Suharto Dies At 86; Indonesian Dictator Brought Order And Bloodshed – New York Times’. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 May 2015.

Soemantri, Hilda. Indonesian Heritage. Singapore: Archipelago, 1998. Print.

Vickers, Adrian. ‘What Is Contemporary Indonesian Art? – Inside Indonesia’. Inside Indonesia. N.p., 2013. Web. 4 May 2015.

Wichelen, Sonja van. Religion, Politics And Gender In Indonesia. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Wright, Astri. Soul, Spirit, And Mountain. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print.

Images //

Delacroix, Eugene. Moroccan Horsemen In Military Action. 1832. Print.

Gunawan, Hendra. War And Peace. Singapore: National Gallery, 1950. Print.

Hofstra University,. The Silk Road And Arab Sea Routes. 1998. Web. 5 May 2015.

Saleh, Raden. Six Horsemen Chasing Deer. Jakarta: N.p., 1860. Print.

POST D : Life of Contradictions

Photo by Diego Verges as part of his photo essays in Surabaya, Indonesia

Warias is the term given to Indonesia’s third sex, an amalgam of Indonesian words ‘wanita,’ woman, and ‘pria,’ man. Likened to cross-dressers, drag queens or transsexuals in the wider international community, specifically warias would be demarcated as transwomen, however in a more poetic self-description; ‘a waria is a man with the soul of a woman, (Tales of the Waria 2012). In a country that is known for both its anti-discriminatory culture as well as its Islamic majority, the life of a waria is one of contradictions.

Indonesia has the highest Muslim population in the world, some 88% of the 250 million residents identify as Islamic, thus accounting for 12.7% of the world’s Muslims (BBC 2015). However, cross-dressing has a respected history in Indonesia that dates back before Islam’s arrival into the country in the 13th century, now tradition of the Bugis people of South Sulawesi (IIAS 2002).

Whilst Islam dictates hetero-normativity, many warias adopt Muslim practice, however not without confrontation. Men and women are segregated within mosques, and although some warias conform to this sexual binary, many are uncomfortable doing so, despite the connotation that ‘no one is forbidden from entering a mosque.’ One waria, Mariyani, has received much local and international attention after transforming her home-based beauty salon in Yogyakarta into a sanctuary-like Islamic school for warias to study and worship (VICE 2011).

Mariyani believes that warias have the right to worship in security, her philosophy of acceptance extending even further – ‘I invite waria from any religion to worship here. If they don’t have a place, my place is open to them,’ (Jakarta Post 2011). Whilst Mariyani seeks to improve the role of religious freedom for warias, economic and social grounds often govern their lifestyle.

Mainstream media often stereotype warias as flamboyant comics, sex workers and fringe dwellers. Prejudice and discrimination often accounts for many warias falling into this typecast. Shuniyya, a waria from the Yayasan Putri Waria Indonesia dismisses these saying ‘There are waria who work as designers, psychologists and sociologists. The image that all waria are sex workers or employees of hair salons is simply a myth,’ she says. ‘In the end, only a waria knows what it means to be a waria. We have to define ourselves.’

Warias, including Mariyani, performing traditional song and dance. Photo by Oliver Purser for VICE

The life of a waria is one of extremes, from jovial beauty pageants to facing persecution from religious extremists. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) is a conservative Islamic group who often express intolerance towards warias – in one case, violently shutting down the 2012 Miss Waria pageant resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in fundraising and organisation. Despite religious paradoxes, spokesperson warias such as Mariyani and Shuniyya maintain high spirits. Like many social minorities, warias become warriors, facing countless hardships with the hope that Indonesia’s reputation of tolerance transcends discrimination.

References //

BBC News,. ‘Indonesia Country Profile – Overview – BBC News’. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.

Broverman, Neal. ‘Who Are The Warias’. N.p., 2015. Web. 5 May 2015.

Graham, Sharyn. ‘Sex, Gender, And Priests In South Sulawesi, Indonesia’. International Institute for Asian Studies Newsletter 2002: 27. Web. 3 May 2015,. ‘Q&A With ‘Tales Of The Waria’ Director Kathy Huang’. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.

Inside Indonesia,. ‘Defining Waria – Inside Indonesia’. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.,. ‘Men With The Souls Of Women: Indonesia’S Transgender Waria | Kill Your Darlings Journal’. N.p., 2015. Web.2 May 2015.

Muslimah Media Watch,. ‘Trans And Muslim: Portraying The Lives Of Warias In Indonesia’. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 May 2015

The Huffington Post,. ‘Tales Of The Waria: Inside Indonesia’s Third-Gender Community’. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.,. ‘Mariyani: Religious Differences Not A Problem For ‘Waria’’. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.

VICE Guide to Travel,. The Warias. 2011. Web. 1 May 2015,. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.

Images //

Verdes, Diego. Surabaya Photo Essay. 2011. Print.

VICE,. Warias Performing Traditional Song And Dance. Web. 2 May 2015.

Post C : Cross-cultural exchanges

In her third year at The University of Sydney, Bridget Harilaou is currently on exchange at Universitas Gadjah Mada, in Yogyakarta. Whilst studying politics and Bahasa Indonesia, Bridget hopes to pursue a future in development and contribute to the progression of education, health, women’s rights and cross-cultural exchange.

Being of half-Indonesian background, Bridget’s choice of study destination was to further her reconnection with a culture she had previously dismissed. ‘Growing up in Australia, I rejected my heritage for a long time because it made me different,’ she says. Bridget believes however that informal social acceptance in Indonesia is much more pronounced than Australia’s. ‘Living in Indonesia now, I feel like I finally know more about my culture and identity. I’m definitely more connected to the country, language and culture and it really validates my identity as an Indonesian person. I don’t feel different in Indonesia much, I feel more different in Australia.’

The hundred of ethnic groups in Indonesia

With the fourth largest population in the world, Indonesia’s 250 million people expand across over 17000 islands, with an estimate of over 300 different ethnic groups and over 700 languages spoken – statistics alone prove Indonesia’s cultural diversity is unparalleled by any other nation. From a first hand comparative view however, Bridget says ‘I still have to explain my heritage here, but it’s different to in Australia because you really do ask everyone here where they are from, because Indonesia is so diverse, so it’s not just for minorities like in Australia.’

Indonesia’s great population however poses immediate concern upon the issue of sustainability. Mass deforestation, waterway pollution and palm oil plantation affects rural environments, whilst cities try to maintain waste and sewage management. Bridget reports that ‘there is barely any education or money in sustainability. No waste management other than burning rubbish, people littering and dumping in the ricer, mining and polluting water sources and ground without thinking of implications.’ The lack of government initiatives and support results also in a lack of motivation and interest at a public level as Bridget says there is ‘not much of a focus on sustainability in my community or University.’


Waste dumped in ocean waters around Bali

Bridget’s interview provides a relatable recount of her circumstance as a university student who similarly expresses awareness of familiar concerns through a continuous comparison of Indonesian and Australian societies. Well-established values of tolerance and acceptance are to be envied by many other nations who strive for multiculturalism, including Australia. On the other hand, greater government support and more ‘formal’ input as Bridget puts, is needed to counter issues of sustainability, health and equality. It is therefore apparent that political influences upon social and environmental sectors result in both beneficial and detrimental consequences.

References //

Harilaou, B. (2015) Interviewed by Paula Thomson, 1 May 2015.

‘Why Indonesia’S Cultural Diversity Deserves A Compliment | Embassy Of Indonesia, Athens’. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.

Inside Indonesia,. ‘An Ongoing Environmental Challenge – Inside Indonesia’. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 May 2015.,. ‘Indonesia Walks A ‘Tricky’ Path Toward Growth And Sustainability – Nytimes.Com’. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 May 2015.

Images //

Kartapranata, Gunawan. Indonesia Ethnic Groups Map. 2010. Web. 3 May 2015.

R.O.L.E. Foundation,. Waste Dumped In Ocean Waters Around Bali. 2012. Web. 5 May 2015.

POST B : AirDye

A river in Wangli town in east China’s Zhejiang province is known as “red river” due to the high level of pollution from red dye. Photo by CFP.

The fashion industry has long been at the accusatory forefront of market capitalism; its mass production both feeds and breeds hyper-consumerism, often at the expense of any ethical mindset. If fashion is essentially modern, fast fashion is quintessentially postmodern (Taylor, 2014). Australia has over 680 firms within the TCF (Textile, Clothing Footwear) industry and ranks one of the highest producers of textile waste, accountable for over 568 million kilograms of textile material sent to landfill annually (Australian Bureau of Statistics). Whist one third of the world’s population cannot access clean water; the textile industry is the world’s third largest consumer of water, egregiously expending trillions of gallons each year. Additionally, wastewater containing up to 72 toxic chemicals are discharged into waterways, 30 of which are permanent. It is estimated that almost 20% of global industrial water pollution is a result of textile colouration (World Bank, 2014). Increasing global awareness has resulted however, in the welcomed emergence of innovations positively confronting the issue of sustainability in fashion practices, such as AirDye.

Created by Colorep Inc, a Californian sustainable technology institute, AirDye uses a patented process to colour synthetic fabrics without the use of water. Disperse dyes used for the colouration of synthetic fibres, is first applied onto a paper carrier which is then transferred into the textile surface with heat, fixating the dye at a molecular level. The paper is then recycled and the excess dye can be reused, resulting in little to no wastage.

AirDye Process Flow Diagram
AirDye Process Flow Diagram

The benefits of a waterless methodology of textile colouration are endless. The AirDye technology can save up to 95% less water, 86% of energy and 84% of greenhouse gases in comparison to orthodox dye methods. On a single garment, AirDye can save up to 170 litres of water. The technology for required designs is produced quickly with accurate colour matchings in solid colour or prints and does not require production minimums. The removal of water in the dyeing process creates opportunity for textile production in global regions that before lacked the appropriate resources. A widespread adoption of this technology would immensely impact a great deal of consumerist industries, including clothing, footwear, furniture, product, interior and wherever else textiles are utilised.

Critique has been placed that perhaps the recent upsurgence of eco-centric practice in the fashion industry will become yet another ephemeral trend, however companies such as AirDye place hope in its longevity. Appearing eco-friendly could be seen essential for a modern business, however often it may be just that – an appearance. Through inviting third-party investigations to conduct in depth research into their results, AirDye’s claims maintain their validity. Whilst the company operates independently as a business, profits are repurposed into advancing the technology further, optimistically expecting ‘to see additional benefits from increased efficiency in power usage, power source, and the direct application of dye without a carrier.’

REFERENCES,. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

Australian Bureau of Statistics,. Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013. Print.,. ‘AIRDYE TECHNOLOGY | Debs’. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

E360 Yale University,. ‘Can Waterless Dyeing Processes Clean Up The Clothing Industry? By Lydia Heida: Yale Environment 360’. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

Kant, Rita. ‘Textile Dyeing Industry An Environmental Hazard’. University Institute of Fashion Technology, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, 2012. Print.

Kaye, Leon. ‘Clothing To Dye For: The Textile Sector Must Confront Water Risks’. the Guardian. N.p., 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

National Association of Charitable Recycling Organisation,. Sources Of Textile Waste In Australia. NACRO, 2009. Print.

Taylor, Mark C. Speed Limits. New Haven [u.a.]: Yale University Press, 2014. Print.

Walker, Alissa. ‘Airdye’s Ecological Dyeing Process Makes The Future Of Textiles Bright’. Fast Company. N.p., 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

World Bank,. Environmental And Social Management System Implementation Handbook. Washington DC: International Finance Corporation, 2014. Print.

Images //

Airdye Process Flow Diagram. 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

CFP. Red River. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.