(PROJECT) Reducing the amount of plastic water bottles with Air RahMat

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Indonesia is a rapidly developing nation that has a colourful and diverse history. Political instability and the clash of traditional and contemporary culture in the last century have brought with it complex social and environmental issues. Upon arriving in Indonesia we began to notice two separate problems regarding drinking water and waste management.

As a result of industrialization, water from the tap has become contaminated and is not safe to consume, even for locals; everyone must either boil or purchase and consume filtered/bottled water. After witnessing an appalling amount of waste in waterways and on the streets we started to see a correlation between the staggering amount of plastic bottled water being produced by large corporations and the amount of waste, which wasn’t being disposed of properly. We engaged in dialogue with local artists, designers, business owners and students who shared their concern about corporations who had monopolized on commodifying a fundamental human resource and a lack of education about waste management.

Our secondary research led us to discover these alarming statistics:

  • Indonesia is the 2nd largest consumer of bottled water in Asia.
  • As well as being the 2nd largest marine polluter in the world.
  • 100 million of Indonesia’s 249 million people, lack access to safe drinking water.
  • Approximate 64 million tons of waste is produced per year, which is mostly dumped into landfill and waterways (2015).

Asking how we can reduce the amount of bottled water consumed within Indonesia is a wicked problem influenced by many political, industrial, cultural and social factors. Our research directed our focus to the consumer (general public) who heavily influences social dynamics and habits.

Stakeholders involved

Danone (Aqua) was the first company to bottle water in Indonesia and over the last 40 odd years it has become a deeply engrained habit for Indonesians to buy Aqua brand bottled water. This has lead to a subconscious consumer belief that water is only clean if it comes from a sealed plastic container. On social media platforms Aqua uses high quality photos of “everyday” people and inviting mealtime settings to market itself as a company that understands and cares about quality of life. This type of imagery reinforces to consumers that it is acceptable to continue to use plastic water bottles in excess.

social mediasocial 2

When we began looking for ways to reduce the use of bottled water we decided to research existing water filtering solutions available to consumers worldwide. Air RahMat is a solution developed specifically for Indonesia by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). By adding a few drops of the sodium hypochlorite solution to water it becomes safe to drink within 30 minutes. Unfortunately due to poor marketing and education Air RahMat never infiltrated everyday households. Asking around, no locals in Central Java knew of its existence.

What is air rahmat

Taking it upon ourselves, we attempted to rebrand Air RahMat to appeal to the Indonesian public, encourage critical thinking about water sources, wastage and change consumer habits. As part of the rebrand Air RahMat’s visual identity, instruction manual and bottle were overhauled to compete with the likes of large corporations such as Aqua. The use of visual motifs such as water drops, icons, a water inspired colour palette, children playing and batik patterns ensure that Indonesian’s from varying backgrounds find Air RahMat appealing and understand why it is a culturally important product.

air rahmat new packagingair rahmat brochureair rahmat brochure 2workshop posterAir rahmat standA strategy to reintroduce Air RahMat to the people was also devised. The platform of local markets such as Pasar Papring held in Kelingan would be a suitable place to set up an education and demonstration stall. Locals would be able to take samples, participate in demonstrations and learning sessions in a welcoming environment that provides communal empowerment and support. Village members would economically benefit from using Air RahMat rather than boiling or purchasing water whilst also reducing the amount of plastic waste as a by-product of consumption.

Looking towards the future Air RahMat has the potential to explore mobile and wearable technology allowing it to become more accessible and appealing for contemporary Indonesia.

By Rommany O’Sullivan, Clarence Villanueva, Samson Ossedryver and Adela Yang

 Reference List:

 Notes from discussion with Singgih Kartono

Notes and images from tour of water springs in Central Java

Notes from interview with local student Diane

Amheka, A. 2015, An overview of current household waste management in Indonesia: development of a new integrated strategy, International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 15, No. 1.

John Hopkins Centre for Disease Control, 2007, Air RahMat – FAQ, Aman Tirta, John Hopkins Centre for Disease Control, viewed 23 February 2016, < http://ccp.jhu.edu/documents/Air%20Rahmat%20FAQ.pdf >.

Jong, H. 2015, Indonesia in state of waste emergency, Jakarta Post, Jakarta, viewed 20 February 2016, < http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/10/09/indonesia-state-waste-emergency.html#sthash.RSdDUWou.dpuf >.

United States Embassy, 2007, United States Helps Bring Clean Water to Indonesian Families, United States Embassy viewed 23 February 2016, < http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2007/01/20070111082114akllennoccm0.3963129.html#axzz45QSqmt4s >.

Von Hasseln, C. 2015, From The Textile Design Lab: Chelsea’s Challenge – “Tidal Beachcomber” Collections, Pattern Observer, viewed 24 February 2016, < http://patternobserver.com/2015/12/22/from-the-textile-design-lab-chelseas-challenge-tidal-beachcomber-collections/ >.

*All images/graphics are original. Contributed by the group members listed above*






(POST B) Milkwood is providing real skills for down to earth living

Students working on a market gardening course. Photo: Milkwood’s Instagram

Milkwood is a small, independent environmental design collective based in NSW. Run by Nick Ritar and his partner Kristen Bradley, they hold year round short courses, seminars and workshops on permaculture design and organic sustainable living. Nick and Kristen run an interdisciplinary collective; drawing on the expertise of local designers, artists, farmers, beekeepers, fermenters, market gardeners and teachers to share their knowledge and promote the principles of permaculture. Milkwood’s philosophy is about working with the natural environment rather than going against it.

Permaculture was brought to life in 1978 by Australian’s Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture is about design. It integrates structures, plants and animals with the needs of humans (Warm Earth 2011.) Holmgren shares that permaculture is about creating designed landscapes that respect and mimic the eb and flow of nature, providing an abundant source of food and energy for self-sustainable living. The fundamental ethics of permaculture are earth care, people care and surplus share. These principles involve conservation and restoration of biodiversity, making sure basic human needs are met and sharing of time, knowledge and resources (Warm Earth 2011).

Kristen at home in Kiama working in her garden. Photo: Emma Bowen
Nick cultivating mushrooms in his spare time. Photo: Daniel Shipp

With a large focus on farming and food, permaculture is now being looked at as a solution to sustainable food production. What we overlook is that the “commodified food” which we consume, more often than not links back to unsustainable practices and organisations. As a collective Milkwood believes that knowledge is power; informed people can make conscious choices about what they put their money into. Currently the global mass consumption and production of food is becoming increasingly detrimental to the natural environment. There’s pollution, destruction of ecosystems, excessive wastage, use of damaging chemicals and pesticides, unjust animal living conditions and the list goes on. With a rapidly growing global population of consumers all demanding more we are quickly running ourselves into the ground. Nick articulates in his philosophy that there is “no disconnection between us and the natural systems we utilize and engage with. It’s the pretend separation from nature that allows us to get away with all kinds of horrific things”. The key towards moving to a self-sustainable way of living is swapping convenience culture for conscious ethical thinking.

Nick says “Permaculture is a design framework to enable whole systems thinking”. It is a mixture of scientific and design methodology and planning (a deep understanding of contexts) with simple and function physical manifestations. With this in mind Milkwood’s diverse education program covers topics such as: organic gardening, fermenting, beekeeping, mushroom cultivation, natural fabric dying, Small space farming and orcharding, natural building and permaculture design certificates.­ Their courses are run in their collaborative space at 107 Projects in Redfern as well as on agricultural land in the rural regions surrounding Sydney. The skills people learn can be taken home with them and applied to their own communities and living spaces no matter the size and location.

A student’s plan for creating a communal permaculture garden as part of a short course. Photo: Milkwood’s Instagram

Nick and Kristen are thrilled that their permaculture experiment which started nine years ago on a farm in Mudgee, has now manifested into something holistic which they can pass on to others. “We can create beautiful, resilient, inter-sufficient communities where life is good, and the future is bright. Education is a huge part of that, and that’s what we’re personally involved in.”

Website: www.milkwood.net

Instagram: milkwood_permaculture

Reference List:

 Bowen, E. 2015, Interview: Milkwood, The Slowpoke, viewed April 8 2016, < https://web.archive.org/web/20160220091938/http://theslowpoke.com/interview-milkwood/ >.

Milkwood, 2016, Milkwood, viewed 8 April 2016, < https://www.milkwood.net >.

Reid, G. 2014, The Dirt: Nick Ritar, The Plant Hunter, viewed 8 April 2016, < http://theplanthunter.com.au/people/dirt-nick-ritar/ >.

Warm Earth, 2011, What is permaculture?, Warm Earth, No. 99. Pp 42-43.

*All images have been credited and linked to their original source*

(POST D) Against the grain: Indonesian Punks

A mosh pit at a Marjinal show. Photo: Karli Kk Munn

You might be surprised to know that Indonesia has one of the largest thriving punk scenes in the world. After spending a few days in Indonesia it doesn’t take long to notice teenagers and young adults wearing band t-shirts, jackets covered with patches and black skinny jeans. At its core, punk is all about the raw energy and passion that comes from resisting the tight grips of generic society, politics and capitalism with a strong DIY focus. For many locals the punk lifestyle is a form of self-expression and rebellion again social norms in an often-conservative society.

Punk rose to its prominence in Indonesia in the 1990’s under the nose of Suharto’s New Order through the mass circulation of cassette tapes of bands such as Green Day, Nirvana and Bad Religion. The government took little notice of the growing DIY punk community at the time seeing it as a harmless distraction for the teenagers. What the New Order didn’t realise was that punk made the youth of Indonesia politically aware. It was a loud collective voice protesting the social and political injustices caused by the government through songs, concerts, art and zines. Activism and mounting pressure by the younger generations of Indonesians finally pushed Suharto to end his authoritarian reign in 1998.

Since then the punk scene has flourished and diversified with bands such as Marjinal and Superman Is Dead. Some fundamentalist would even say that fashion punks who simply dress and pose without understanding or contributing to the culture have commercialized it.

In Australia we often take our freedom of self-expression for granted. More often then not we can say what we want, subscribe to ideologies and dress however we feel without the fear of persecution and ridicule. Unfortunately, in recent years punk culture has come under heavy fire from the Indonesian government. The deputy mayor of Aceh province described punk as “the new social disease”. Aceh is the only province in Indonesia, which falls under strict Sharia law, imposed after the devastating Tsunami that washed through the city of Banda Aceh in 2004.

In 2011 a group of 64 youth were arrested after attending an open-air charity punk concert. Whilst they had not committed any crimes, punk was and is seen as immoral in the eyes of Sharia law. The punks were held captive for ten days of “re-education” being forced to shave their hair, remove their piercing and pray for hours. Yudi one of the arrested punks says the government see the ideology of punk as a threat, often looking for opportunities to persecute and harass individuals such as when poser punks commit crimes and violent acts. He believes the actions of a minority don’t represent the whole community.

Indonesian Sharia Stronghold 'Rehabilitates' Punks
A police officer lecturing detained punks. Photo: Chairdeer Mahyuddin
Indonesian Sharia Stronghold 'Rehabilitates' Punks
A punk’s shoes in police school mosque. Photo: Chaideer Mahyuddin

It takes courage and guts to be yourself, to stand up for something you believe in and question the system. Despite clashing with authorities punk is a universally resilient sub culture, which will continue to thrive for many years to come. The raw passion in the punk lifestyle and music should inspire us to open our minds and make change by doing.

Reference List:

Munn, Kk. K. 2014, Indonesian punk: PUNK’S NOT DEAD!, Radio National, ABC, viewed 24 March 2016, < http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/360/indonesian-punks/5909858 >.

Larsson, M. 2014, Punk Vs. Sharia, Vice News, viewed 24 March 2016, < http://www.vice.com/video/punk-vs-sharia >.

Dunn, K. 2013, One punk’s travel guide to Indonesia, Razor Cake, Los Angeles, viewed 24 March 2016, < http://www.razorcake.org/columns/one-punks-travel-guide-to-indonesia-a-column-that-originally-ran-in-razorcake-76-now-an-ebook >.

*Images have been linked to original source and photographers credited*


(POST C) Andres Busrianto and the Geneng Street Art Project


For thousands of years art has existed in many different forms and spaces. In the last few decades’ street art has become an integral part of the art world. Often laced with a political or social message; empty walls, streets, public spaces and urban environments have become a large and powerful place for artists to leave their mark. Contemporary public art and street art (sculpture, murals, woodcuts) first started appearing across Yogyakarta during the late 1990’s at the hands of low-key of artist groups. In the early 2000’s graffiti and street art rose to prominence as lots of young creatives began to see it’s potential.

Andres Busrianto (Anagard) is an Indonesian artist who I had the pleasure of meeting on a university trip to Yogyakarta. Busrianto spent his school years drawing and painting, his passion eventually led him on to study fine arts (majoring in painting) at Institute of Art Indonesia in Yogyakarta. In recent years he has found a love for street art choosing to working with detailed stencils.

He draws a great deal of his inspiration from the notion of human existence, his family, friends and social settings. At the heart of his beliefs is egalitarianism, a political philosophy that favours equality: People should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect (Arneson 2002). This can be seen through the imagery in his pieces, which are a “weapon” for protesting against the injustices and corruption caused by the Indonesian government. He hopes that his art can encourage people to look at the world with an open mind and unite communities.

Painting under the watchful eyes of the law.

Andres has a strong relationship with Geneng, the village he currently resides in just outside Yogyakarta. A humanitarian at heart, Andres was one of the first people to volunteer to help rebuild the village after a devasting earthquake hit the region in 2006. The Geneng Street Art Project (GSAP) is the “crazy” lovechild of Busrianto and his artist group called Ruang kelas SD. The GSAP is the main annual event on the group’s calendar. The idea to fill the bare walls of Geneng with murals started in 2013 when he joined a free street art tour in Berlin and contributed to street art festivals in Lithuania and Poland. Busrianto believes that GSAP is a way that he can continue contributing to the local community by bringing tourism and providing education.

The Geneng Street Art Project logo.

The most interesting part of this project is that the murals are painted on the side of resident’s houses. He negotiates with village members remaining sensitive to culture, customs and religion. Despite doing his best to mediate with the village, Andres has had clashes with locals about what is put on the walls, having to remove what he has done or change the design slightly. Using social media and the Internet he finds and invites local and international artists to contribute to the GSAP each year.

An artist collaborating on a wall piece.
The wall owner infront of one of Andres’ mural in Geneng.

Andres says that art in a gallery is by far the best art but it is often inaccessible in a country like Indonesia. Street art is public art that everyone can connect with, often reflecting the views of the general public. There is something slightly rebellious, which allows it to transcend international cultural differences and unite people who may not have been able to express their thoughts otherwise. He is keen to show the rest of Indonesia and the world the importance of public street art. Looking to the future he wants he wants to document the evolution of the project and turn it into a beautiful coffee table book.

Reference List:

Notes from interview with Andres Busrianto

Arneson, R. 2013, Egalitarianism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, viewed 30 March 2016, < http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/egalitarianism/ >.

*All images taken by myself or with permission from Andres’ Instagram*


(POST A) Design Contexts: Urban and Rural

Design doesn’t exist in isolation. The context of a particular space influences its designed outcomes, just as the designed outcome has the power to alter contexts and even cultures (Cooper 1999.). This complex relationship means that design has differing definitions for the diverse groups of people in society.

A large part of design that we are exposed to, create and participate in is geared towards the context of westernized, urban areas and dense population. This comes as no great surprise when 89% of Australia’s population lives in urban areas (World Bank, 2015.). The effects of urbanization and globalization have imposed this westernized approach to design upon developing nations such as Indonesia. In 1991 only 32% of the Indonesian population lived in urban areas, jump forward 25 years to 2015 and that has risen to 53.3% thanks to rapid population growth, the development of infrastructure and a growing economy.

A suburb of Yogyakarta city.

The context of the city advocates a successful, fast paced lifestyle; through carefully designed products and services its inhabitants come to expect variety, convenience, efficiency and instant connectivity. It often seems that less emphasis is placed on a design’s longevity or afterlife. This has led to design outcomes such as: single use products (e.g. plastic bottled water), self-service, convenience stores and personal electronic devices.

Indomart, the most popular chain of convenience store in central Java.

Designed objects/services in urban spaces can have less consideration for the nuances of their context, giving them more power to change cultures and even create new ones (e.g. the rise of the internet and social media) because they are consumed en mass by a large demographic in close proximity. It is interesting to observe how different design ideologies clash and meld into the local culture.

A street art mural in Geneng exploring the struggling relationship between traditional and contemporary Indonesia.

If we shift our focus to one of Indonesia’s 79,075 villages (Badan Pusat Statistik, 2012.) it is clear that here design works in a different way. The rural village is a context, which continues to nurture Indonesian culture due to its geographical isolation and its members practicing traditional rituals, beliefs and skills. The Indonesian education system often doesn’t encourage critical thinking; Singgih Kartono an Indonesian product designer suggests that as a result of this most people see their daily work in the village (e.g. preparing meals or crafting items) as a necessary means to get by rather than viewing them as designerly activities. This humble outlook leads to a functional approach of problem solving with an emphasis on self-sustainability.

A rural farmer preparing rice fields for planting.

In a village there is a habitually participatory approach to making and communicating; the user becomes a critical component of the process (Sanders, 1999.) For example alone, a basket weaver can make and sell baskets at a market, however they can also teach others how to create a basket for themselves. By sharing knowledge, the design becomes open source and people are able to customize a basket for their personal needs. This collaborative approach is also made possible by members of the village having equal access to cheap, sustainable and local materials such as bamboo.

A member of Kelingan village teaching university students how to weave a bamboo basket.

The rapid growth of Indonesia as a nation has brought with it complex issues. An unorganized system of governance and a lack of education/services have exaggerated environmental challenges such as polluted waterways, clean drinking water and waste management. Kartono believes that we need to look urgently towards the context of the humble village when designing to combat the wicked environmental problems that Indonesia and the planet face. As designers we should immerse ourselves in different contexts to better understand the needs of our increasingly global society.

Reference list:

Badan Pusat Statistik. 2013, Indonesia demographic and health survey 2012, Ministry of Health, Viewed 14 March 2016, < http://dhsprogram.com/pubs/pdf/FR275/FR275.pdf >.

Cooper, R. 1999, Design Contexts, The Design Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, pp 1.

Sanders, E. 2002, ‘From User-Centered to Participatory Design Approaches’, in J.Frascara (Ed.), In Design and the Social Sciences, Taylor & Francis Books Limited

The World Bank. 2016, Urban population (% of total), The World Bank Group, Washington DC, viewed 14 March 2016, < http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.URB.TOTL.IN.ZS >.

*All photographs used in this blog post are taken by the author