The Jakarta Post

The article also appeared in the Jakarta Post, 23 January 2015, The Street Painters in Kota Tua.


Sat facing each other as thoughts were focused on the chess board down the pavement, two street painters killed time in an unlikely corner of Jakarta. Portrait pieces hung on the wall of a rundown building around busy intersection in the old district of Kota Tua, making an impression that the trapped eyes inside the frames were watching the chess game. Sat on a stool close to a frame stand, these marginalized painters had settled around for a long time. Their tools occupied half side of the sidewalk. Continue reading DREAM A LITTLE BIT OF ME

The sugar workers


DSC_0127 125 years ago, the Dutch Empire began shipping Javanese laborers from its East India colony to work in sugarcane plantations in Suriname, owned largely by British and Dutch businesses.

The abolition of slavery in Suriname in 1863 and the pre-existing slaves uprising coming from the British-possessed India led to the workforce scarcity and the frantic search of cheap laborers.

These paid replacements from nearby continent, albeit with a meagre salary and much similar poor living condition, were sent in their maiden voyage in 1890. From 100 people in the first transport, the number of immigrants arriving in Paramaribo, Suriname gradually rose, averaging 700 people annualy up to 1916.

When most of Indian plantation workers left Suriname in 1916, and as the freed slaves, both natives and foreigners, left for better jobs in the city, the Javanese replacements grew in number tremendously.

Workers cut the sugar canes during harvest season in a plantation. The biggest sugar cane plantation in Suriname was Marienburg.

Waged around 60 cents for men and even smaller for the women, the Javanese plantation workers signed a five year contract with sugar companies across the region.

The state policy at the time gave advantage to the plantation owners with a privilege to enact a set of law with serious legal consequences for the laborers, such as fine or imprisonment.

This was known as de poenale sanctie, subjected to those who committed misconduct at work or missed the expected work output at a given target period.

Women workers picked cotton in one of the cotton plantations in Suriname.

The large numbers of Javanese laborers among the native Surinamese had naturally brought together the distinctive culture and the mass identity by ethnicity or religion, later manifested into one of the country’s recognised communities.

After the gruesome five-year contract, the government, acting as the consituents of the Netherlands until their independence in 1975, gave the laborers an option to stay and be granted 100 gulden with a piece of cultivation land, but must answer to requirement working in the plantation on regular planting and harvesting dates, or else, the freedom to go home on the Surinamese government expenses.

At the onset of World War II in 1939, over 7600 Javanese laborers out of the total 33,000 working in Suriname opted for home. The last of such return policy was made in 1947 where 769 people boarded passenger ship Tabian heading for Java.

A Javanese immigrant and the children stood in front of the house, suggesting a poor living standard among the community. Poverty caused many to return home.

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
Pelicans at the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park is one of the most protected natural habitats in Australia classified as Class A Reserves. The status gives protection for the surface and the submerged areas, covering over 6000 hectares, for the sake of biological diversity in the marine park.

But it was not until 1990 that the area was granted such important status. Later, in order to encourage social use, it introduces recreational service to the public.

It is constituted by a chain of islands such as Seal Island where visitors can view a herd of rare Australian sea lion lazing under the sun before hopping to Penguin Island, where the penguin colony there enjoy the highest conservation status of its kind in the country.

Things you can do while visiting the reserves

Some animals in the area are not only available for viewing, fishing and catching crabs are permitted within the park, except in the sanctuary zone and marine life research areas as pinpointed in the visitors map.

Other recreational activities include boating, water skiing, surfing, swimming, and diving in the waters off Cape Peron or in the shipwreck location of the Saxon Ranger which requires permit letter.

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
Wildlife at Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

For those with milder sense of adventure, strolling around Penguin Island with its extensive walkways has its own charm, but be mindful of the correct timing as the island closes from June to September each year to provide safe breeding period for the animals.

Exuberant and uninhibited

Panorama 1

There has not been any feverish polemic on art in Indonesia like what happened in the past. The memory of the 1974 Desember Hitam (Black December) manifesto following the disillusioned young artists in the defeat and humiliation in the art competition of that year held by Jakarta Art Council reemerges at the same place 40 years later, in Taman Ismail Marzuki.

The highlighted paragraph at the center of the exhibition entitled 40 Tahun Desember Hitam called for the retirement of the established groups comprising older thus conservative generation of painters and jurors.

Some 200 art works sidelined because of containing the then unrecognized extra elements in paints such as mixed media was derided by a statement that such new wave of arts lacked pure skill and creativity, and merely ventured into the questionable realm of experiments. Hence there appeared the dichotomy between good paintings and non-paintings.

Potret Chairil Anwar by Dede Eri Supria (left painting), among others in art exhibition “40 Years of Black December” in Galeri Cipta II, Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta

The rejected many, some of which now become the country’s influential personas in local art scene such as FX Harsono and Jim Supangkat, upon hearing such negative assesment, made a stance in unity and released the Black December manifesto, to which they also faced the consequence, such as marginalisation.

Some went to far by saying that the art is dead. Subsequently they formed Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (Neo Visual Art Movement) and several others that followed.

The media spread the publicity the phenomenon they referred to as the art rebellion. The fight between the established group of artists and their liberal counterparts have twice marked the modern history of Indonesian art.

Another intense conflict also occured in the 60’s between Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat (The People’s Art Institute) shortened into Lekra, which was mistaken for its affiiation to the communist party despite repeated correction that it was anything but, and the opposing group that came underfire at the time, Manifesto Kebudayaan.

Unfortunately it got pulled deeper into the escalating political struggle at the height of communism versus nationalism issue, and many from both sides were perpetrated throughout the political crisis era.

Curators Leonhard Bartolomeus and Riksa Afiaty told that they never intended to reintroduce the 1974 polemic of what is and is not a good painting. Hence they did not place the opposing paintings in two separate places even though they could.

Their intention, however, is to tell a story to current generation how exuberant the country’s art scene was 4 decades ago. Perhaps the commercial aspect in the capitalistic era has caused a long inhibition.


The Jakarta Post

16099563296_4dff62bf76_o The traditional trade center Pasar Klewer, Solo, inaugurated in 1971 and had over time gained prominence as both commercial and cultural place of the city, was razed by fire on 27 December, devastating most part of the 2-storey building. It was one of the first textile markets in Indonesia, and later developed into one of the biggest. Over 1500 kiosks were burnt overnight, causing hundreds of million dollars in losses and over 3000 unemployed. Continue reading THE AFTERMATH OF THE INFERNO