Pandemic and Children’s Education in Indonesia

A Reminder for Us, Adults and Parents

for Bahasa version, please click here.

Happy Indonesian Children’s Day 2020!

[Jakarta, LTTW] This July is quite a special month for us; not only because we celebrated Saraswati Day (the Balinese’s day of knowledge) on the 4th, but today is Indonesia’s Children’s Day, and also the first time the editorial team at initiated a thematic system, of which “Source of Knowledge” was the 1st issue to be raised. To make it even more special, this time of the pandemic can also be seen as a time to reflect on how well we really grasp the meaning of education for our beloved children; our future leaders.

Saraswati Day teaches us that knowledge is dynamic like a neverending flowing river. It is so dynamic that its form can be in the guise of anything; from nature, arts, stories, books and holy manuscripts, and even games. If knowledge is fluid and dynamic, education should directly correspond to this – as it is one of the most vital ways to acquire knowledge after all.


Looking back throughout history, since the first event of Hari Anak Nasional (HAN) was championed by Indonesia’s second President in 1984 up until today, education in many parts of Indonesia is popularly viewed as a rigid system, in direct contrast to the Balinese interpretation.

Generation of adults, including parents and teachers, still believe that formal education is the main system that must be prioritized at all cost, especially in big cities such as Jakarta. Meanwhile, the so-called informal education comes second – if not third (if we also count non-formal education). It is a “yes” if we are looking for good grades, degrees, and alma maters, but it is a “no” if we are looking beyond that. So, it all depends on how well we comprehend what the purpose of education is itself.

Though it’s arduous to briefly discuss the purpose of education due to the various dense layers of subject matter, we can at least narrow it down to a more focused area; in this case, education for children. For Sacred Bridge, education exists to equip children with basic skills that enable them to be self-reliant, not merely to enter “the real world”, but also to thrive above it. Such a well-rounded child perhaps could only grow up in an environment where both formal and informal education are proportionally encouraged.

Formal / Informal

Before we continue, we need to firstly clarify what formal and informal education/ learning exactly are. Both describe educational settings: formal settings often take place in established spaces such as schools and universities with rigid educational structures, whereas informal settings takes place everywhere else (nature, museum, home, surrounding environment) and with an experience-based learning method. Although both settings can facilitate the same syllabus (a learning subject), one thing needs to be well understood, in that different settings will consequently require different forms, methodologies and eventually learning outcomes. As a brief example, a child who learns about their roots in school will have a different impact when they learn it hands-on at, say, a Banjar, in Balinese culture. In short, when we talk about educational settings, we also indirectly talk about the other aforementioned elements.

In this day and age, if we have preferences over educational settings, unwanted implications may arise. If we expose our children to too much formal education, they can distance themselves from their roots or culture. Even more so in many cases, abnormal obsessions towards formal education pose a great threat to an existence of culture as a whole, because it often disrupts the social mechanism within. For instance, a formally-educated young generation in a traditional community tends to lose respect towards their elders and tradition. The reason is because, according to modern society’s “vocabulary”, a person without a formal educational background is regarded as uncivilized. Why? Unlike informal education, formal education is an accumulation of well-established knowledge across generations that have been theorized and standardized – much of which directly corresponds to the achievements of Western civilisation.

Informal education on the other hand, which Sacred Bridge refers to as Cultural Education, has its own role and function compared to formal practices. “Cultural” here is not limited to traditional ones, but culture in general. This education facilitates children to learn and to be proud of their roots; including ancestral knowledge and wisdom (norms, values, etc.) that are not inferior means of knowledge acquisition compared to formal practices. Even so, such education has proven to be better suited to certain extents – especially for traditional communities – due to the context-based and practical nature of the learning process.

Take the Mentawai tribe for example, many of the elders perhaps have no clue in reading and writing the modern alphabet – let alone understand science from the formal perspective. They have, however, a highly sophisticated knowledge that enables them to “read” a compositional structure of local jungles. With this knowledge, Mentawai people will know when to migrate from one region to another to sustain their life as well as the jungles’ ecosystem. The weakness is that the elders are unable to theorize the knowledge they have acquired, and thus cannot facilitate a well-grounded process of learning for the younger generation, with exception to oral and hands-on approaches. Moreover, these approaches cannot be standardized as a means of knowledge acquisition that can be learned by other youngsters in other regions of Indonesia. With such weaknesses, such knowledge will not be able to develop in congruence to global advancements, which means they can become neglected and eventually forgotten over time. This is where formal education fills the gap.

Formal + Informal

Since we have a more comprehensive understanding of the differences between both educations as well as their roles and function, it is safe to assume that formal and informal education are not meant to dominate, but rather, interconnect and enrich each other.

In practice, formal education provides a clue for parents to know when and what their children need to learn in correspondence to their age, thanks to grade classification systems and curricula. With such clues, parents can support their children by honing basic knowledge and skills they learned from school, with more informal and dynamic methods at home (such as using art as a vehicle).

In many parts of the world today, education is continuously explored and experimented and quite often – if not always – combining both formal and informal educational pedagogy to find a more fluidic and context-based form of education that could invigorate the full potential of our future leaders. Having been equipped with both of formal and informal educations, will undoubtedly broaden our children’s horizons, and consequently will provide them a better understanding of their surroundings. Therefore, in the future, they can choose a path they want without being limited by the lack of identity, capacity, perspective and wisdom. In this sense, according to Serrano G. Sianturi , education also facilitates children in exercising their rights – freedom of choice.

To start proportionally encouraging our children with both of these educational settings is of paramount importance, especially in these times of uncertainty where formal settings are restricted, resulting in a more intense and uncontrollable relationship between children and digital platforms such as social media. Thanks to social media, in direct contrast to their parents insistence of following school curricula, the children, are excessively exposed and thus “educate” themselves on new subjects that have demonstrably outpaced the curriculum at the swipe of a finger. This could result in further complications in the future if this remains unaddressed.

Being concerned with such uncontrollable virtual education, also decided to have a go at encouraging adults to keep check of their children’s activities by utilising today’s technology. Before then, however, we should revisit and dive deeper into the meaning of technology itself. In light of this final thought, our August issue will revolve around the question: what is technology?”


Pandemi dan Pendidikan Anak di Indonesia

Catatan untuk Kita, Orang Tua

Versi Bahasa Inggris dapat dilihat disini

Selamat Hari Anak Nasional 2020!

[Jakarta, LTTW] Bulan Juli tahun ini begitu istimewa bagi kami; tidak hanya karena saudara/i kita di Bali baru saja merayakan Hari Saraswati (Hari Ilmu Pengetahuan) pada tanggal 4 Juli kemarin dan hari ini kita merayakan Hari Anak Nasional, tetapi juga ini kali pertamanya tim editorial mengusung sistem tematik, yang dimana “Sumber Ilmu Pengetahuan” menjadi tema pertamanya. Untuk membuat segalanya makin istimewa, kondisi pandemi saat ini pula dapat kita “manfaatkan” sebagai momen refleksi diri pada bagaimana kita selama ini memaknai pendidikan untuk putra-putri tercinta negeri.

Pembelajaran telah didapatkan dari Hari Saraswati bahwasannya ilmu pengetahuan bersifat dinamis layaknya air sungai yang mengalir tanpa henti. Sangat dinamis sampai-sampai dapat ditemukan dalam berbagai bentuk; mulai dari alam, cerita, seni, buku-buku, interaksi, sampai permainan. Apabila ilmu pengetahuan begitu dinamis, tentu pula pendidikan. Karena esensinya, pendidikan adalah salah satu cara memperoleh pengetahuan.


Bila menilik kembali sejarah, pertama kali diselenggarakannya Hari Anak Nasional oleh Presiden ke-2 RI sampai hari ini, pendidikan di banyak kota besar di Indonesia masih dimaknai layaknya besi yang keras dan kaku yang dimana sangat berbanding terbalik dengan pandangan penduduk Bali terkait Hari Saraswati.

Dari generasi ke generasi, banyak orang tua (termasuk orang dewasa pada umumnya) yang masih percaya bahwa pendidikan formal adalah pendidikan utama yang harus diprioritaskan apapun alasannya, khususnya di kota-kota besar seperti Jakarta. Sementara itu, pendidikan informal dinomorduakan – bila tidak dinomortigakan (apabila pendidikan non-formal juga diikutsertakan). Hal tersebut “benar” adanya apabila kita menginginkan nilai, gelar dan almamater yang bagus, tetapi “tidak” untuk hal yang lebih dari itu. Jadi, semua itu pada akhirnya tergantung pada bagaimana kita memaknai tujuan dari pendidikan itu sendiri.

Walaupun sulit membahas mengenai pendidikan dan tujuannya karena memiliki dimensi yang luas, setidaknya kita dapat mengerucutkan area pembahasannya, yaitu pendidikan untuk anak. Bagi Sacred Bridge, pendidikan tersebut hadir untuk mempersiapkan seorang anak dengan kemampuan dasar yang membuatnya mampu berdikari untuk tidak hanya masuk ke “dunia yang sebenarnya” tetapi juga dapat menaklukkannya. Seorang anak seperti ini mungkin hanya dapat tumbuh di lingkungan dimana pendidikan formal dan informal dijalankan secara proporsional.

Formal / Informal

Sebelum kita menggali lebih dalam, tentunya kita perlu untuk memahami apa itu pendidikan formal dan informal. Secara umum, formal dan informal disini membahas mengenai tata cara/penerapan dalam suatu pendidikan. Pendidikan formal seringkali dilakukan di tempat resmi seperti sekolah dan universitas dengan struktur pendidikan yang telah ditentukan. Pendidikan informal, disisi lain, bebas dilakukan dimana saja (alam, museum, rumah, lingkungan sekitar, dll) dengan cara pembelajaran yang bersifat lebih mandiri, yaitu berdasarkan pengalaman. Kedua tata cara ini dapat memiliki silabus yang sama, tetapi, satu hal yang harus diketahui adalah bahwa perbedaan tata cara akan secara otomatis menyebabkan perbedaan atas bentuk, metode, sampai pada akhirnya berdampak pada tingkat pemahaman si anak atas pembelajaran itu sendiri. Misalkan, seorang anak yang belajar mengenai kebudayaannya di sekolah tentu memiliki pemahaman yang berbeda dengan bila si anak belajar di, sebut saja, Banjar (apabila kita mencontohkan kebudayaan Bali). Singkat kata, saat kita membicarakan mengenai tata cara pendidikan, kita juga secara tidak langsung membicarakan faktor lainnya yang disebutkan diatas.

Di zaman sekarang ini, apabila kita melihat secara berat sebelah suatu pendidikan, implikasi yang tidak diinginkan akan muncul. Bila kita terlalu mengekspos pendidikan yang formal pada anak, mereka cenderung akan menjauh dari keakarannya (kebudayaannya). Bahkan di banyak kasus, obsesi yang abnormal pada pendidikan formal dapat mengancam eksistensi sebuah kebudayaan secara holistik, karena hal tersebut seringkali merusak mekanisme sosial didalamnya. Sebagai contoh, seorang pemuda berlatar pendidikan formal cenderung untuk tidak lagi menghormati para sesepuh desa dan tradisinya. Alasan dibaliknya dikarenakan oleh – menurut “kamus” masyarakat modern – seseorang tanpa pendidikan formal diyakini sebagai orang tak berbudaya/ berilmu. Kenapa? Tidak seperti pendidikan informal, pendidikan formal yang kita tahu saat ini adalah hasil akumulasi dari berbagai jenis ilmu pengetahuan lintas generasi yang telah mapan diteorisasikan dan distandarisasi – belum lagi ditambah keidentikannya dengan modernisasi.

Pendidikan informal disisi lain, atau, pendidikan kebudayaan menurut Sacred Bridge, memiliki peran dan fungsinya tersendiri. “Kebudayaan” disini tidak terbatas hanya pada budaya tradisional, tetapi kebudayaan secara umum. Melalui pendidikan ini anak dapat belajar dan merasa bangga terhadap keakarannya; termasuk juga didalamnya ilmu pengetahuan dan kearifan lokal (nilai, budi pekerti, dll) yang diwariskan turun temurun oleh para leluhur yang tak kalah hebat bila disandingkan dengan ilmu pengetahuan yang didapat dari pendidikan formal. Lebih lagi, pada tahapan tertentu ilmu pengetahuan ini justru terbukti lebih cocok, khususnya pada komunitas tradisional, karena sifatnya yang kontekstual dan praktikal.

Ambil suku Mentawai sebagai contoh. Mayoritas para sesepuh di suku ini, jangankan memahami sains dari kacamata formal, mungkin mereka juga tidak mampu dalam membaca dan menulis huruf alphabet. Tetapi mereka memiliki pengetahuan dan kemampuan hebat yang dapat “membaca” komposisi flora fauna di hutan mereka tinggal. Dengan pengetahuan ini, suku Mentawai akan mengetahui kapan mereka harus bermigrasi dari satu tempat ke tempat lain untuk bertahan hidup sekaligus menjaga stabilitas ekosistem hutan-hutan tersebut. Pengetahuan ini diwariskan ke generasi mudanya secara oral maupun praktek langsung. Kekurangan dalam pendidikan ini adalah karena ketidakmampuan generasi tua dalam menteorisasikan pengetahuannya membuat mereka tidak dapat memfasilitasi proses belajar mengajar yang mumpuni bagi generasi mudanya, dan juga tidak dapat menstandarisasi pengetahuannya untuk dipelajari oleh generasi muda di wilayah lain di Indonesia. Alhasil, kekurangan ini cenderung membuat ilmu pengetahuan tersebut tertinggal dan tergerus seiring perkembangan zaman. Disinilah peran pendidikan formal dalam mengisi kekurangan tersebut.

Formal + Informal

Mengetahui kita telah memiliki pemahaman yang mumpuni mengenai perbedaan kedua tata cara pendidikan diatas – serta pula peran dan fungsinya masing-masing – kita dapat mengatakan bahwa pendidikan formal dan informal hadir tidak untuk saling mendominasi, melainkan, saling berhubungan dan memperkaya satu sama lain.

Secara prakteknya, pendidikan formal memberikan petunjuk bagi orang dewasa/ orang tua untuk dapat mengetahui kapan dan materi ajar apa yang seorang anak butuhkan sesuai dengan umurnya melalui klasifikasi tingkatan dan kurikulum. Dengan petunjuk tersebut, orang tua dapat mendukung anak mereka (di rumah contohnya) dalam mengasah kemampuan dasar yang didapatnya disekolah, tentu dengan metode yang lebih informal dan dinamis.

Di berbagai dunia saat ini, pendidikan, nyatanya terus dieksplorasi dan diuji-coba; seringkali – bila tidak setiap kali – dengan mengkombinasikan tata cara formal dan informal guna menemukan bentuk pendidikan yang bersifat cair dan kontekstual yang dapat mendorong keluarnya potensi maksimal pemimpin masa depan kita. Dengan dibekali kedua pendidikan ini, anak kita akan memiliki cakrawala pengetahuan yang luas, dan alhasil akan memberikan pemahaman yang baik atas apa yang ada/ terjadi disekitarnya. Jadi nanti di masa depan, mereka dapat memilih jalan yang mereka inginkan, apapun itu, tanpa terbatasi oleh kurangnya identitas, kapasitas, perspektif dan kebijaksanaan. Dalam hal ini – menurut Serrano G. Sianturi – pendidikan juga berperan dalam membekali anak untuk bisa menjalankan salah satu haknya: kebebasan dalam memilih.

Memulai untuk menggalakkan kedua pendidikan ini kepada anak kita sangatlah penting, khususnya di masa tak menentu seperti pandemi saat ini yang dimana pendidikan formal jadi terbatasi, menyebabkan hubungan anak dengan teknologi digitalnya (seperti media sosial) semakin intens dan sukar untuk dikontrol. Lantaran media sosial ini, sementara orang tua secara konservatif menggalakkan pendidikan formal, anaknya di sisi lain, terekspos secara bertubi-tubi oleh “materi ajar” digital yang melampaui kurikulum dan tahapan sekolah. Hal ini dapat menyebabkan komplikasi lanjut dikemudian hari apabila kurang adanya bimbingan.

Khawatir dengan “pendidikan virtual” ini, memutuskan untuk turut mendukung dan mendorong para orang dewasa dalam memonitor aktivitas anak dalam menggunakan teknologi digital. Akan tetapi, sebelum itu, ada baiknya apabila kita bersama-sama meninjau ulang kembali dan menggali lebih dalam makna dari teknologi itu sendiri. Atas dasar itu, tema Agustus 2020 kita akan membahas topik seputar “Apa itu Teknologi”.


Journalism: Juggling with Politics, Money & Technology

[Jakarta, LTTW] Journalism, in theory, operates within the freedom of speech and freedom of press principles. In doing so, there are ethics and codes of conduct that must be adhered to. Covering all sides of an issue, using fact-based information, and seeking the truth are aspects of the foundation by which journalism altruistically stands. Prior to the emergence of the internet, information technology and subsequent widespread changes in political landscapes, journalism was the “authority” of what we now refer to today as the conventional media.

During the Cold War, countries of the Eastern bloc and developing countries elsewhere were the enemies of journalism. At the time, many (if not most) regimes were allergic, it seems, to the freedom of journalism. Censorship, media bans, and  revoking publishing permits were all familiar policies imposed on media. Several countries such as China, Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar are still practicing such policies. In this matter, nothing really changes.

As with any other sector, the media “industry” also consists of minor and major leagues. In the heyday of conventional media, the big players were considered to be the ones who controlled the contents. Newspapers, TV Networks, and Magazines grew as giant media corporations held strong political influence along with endless amount of money at their disposal. Due to their prosperity and by being at the authority to determine press and journalistic freedoms, they had the power to choose what issues to expose, and thus shaped public opinion. Today, however, this is no longer the case.

State vs. Press

The State against the Press is nothing new, but the State banning a foreign state-funded Press was unprecedented prior to the shutting down of Al-Jazeera TV in Amman in August 8, 2002 by the Jordanian authorityes. The channel was accused of “provoking sedition in the kingdom” and “defaming” the royal family, and almost a decade later, the Egyptian government closed down Al-Jazeera for allegedly encouraging the country’s uprising. In August last year, the Saudi Arabian government accused Al-Jazeera of inciting fundamentalism and separatism, supporting terrorism, and destabilizing the political situation in the region. Not long after, the Israeli government blocked Al-Jazeera’s news broadcastS. The Israeli intelligence claims that the network supports terrorism, and is a tool of ISIS. The Israeli government is seeking a legal way to completely shut down Al-Jazeera‘s operations in Israel.

Impartiality is essential to journalism, but the view is different from the political perspective, particularly in countries or regions that do not practice democracy as in Western countries. In the Arab world, where Monarchy and dictatorship are common practices, freedom of press is unwelcome. The perpetual distrust and conflicts among Arab countries add additional difficulties for press impartiality; covering one side is most likely to be taken as is opposing the other.

Al-Jazeera itself is a news broadcasting company sponsored by the Qatari government. While state funded, Al-Jazeera considers itself an alternative and independent network that not only challenges the mainstream narrative, but also serves as a voice for those unheard. Its claims include being impartial and covering all sides, although such claims are questionable when it comes to criticizing its owner. Qatar itself has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and is one of the wealthiest today. Although “more democratic” than its affluent neighbors – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates – Qatar is not a democratic republic; it’s an absolute Monarchy. Reflecting this fact, promoting freedom of press (through Al-Jazeera) can only take place outside of Qatar. This makes Al-Jazeera’s credibility in journalism somewhat dubious.

In recent years, the “battle” between State and freedom of press has happened not only in the Middle East and countries governed by dictatorial regimes, but also, alarmingly, in the United States. The narcissist “superstar” personality of President Trump apparently cannot stand criticism. Every single thing (whether true or not) that he disapproves of is countered by the now famous “fake news” label. This kind of “opposition” by the White House Administration to the media is unprecedented in the United States. The non-partisan press that was once a necessary counterpart is now an enemy of the State, particularly the President. While detesting the unbiased media, Trump is craving for the use of Twitter in his communication. Giving him a title as the King of Tweet seems appropriate to match his addiction to Twitter, or perhaps Twitter Junkie could serve as the alternative. In spite of whichever the title that suits him, the use of Twitter (and other social media) by the public has shaken the existence of conventional and mainstream media.

Social Media and Journalism

The internet has evolved significantly since its early commercial use in early 90s. The first phase of convergence involving computing, communication and information or content has gone far beyond what we could have imagined then. The later convergence involves cellular technology and electronics, while the form of contents expanded from text only to visual, audio and video, not to mention the immediacy in speed and interactivity as the result of streaming technology. E-commerce, Blog, Social networks, Maps & Location and iPhone platforms were born out of this second phase convergence, followed by features and applications as branches.

Such continuous and rapid development changes how people perceive and do things, including the way people view and practice the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and also freedom of the press. Journalism, as one of the manifestations of such freedoms, is heavily challenged by these changes.

Social media activists and users claim that conventional media can no longer “control” the contents. Through the internet, be it web-based or through social networks, any individual or group can publish or share any information they have, including their views, opinions and knowledge. Their claim also concluded that journalism no longer solely belongs to the conventional and mainstream press media.

Although different in form, the number of readership, audience or so-called followers in social media platforms is far beyond the reach of any mainstream media outlet. Based on several surveys, all of the 10 Facebook accounts with most followers belong to individuals who are celebrities. For Twitter, there are only two non-individual accounts (YouTube and CNN) out of twenty with the most followers. The number of followers of these accounts range from 40 to over 100 million!

The growing use and reach of web-based media and social networks has seized the audience of the conventional media; several old school newspapers and magazines had no choice but to transform themselves into on-line media. Those who endured, extended their services on-line.

The battle between web-based service and social networks not only applies to readership, but also to the idea of journalism itself. The new media is said to represent freedom of speech and expression, and for many, practicing these freedoms requires no boundaries. Web-based media and social networks bow to one rule, i.e.: there is no rule. Journalism, on the other hand, believes in sets of ethics and rules. Taking no side, legitimate sources, keeping off the records to themselves, guaranteeing the rights of the subject to respond, and correcting mistakes are some of the doctrines practiced and safeguarded in journalism. Not all of mainstream media obeys these rules, but such disrespect does not change the idea of journalism at all.

Freedom of speech and expression are not without boundary because freedom itself is bound to certain limitations and rules. Any act that fails to recognize and respect limitation is not a manifestation of freedom at all, it is an anarchy.

The New Billionaires and Mainstream Corporate Media.

Giant media corporations are not a new thing; they have been with us since the early 20th century when two fierce competitors, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer established their private newspapers in San Francisco and New York respectively. In the 1950s, an Australian-born Rupert Murdoch bought a network of newspapers that later grew and are now known as News Corp and 21st Century Fox, today’s second largest media group in the world. At the time, however, the founders of these media giants came from families with publishing and/or journalism background. They became billionaires by successfully running their media companies.

Today, there is a growing trend indicating that wealthy individuals coming from outside of media businesses are both investing in and attacking the press media simultaneously. When it comes to investing in media, many wonder why these billionaires took such action amid the sizable “migration” of audiences from conventional media to digital platforms. People become even more puzzled when billionaires of the highest calibre like Warren Buffett (of Berkshire Hathaway) bought Media General Inc., Jeff Bezos (of Amazon) acquired the Washington Post, and John Henry (of Boston Red Sox) purchased the Boston Globe; these billionaires are certainly not stupid! Well, it turned out that there were good reasons why they invested in these conventional media outlets.

First, according to the Newspaper Association of America, the revenue of newspapers in the US has grown with an average of over 3% since 2013. Then, they believe that locality can never be replaced by the “global” web-based and social networks. Another reason is that they also believe that journalism is an institution, and essential in free society and is thus worth defending.

On the other side, there are billionaires who are in opposition of conventional and mainstream media. They simply hate whatever the media exposes with regards to disapproved contents. Donald Trump filed a libel suit against Tim O’Brien of the New York Times who reported that the President’s developer business is only worth between U$ 15-250 million, not between U$1.5-2.5 billion as Trump repeatedly claimed. Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal) did the same thing to Gawker, by financing the retired professional wrestler Hulk Hogan in suing the media. Prior to Hulk Hogan’s case, Gawker exposed the fact that Peter Thiel was gay, something that Peter Thiel would like to keep it private. Another case involved Idaho’s billionaire, Frank VanderSloot; he filed libel suit against Mother Jones magazine for releasing a story about a paedophile camp counsellor in Idaho Falls. Thiel and VanderSloot won the case, Trump did not, but he said that he files the suit just to make O’Brien’s life mmiserable.

It is quite interesting to imagine how the court battle would be if Trump, Thiel, and VanderSloot filed suits against the media owned by Buffett, Bezos, and Henry. Billionaires against billionaires; it would be like a gladiator combat of the 21st century, wouldn’t it?


2020 Vision, and Post-SRRU Blues

By Jason Noghani

To say 2020 started off with a bang would be the ultimate cliché, although nonetheless it seems fitting to say this for various reasons at the start of the new decade, after the previous decade of cacophonous chaos! 2020 has formidably begun with floods in Jakarta, wildfires ravaging across Australia, unresolved political tensions in most countries aggravating both sides of the political spectrum, and the unfortunate events which have seen four decades of unnerving tensions between the United States and Iran increase to worrying states of uncertainty. It therefore seemed fitting, that at Sacred Rhythm: Reborn Unison January 11th 2020, on the first full moon of the decade, that our brothers and sisters from the United States and Iran could join Indonesia on stage for what was an unforgettable night of awe-inspiring music.

Before we continue, I feel it is important to reflect on the pre-event which occurred at Demajors radio HQ in Southern Jakarta on December 27th 2019; a fitting postlude to the decade bygone and a tasty appetiser for what has recently been experienced. On a day with continuous downpours and some technological setbacks, we were undeterred by our enthusiasm to dance in the rain, actively engage in the music presented to us, and literally turn the whole street into a party even though the dedicated audience was relatively modest in size. This wonderful turn of events was certainly an impulse of what was yet to come!

SBF. Doc

Fast forward to January 11th, and the first noticeable aspect of the day was the ambiguity of when it actually began. Just as the audience slowly started to appear, there was already drumming activities occurring outside of the concert space, which gave rise to the notion that the whole event was a gargantuan musical experience in itself – an undivided whole of a journey! Shortly after, a dedicated team of sound engineers, visual projectionists and myself oversaw a procession of musical pieces as a forerunner for what was yet to come, whilst the audience gradually entered the performance space – two works of Gado Gado EnSambal, both old and new (the latter paying homage to India to ensure that our brothers and sisters across the world who could not make it were there in spirit), Sabbath Bride by Jody Diamond, and finally ending with Paksi Ngelayang by the legendary I Nyoman “Komang” Astita, who was also in attendance having contributed to the ongoing Rhythm Salad clinics throughout the week. Following this technologically-motivated procession, Iranian-British composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki (of whom LTTW has interviewed last year) welcomed everyone to the event, having unfortunately been unable to attend, yet nonetheless could attest to being there in spirit through her recorded message. As soon as she had spoken, Andi Supardi and Kinang Putra abruptly began with a stunning performance of their Betawi music and dance to welcome the audience who had by now all arrived – having previously wowed audiences at the pre-event on December 27th, this brief prelude was yet another tasty appetiser before their main performance.

Photography: Haribaik. (SBF. Doc)

Following on from this, a video from Sacred Bridge founder Stephen Hill was played to the audience, expressing his woes at being unable to attend, yet providing a captivating and inspiring message which unanimously touched the hearts of all who had attended – he too was certainly there in spirit! This was followed by Sacred Bridge’s chairman Ginastera “Boo-boo” Sianturi welcoming everyone and setting a suitable tone for the event. Almost the spitting image of his late father, it is undeniable that he is the natural heir of Serrano “Rano” Sianturi’s legacy – and Rano certainly would have been proud of him! Awards were also presented to the facilitators and guests at the event for their ongoing contributions to Sacred Bridge, so we would personally like to congratulate and thank Amy Knoles, Komang Astita and Marzuki Hasan for their achievements and dedicated work, as without it, Sacred Bridge would not have benefitted as much as it has done – we truly thank you all from the bottom of our hearts!

Photography: MOLD Graphics/Iqbal Mughniy (SBF. Doc)

After this poignant introduction, Shiva Feshareki (again through prerecorded message) introduced her work Venus-Zohreh to the audience, which was officially when the main event had commenced, and the official Indonesian premiere of one of Shiva’s latest compositions. A work for string quartet lasting just shy of six minutes, Venus-Zohreh nonetheless embodies a power far larger than the forces which create and encapsulate it. The boldness of the work is found in the rich sonorities produced in the open strings and the starkly simple form is nothing more than a crescendo; initially murmuring like a distant morning sun and eventually soring like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. It was an astonishing way to commence festivities, and it was unanimously felt that the awe-struck audience loved it!

Whether it was part of a broader musical infrastructure or a comical tongue in cheek jester, Andi Supardi and Kinang Putra immediately commenced with their performance right after Venus-Zohreh. I say tongue in cheek as a term of endearment, as the performers intertwined musical invention and humour with the utmost mastery, and did not disappoint with what they had teased us with earlier that evening and on December 27th. The music is a rich tapestry of influences – Gamelan, Indonesian folk traditions, Jazz, Latin, and other strands of musical influences which seeped through the musical textures. Outside of Indonesia, Betawi music is relatively unknown in contrast to the globally renowned Gamelan, and this is certainly music which deserves wider recognition for its beauty, intricacy and imagination! There was laughter, there was dancing, and above all there was an audience seductively captivated by the musical brilliance which embraced them.

Photography: Haribaik. (SBF. Doc)
Photography: MOLD Graphics/Iqbal Mughniy (SBF. Doc)

Following on from this performance was a spellbinding performance from Marzuki Hasan and Canang 7 from Aceh, who just like Andi Supardi and his consort, also performed at the pre-event on December 27th as a little teaser for SRRU. Furthermore, it should also be noted that Canang 7 played an important role in the Rhythm Salad Clinics earlier that week, having engaged with and inspired the participants into the mystical and compelling practices of Sufi music, and this was also their second Sacred Rhythm event having previously performed at Celebrate Life on April 26th 2019. It would be fair to say that these previous renditions were merely scratching the surface of what was performed that day, as the evocations that were created continued for almost twice as long, thereby deepening the sacred space which enchanted and transcended the audience. In direct contrast to what was previously heard, the audience remained motionless, entranced, and in a fixated state of deep listening as the sacred tones and patterns resonated within and outside of the audience and auditorium, bridging past and future through the dynamic wisdom of the masterful Sufi art practices.

Photography: Haribaik. (SBF. Doc)

Following on from Marzuki Hasan and Canang 7 was the last of the main performances, consisting of American electroacoustic percussionist Amy Knoles, Iranian musician Houman Pourmehdi, and Caribbean-French singer Joel Virgil-Vierset. What was created I cannot describe with vivid acuity, as their set reflected the pathos of the whole event, in that it was one continuous whole interjected with various occurrences of other musical influences – most evidently Persian traditional music. Furthermore, the triangulation of the three main performances was also reflected in the fact that this musical monument was created by a trio, who in themselves perfectly reflected the triangulation of art, science and spirituality through their alchemical vibrations. The industrial experimental gyrations of Amy’s electronic percussion and Joel’s eerily beautiful vocal embellishments provided an austere, mysterious and supernatural backdrop for the untarnished, immaculate renditions of Persian traditional songs, which demonstrated the phenomenal prowess of Houman’s abilities on the tambour, daf (drum), ney (flute) and voice. There was also a sombre undertone to this performance, as the lyrical content of Houman’s choices of material symbolically reflected the ongoing tumult in Iran, which could not have been more appropriate for the time and context of the performance. It provided a multitude of complex emotions as is typical of the very finest of Iranian music – reflecting the ongoing despair and suffering of the Iranian people, yet also providing glimmers of hope, and reflecting the persistent beauty of the human spirit.

Photography: Haribaik. (SBF. Doc)
Photography: Haribaik. (SBF. Doc)

This unforgettable performance immediately set the tone for the final live performance, bridged together by a drone that interconnected the previous act and this one; namely the fruits of the ongoing Rhythm Salad Clinic that week. The participants at the Rhythm Salad Clinic, many of whom had never met before, had started from scratch on the Monday and by Saturday had created not one, but two brand new pieces especially for this event. Amy, Houman and Komang overlooked and facilitated the workshops to aid in these musical creations; the first of which immediately took off from the preceding performance, which was a powerful rendition of a Persian Sufi song, which like the previous performance, appropriately fitted the context of the time it was performed. Houman also combined forces with fellow Iranian tambour player Pouyan Khosravi, which naturally added to the powerful aura of the performance, and the supporting musicians were equally engaged and captivated by the seductive Persian mysticism. The lyrical content of the song was a Rumi poem construed with a maqam (musical mode), which described the story of the Sufi mystic Mansur Al-Hallaj, who was executed for exclaiming “Ana ‘l-Haqq” (“I am God” or “I am the Truth”), and Rumi laments in the love he feels, overwhelmed at the fact that it is merely a fraction of what Al-Hallaj must have felt to have made such a proclamation. Symbolically, this could not have been more appropriate given that the Iranian people are currently fighting and tragically dying for the truth – it was a truly magical performance, that was felt by both performers and audience alike! The next piece to follow was a quirky concoction of Balinese Gamelan and Kecak (monkey chant) interjected with spasmodic IDM explosions; courtesy of Komang’s exquisite mastery of his Balinese heritage and Amy’s unceasingly eclectic technological wizardry respectively. These contrasting forces created an unpredictable, dynamic and exciting music, that was hard to categorise yet seductive and tantalising for the ears. It formed a perfect couple with the soothing solemnity of the Persian Sufi song, and made one wonder what could be achieved over a longer duration, given that two truly magical gems had been conceived in under a week!

Photography: Lassak Imaji/Tagor Siagian (Sbf. Doc)
Photography: Lassak Imaji/Tagor Siagian (Sbf. Doc)
Photography: Lassak Imaji/Tagor Siagian (Sbf. Doc)
Photography: MOLD Graphics/Iqbal Mughniy (SBF. Doc)

Once the performances had ended, Syafwin “Abim” Bajumi of Syaelendra Studio provided an invigorating set of house music, having filled in for Leno Rei who unfortunately could not make it due to succumbing to an illness (our thoughts are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery!). The rest of the evening consisted of drinks, food, conversation and laughter from performers and audience alike, and under the captivating radiance of the full moon, there was joy to be felt all around. It was hard to say when the party ended exactly – not literally, as the venue had to shut eventually, but the sense of euphoria continued in the days that followed, although unsurprisingly, the hangover has been felt from the potency of the event – hence the post-SRRU blues!

In light of these times, we have an exciting yet potentially difficult decade ahead of us as we dig deeper into the 21st Century, and confront all that is ahead of us and is demanded of us. Blissful ignorance is increasingly becoming less of an option, as we have to face up to the jarring realities surrounding us, but we should do so with love and light whilst never forgetting what Rano, the founder of Sacred Bridge, told us in his final days – to do so whilst Celebrating Life! As could be discerned from this wondrous occasion, it is safe to assume with cautious optimism that the 2020s will reap blossoming fruits for Sacred Rhythm, and that as of yet we are merely scratching the surface for what is yet to come. So, I will end it here, by reminding all of you, to watch this space!


Sculpting the Future, with Dolorosa Sinaga

By Ginastera “Boo-boo” Sianturi

Continuing the spirit of our collaboration with the Children’s Museum of the Arts in NYC, LTTW have conducted an in depth interview with Dolorosa Sinaga, who is known by many as Dolo. To name but a few, Dolo (b.1952) is one of the most respected Indonesian fine artists of her generation, alongside Semsar Siahaan, whose work not only challenged many real local and global issues, but also inspired subsequent generations of artists.

A sculptor, a lecturer and also an activist who unceasingly confronts the ongoing issues humanity still continues to face, from gender equality, human rights abuses, freedom of speech, to pluralism, in which Indonesia as a young democracy is still struggling with despite its independence over half a century ago in 1945. From the tragedy of 1965 to the monetary crisis in 1998 were amongst the themes which her works respond to; the bronze sculpture, ‘Solidaritas’ (Solidarity) was a response to the tragedy in 1998, exhibited in 2000, depicting seven women standing in a line and holding each others hands to symbolically represent a fence – a deeply personal work triggered by the subsequent abuse of women and the rights of citizens in general during the Jakarta riots of 1998.

While many people ran away and hid due to the crisis, Dolorosa is amongst those few artists who confronted and dealt with the situation. Our parent organisation, the Sacred Bridge Foundation, was established solely as an immediate response to this crisis, which aims to find solutions by using cultural currencies to re-establish respect and mutual understanding amongst the divided nation and its people.

Before Sacred Bridge Foundation was formally established in 1998, Stephen Hill and Serrano Sianturi (founders of Sacred Bridge) had been working together since 1996, even performing some censor-challenging musical performances while Soeharto was still in power. They also worked together on issues such as looking after the children who were caught up in the conflict, educating children with environmental awareness and action, as well as promoting awareness of peace and cultural tolerance. They worked with children throughout all the schools in Jakarta, ranging from Islamic, Catholic, and general schools , at a time when tensions  began emerging around 1997, and continuing the work thereafter. The spirit then continued manifesting, including confronting street gangs in Jakarta and helping traumatised Acehnese children after the tsunami in 2004. It was quite helpful that Stephen, who at the time served as the regional director for Asia and the Pacific at UNESCO, could incentivise the United Nations to legitimise some of these events – when the national politics of Indonesia were rather uninclined to creative endeavours.

To continue its journey to provide cultural education for the young, the Sacred Bridge foundation established creative camps called Hugging the City (Peluklah Jakarta) and Hugging the Nature (Peluklah Bumi). Dolo was one of the first facilitators alongside Adikara Rachman, Oscar Motuloh, Tagor Siagian, Dibal Ranuh, I Wayan Sadra, I Nyoman Astita, Diana Embran, Jasperine Ramona Nanletta, amongst several others. As a result of her contribution, Dolo was awarded the Certificate of Appreciation given by UNESCO and Sacred Bridge Foundation for her generous support in Cultural Programs for Children Activities in 2003.

Dolorosa with Hugging the Nature’s children at Cibodas National Park | Photo: SBF

LTTW hopes that this interview will not only provide perspectives about Dolorosa, but also provides a platform for those who shared great concerns for the future generation, as well as the neglected role of Arts as a healing, educational, and expressive medium, rather than merely as an economic commodity, which can actually contribute to the progress of human development in this age of the post-industrial society.

LTTW: Good afternoon. How are you?

DS: I’m fine, thank you. Long time no see! I’m so happy to see you again. My God…

(more greeting exchanges).

So, congratulations for the launch of the recent book, publication title Tubuh Bentuk Substansi or Body, Form and Matter. I haven’t read the book myself, but I promise you I will.

Good! You have to.

But, knowing you from my childhood, not only as a dear friend to my father and the Sacred Bridge Foundation, but also as a teacher that had helped me and many others to unleash and to unlock their creativity and endless potentials during their adolescent period, which is a very important period of a child’s development. I think it would already give enough background for us to continue the conversation. So, maybe you can tell us briefly about the book itself.

Okay, yeah…this book is actually taking so long to realise. In my solo exhibition since 2001 till 2013 I had 5 solo exhibitions. In every solo exhibition I always invited numbers of my friends of different backgrounds and disciplines to write their thoughts about my work. They actually make a very rich contribution in studying my sculptures. The reason why I did it is basically I want people to know that the viewers or the public views on art is much more important than the art itself. By doing so,  I actually did a compilation of knowledge on my sculpture. That’s why I planned to do this book and I found two editors who are very qualified in structuring books and finding suitable references; to see how the genealogy of artistic creation and how they structure my work in terms of connecting it to a greater knowledge that people can read and learn about. That’s the mission actually.

So, I have a quote from a French poet and philosopher (Paul Valery). He observes architecture and design. He said that “it is important that we should keep in mind the most subtle and powerful principle of all arts; the agreement between material and form, made as intimate and thorough as possible by the nature of things. The fusion of these two elements is the absolute aim of all great art. The simplest example is offered by poetry which cannot exist without the close association or the magic symbiosis of sound and meaning. Only through this search for a kind of union that must be imagined and take place within the living depth of the artist, and in a way throughout his whole body, can the work achieve any resemblance with the living production of nature, in which it is impossible to dissociate force from form.”* That’s what he said. I see it as a UNIFICATION which resembles the title of your book, tells us 3 different aspects about how art cannot be separated from those substances as you mention. My question: is the interrelation between the three aspects that you mention now something that is hard to find amongst young artists – do you feel that it is something that has been gradually neglected over time?

Body is not only a body. Body that you know, is body that you know. But actually, body can be like a legacy, a medium, knowledge and movement.

They are all actually related. I mean, body is not only a body. Body that you know, is body that you know. But actually, body can be like a legacy, body can be a medium, body can help you to understand a structure  such as architecture knowledge, body can also allow to help understand movement of the body, its so rich, its so alive and yet its could be symbolical and metaphorical to some extent. Artists throughout history had been exploring many issues enriching the notion and understanding of the body. So it’s not only…like…theoretically just the body as the structure of anatomy.. No, no. That is not my point. Why I choose body in my sculpture is because body is something that carries so many mysteries, so many issues in life. Just like what you see in what we are facing nowadays in life, all over the world. It’s something to do with the body, something to do with the mind. Body is not only a form but body also is the harmony of mind and raga and soul.

The Children’s creations at Dolorosa’s inspired workshop | Photo: Patricia Argie

The connection between the mind, body and spirit? 

What I’m gonna say is body…um…form and matter is actually one substance. Like theatre, is a substance. That’s why you see all my pieces are based on body but you see so many issues I can bring up with you, and you can understand and you can share my concerns and people can understand what my issue is on women, so they understand. I think I have to say that pieces like my “Solidarity” that they can feel if women get together they can build a strong wall. They cannot be destroyed or made to disappear. Something like that. I believe that when you see art works, you see obviously see the expression of  authority of the artist that created it. On the other hand, artists should be able to understand that there is also a spectator’s authority in reading the art. You cannot just push the spectator to dictate how to see your work. No, no. I believe any art work is  a medium of communication so it should be open up to discussion, to any perception, it’s like a dialogue of authority that eventually becomes a knowledge. . that can enrich your art experience. I think this is very important. That’s why I keep saying that my work is just a medium of expression. But the most important thing is how the spectators see it and read it as they experience it.

That’s actually very similar to how SB sees culture as a living being, whether it is a monument or a ritual itself that we may have to keep renewing, not all aspects of course, to become relevant to our world, and I see your work is very important because you are responding to the surroundings around you and make the arts as a living object rather than a dead object, as you said it is open for discussion, an important role of art as a medium of dialogue.

No art is the same. So, by experiencing art, that visual experience teaches you that you have to respect others.

And also, I want to say the experience in engaging with  art experience  is actually giving you or teaching you to have respect…toward the sense of being difference. No art is the same. So, by experiencing art, that visual experience teaches you that you have to respect others. That you have to give respect to diversity.  Being different is not something that you have to be afraid of. There should not be a danger by being different. Therefore I guess art can inspire you to have respect and value the richnesses of being differences.. Then you will grow with a good sense of…being able to understand anything not only yourself.  I don’t think I have the vocabulary in my life of being right that other people is wrong.

It’s not about right or wrong, it’s more about expression and being able to be different…. jumping to the next one, it’s about being different. I see that millennials and even more, generation Z, today are growing up with less awareness of their surroundings/environments in various social and natural circumstances, and even the same situation is apparent across the planet in London, the city that I have lived in for years. In other words, I remember growing up in Jakarta, climbing up random trees, jumping into the city fountain ponds, and even talking to some strangers on the road; we had these wild and daring experiences, today it looks like the children do not have it anymore, do you feel that? Have they been consumed by gadgets and smartphones? Perhaps the road is much busier and therefore the air is dirtier and safety becomes a concern for many parents.

You guys live in a very different world to me. In your case there’s no time difference anymore. There is no space…difference…I mean you touch a screen and you can see like you’re living in New York. This situation is completely different to what we, in my age, experienced in the past. I believe that facing the new generation with this kind of privilege of engaging with technology, we actually have to take a very crucial concern on education. The institution of education should be changed. Class, teaching, whatever you call it that…um…makes them bored. So…um…I think the institution where they school should be able to accommodate how they live now. How they see the world, how they see the time, how they see…um…that they can touch the world anywhere. In my case we don’t have that experience. So, it’s very difficult and this is a great change in life.

So, you are more on the optimistic side on the technology…

Oh, yea, yea. The only thing that I understand if I teach my students, for instance, they have to read Van Gogh. They can read so many critiques written on Van Gogh in their gadget.   But they can not find my interpretation on Van Gogh in their gadget. Is this the kind of authority, you tell me, but I agree that in education process I believe that the value of authority for the sake of their formative years should be implemented for a good reason.  That gives a kind of…um…what should I call it? Kesadaran (awareness). (A) notion that I am there, I am here as your teacher and I’m ready to work together with you. We can get all knowledge from your technology, but I’m here with you to talk and discuss.

So, there’s a living guide.

Yes, it’s a living guide you may say so. I thing its an important foundation to develop a new paradigm in any formal education in every field, that is to facilitate a dialogue with the student. In this sense all teachers generate a dialogue on knowledge across generational experiences. I learn from you and you learn from me. By doing so, we will be able to construct and shape our vision together for the future. I think this is a very important issue.

Discussion at Hugging the Nature, Cibodas National Park | Photo: SBF]

I think it’s a good point to bring up, because of…

I don’t hate them. I love them, I learn a lot from them. I mean, I don’t live in their life, but they cannot live in my life, too.

But that’s something I think is in Hugging the Nature and Hugging the City programme that we want to reveal. I think it’s important for young people today to know what past generations have done and contributed to their life and actually learn a lesson from them rather than ignoring the past.

See, the important thing is actually how to build a relationship with the young and that we build our history together. To the future. So…um…I’m not guiding you to take my experience as your reference. No. But the dialogue that we have in shaping the future of the world. Like how this relationship between you and me, with different generations, can shape the world. To the future. We probably will not have a problem with living in a different country but we are going to live in a world nation. Citizens of the world. In this way we lay history together. We’re building it up. It is very important.

And that’s where the challenge of diversity comes. So last week, we received an email from CMA in NY,  which included a poster whereby I saw your name on it, about the workshop for children inspired by Dolorosa titled Wonderful Woman. I mentioned our relationship briefly, I became curious about how and why the facilitators are inspired by your work. They wrote back to us, Ian, the lead teaching artist, and he said, “Selecting artists to highlight during CMA’s Cultural Festivals are a collaborative effort amongst the department managers. We look for contemporary artists who have an active studio practice, and whose work is informed by the place that they come from. We don’t want to highlight an artist simply because they come from a culture that we are celebrating. Instead, we seek to highlight artists whose artistic practices touch upon themes that are informed by their upbringing, living situation, or response to current events in the countries or geographic areas that we are spotlighting.” That’s the first paragraph. I think that’s brilliant! I think it resembles your work as an artist that you can always respond to many issues in Indonesia, whether it’s political issues, human rights issues, or social issues, from monetary crises in 1998 to any other issues in Indonesia. Since Sacred Bridge’s foundation, Mas Rano had always reminded and taught us, the Reborn generation, on the importance of context. In the development of Indonesian arts, especially urban arts and even in the rural areas, most of our arts do not emanate from the ‘living situation’ or as we in SBF say, embedded to the locality or local wisdom, which has been prioritised by SBF for years. Neither of the arts respond to current events or issues faced by the society. What happens to our arts is merely claims of other nations’ identities or culture. For example (as a musician, I like to take examples from music sphere) Blues was born in the time of the slavery of black people in the United States. Reggae was born as an expression of Jamaican people for their independence. Even Punk was born as a criticism of the commercialisation of Rock music. In the west, the close relation between arts and its environment have brought up a movement. Once the movement was established, the industry stepped in and took advantage of it, adding another value or a selling point to the arts. Now, according to the Museum, your works are considered contextual, meaning they respond to the living situation. After decades of working as an artist how do you see arts in Indonesia, especially fine arts? Is it like what I mentioned before, that all music genres that are born outside Indonesia can become a movement because they responded to the local context? How important is it for our young artists to be able to see local contexts in producing their works?

LTTW’s joint exhibition corner with Hugging The Nature, questioning the very fundamental question that is important in human development | Photo: SBF

As an art educator…maybe I should start with a story that since the 80s all artists in Indonesia had a formal academic background. Before the 80s some artists were mostly trained in studios, you called them autodidact, they were trained in a diffrerent education atmosphere.  The frictions between these artists are actually resolved. Those who were traditionally trained as an artist, they continue to build and have their own community development. That is why we do not have issue on this matter.  When the number of formally trained artists are making progress, we no longer see any frictions between artists who are self-trained and formally-trained. These formally-trained artists are then divided into two groups: those who see the market as a destination and those who don’t. Most of them who don’t see the market as a destination have dedicated their life as an artist to empower the society. Semsar Siahaan, myself, and many others. I have never been interested in the market, even though I do have a market that I built myself.  You will never see my arts in any auctions because no one wants to resell my works. They are happy to have them in their homes. It gives something to them. And if my works are no longer in their homes, they might feel lost. Perhaps it does not happen to a lot of artists. I don’t know. That’s why I think it is important to see how they use an art. They are the spectators, so-called collectors, or whatever you’d call them. We can’t say that all collectors see an artwork as an investment. I don’t believe that.

But arts can actually live without industry.

Listen To The World’s exhibition corner at Sacred Rhythm Reborn Unison ‘Celebrate Life’ event at the National Museum of Indonesia | Photo: SBF

Ummm (long pause)….it’s not really like that. If you ask me, if arts can live without industry, that’s not correct. Because without industry…industry is actually an indicator of progress. Indonesian economic increase, all those high-rise buildings, they need artworks. And there’s a market for that. There’s an industry for that. But whether or not it affects people’s awareness to the important issues, that are fought by the artists, it’s not necessarily so. I don’t hate industry. But when industry turned into the authority (power) that makes people treat arts only as an investment, that is not just, and I think we should fight this kind of authority that do abusive power toward the function of art in human life.

Sure. It can also reduce the roles and other functions of the arts to merely a sight for sore eyes. 

When we let the industry to have such a power on art,  the opportunity for people to experience arts as a long cultural investment that will bring awareness to people, to see arts as a sources of beauty, be enlightened by works of art, be concerned with other matters that they never thought about, be an inspiration for healing process, as the sources of education, all this potential is valuable to human life. Through my art people can see what medium is to me, how I did my exploration with medium in order to express the substance of my art. I need them to see my point, to make them  care of the issue that I care about.  I see arts as my way to say to people the things that must be corrected. When the country does not seem to solve the activists kidnapping cases, I made an artwork. I asked them, why they took our children. I want to show my empathy to the endless sadness they have to endure because the country has been ignoring the cases. So, my works is my statement to all issues that I care about.

Well, thank you. I hope the young people can respond… 

I am sure they can, I have no doubt of what they can do to change the world to make it a better place and to live together in peace and happiness. .

And realise that industry is not the only thing that can support arts and they finally can be able to make use of the functions of arts, as well as becoming aware that arts can actually live in the society.

That’s what I’ve been teaching my [art] students. They should be able to make a living with their intelligence.

There is another side that…it should not stop at its economic value. That’s what I’ve been teaching my students. They should be able to make a living with their intelligence. Making artworks, selling them, it’s okay. But on the other hand, they also must have an awareness that as an artist they can be engaged and take part and contribute as the agents of change!!.

Continuing Ian’s statement regarding your work, he said: “What I love about Dolorosa’s work is the capturing of feminine qualities and spirits in a hard sculptural material. Many people have a notion that femininity must be ethereal and fragile. To me, strength and resolve in the face of aggression exemplifies femininity. Dolorosa’s metal sculptures are perfect representations of both of these qualities, and reflect CMA’s belief that women are leaders, change-makers, and key decision-makers.”

Alright, cannot agree more….

They must have really studied your work. We have a question, a really broad question. Has the world made any progress on continuing the so-called gender equality, in particular in Indonesia? Has the role of women, not only in the arts, achieved any progress since you were growing up? Today there’s a saying that most females are now happy because they don’t take men seriously anymore.


Is this statement somewhat true in the practice? Because I see a lot of my female friends, especially who are living in the city, despite many pressures from traditional values of marriage, a pressure to get married, they are just happy human beings working and focusing on their career, even when they pass 30 years of age. Does this also resemble what we call freedom of thinking and freedom of expression for women?

Display of information about Dolorosa’s workshop at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, NYC | Photo: Patricia Argie

I believe there are more and more powerful women in the world. They’re growing in numbers as activists in many different professions, in science, in politic in health and the most important thing is in human right issues in almost . everything. There are more women become top leader, in power. But even so,  I believe the whole world is still stay the same as the whole power is still on the hands of male domination.  Women struggling and still trying to connect with one another, how the implementation of human rights can be seen as a general problem. It’s difficult. Because we still have many authorities not from public areas but from sectarian issues like religion and oligarchy? So, there you will see the issue of human rights, the issue of gender violation is still there. It will still be something that we have to be concerned about.

Hopefully the arts will still be the powerful medium…

Yeah, yeah. I still believe that. For me, art increases intelligence. Art can also be a weapon. It can also be a propaganda, but we want to have a positive propaganda.

Or positive campaign.

Yeah, positive campaign.

There is interesting interview LTTW conducted with Pak Uki, the Sufi maestro of Aceh and he poses a question on gender equality. As for the influence of Islam, Acehnese art had indeed incorporated some of the Islamic tradition into the forms of their art, such as gender role, for instance, in which male and female performers must not perform in the same room or the same area. Inevitably, however, this has changed as time goes by. And I was surprised myself in finding this out because we see from here that, with Shariah law and everything that goes around in Aceh, this is something that may never occur. So I re-questioned Uki, is such separation still existent, he said no. As a matter of fact, many aspects have gone astray. At the time when I was growing up, meeting him, learning Saman, or Seudati (Acehnese dances), the Islamic tradition is strictly fermented during the process as part of the Islamic wisdom that we must exercise in our life. One example was regarding Meunasah. Meunasah is the learning centre attached to the mosque. Like small madrasah. The learning activities, mostly reading the Quran, then followed by traditional art, practices for male and female apprentices were run under strict separation. When the female apprentices rehearse Ratib Muzakat dance, for instance, no male was allowed to be present. It’s such a strict rule. I need to mention however; the strict separation was not all about discriminating the level of educational importance between and for the two genders. Such importance is delivered in equal weight. So, there is progress we see and the role of arts as Uki, as our teacher, has pointed to us.

Marzuki (Uki) Hasan and Canang 7 Atjeh Ensemble at Demajors LTTW offline event, December 27th 2019 | Photo: Boo-boo Sianturi

Wow, it’s good to hear.

And also we brought the similarities of Seudati, the dance, between Seudati and Hip Hop…

Yeah, but still, I mean, this tradition of the lines of women, with dance, you only see all women. Like, what’s the name? Seudati? Never been in history in the lines you see the man. No. It’s like, the men can also have their own. Lines of men, lines of women, with different movement, right?

The general practice hasn’t been implemented in the whole of the region…

But it shows to me that they have a sensitivity of being…they have that sensitivity of being equal. You can have Seudati consists of women, but you can also have Seudati consists of men. It’s equal.

And I think that’s the importance of cultural identity, therefore we can broaden and enrich our interpretation on religion based on Culture and its locality. 

I believe in any culture there is a wisdom in man and woman positioned in life that express the cosmology of their culture.

I totally agree with you. There’s no reason to question why the Seudati not try to have man and woman together in this performance. I guess no need to raise that question. Because in every cultural expression, there is a local wisdom being invested in so many ways. I believe in any culture there is a wisdom in man and woman positioned in life that express the cosmology of their culture.

And the last thing in the relation to the museum, in the last paragraph, I’ll just read it out to you. “Every project at CMA incorporates the museum’s pedagogy of Look, Make, Share. Providing visual references and examples of the artist’s work is paramount for young artists to understand what is being made and the issues that the work is responding to — this is Look. Make is easiest to implement — without it, there would be no project! Share is arguably the easiest to disregard, but encouraging young artists to talk about their work and recognise their own accomplishments can create an everlasting confidence in themselves and appreciation for the transformative power of art, from very early on in life.” Does the museum’s pedagogy of Look Make and Share resembles your methodology, your way, your spirit of delivering teaching materials to Students at all levels?

A brief description on how the museum’s pedagogy is applied to Entang Wiharso’s workshop at CMA, NYC | Photo: Patricia Argie

Yeah, I believe so. It’s like when you want to teach your student…about…surrealism. First thing you do is to look at the work of surrealism. What is so special about this concept of expression?.  Where that imagination is coming from and how they discover the other meanings that you never came across to. It is very true, first is to look and study the work of surrealism, second is to try not to imitate as a method to develop your skill and technic in painting, I think to let the student take these steps of learning, engaging themselves into the concept, if they could internalise the thought, by the time they will be able to develop this concept of expression, they become their own expression.  So, in art theory, aesthetic theory, it is called the process of decoding. I was surprised that small kids who…are able to do internalising after the experience of looking…wow, it’s something great. Right from the beginning. Early years, you told them to do that, it’s great. I’m gonna copy it (laughs).

We can do a project with them also. Almost there…this is almost a general question…Rano told me once… that how come that Architecture students don’t know what the mix of cement is, in fact some of them had never touched wet cement before it became concrete; music composition students do not have their compositions played in their final year yet they receive their degree. and I see that in many institutions in Indonesia. Is there something wrong with our education system, especially in the arts? We talked about make, today theory and practise are almost separate things that they study so much under an institution that we forgot. After all art is about making, touching, feeling. So, do you think this is the failure of the institution and the teachers? Do you see this? 

It’s not about dispute on knowledge and practices, really. It’s…um… we create an artist, not artisan. Meaning, if we create an artist we’re dealing with conceptual work, engaging with all theories of art, what is the bottom field of every movement in art. I mean it’s all about knowledge. But in practice, actually, you get like…um…how to do a (…) joint in woods, and how do you apply colours in metal mediums? That is a technician’s expertise. I believe that complete artists know both, like me. I did my apprenticeship, I did know artisan, I know all the techniques, know how to use electric welding; I know them all because I want to experience. But not all artists are like me. So, it’s coming from themselves. If the artist thinks that they should look for practice experience, then go for it. Some not. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean that if you don’t have practice experience you will not be a great artist, no. Many great artists do not know how to mix something, probably. I don’t know. But they are still great. I mean, we still can learn from them. So, it’s a dispute we have to settle down. They have their own authorities actually. It will make a complete artist if they know both. Then your eyes are trained right from the beginning in the sense of technician and also in the sense of artistic creation. So, that is complete.

There is still time…you do still see it (artists who don’t know how to mix becoming great artists)…occasionally…

Well,  yes it happens now, because everything is so easy nowadays. The big question is whether it jeopardises your work or not.

Actually one more related to material.

Maybe it is through the use of clay, but metal can also be considered fragile in terms of using it as a means of lightness or sturdiness …

What is about material? What do you wanna know about material? Femininity always looks … fragile. Maybe it is through the use of clay, but metal can also be considered fragile in terms of using it as a means of lightness or sturdiness …the metal medium, also has the character of lightness … elasticity! Medium is fascinating to me.

So, the one that was appointed by the CMA was metal, right? As the medium…

It depends. Every medium has got a character of weight in itself. Kayu (wood), logam (metal), they have weight. Only paper does not have weight. Just like my studies in St. Martin. I believe this question is back to the artist. How they see medium. What medium is to themselves. So, for me, every sculptor sees a medium as a way to create an object. You can use metal, you can use fibreglass, you can use cement, you can use woods, stone, and everything. It’s a medium you create something that brings out your expression.

Is there a particular reason you use metal especially for the work that resembles femininity or women’s rights? Why not using clay?

Because I can use metal as a very thin figure. Which is very strong and at the same time so fragile. So that’s the bipolar power of the medium. Somehow, it’s intriguing me. That’s why I choose metal in that way. But, back again, it’s the concept of my work. See. I chose a medium as a statement, other artists may not see it that way. They use it as a way to create object. For me my relationship with the medium,  it’s a statement.

Resulting artwork made at Dolorosa’s inspired workshop, Children’s Museum of the Arts, NYC | Photo: Patricia Argie

If we use music, like in the classical symphony orchestra, we have several families. Woodwind, brass, string. That’s the medium in the orchestra. 

It has character. The same thing is actually in sculpture, every material has a character. And many artists work through the material like Henry Moore. He has a concept of matter. How the material shown. So, if he uses marble, he wants to see all the beautiful marble grooves. He will not cover, he will not eliminate the natural character of the medium.

Last Question, with the age of internet today, many platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, we have also been flooded with music software. People now make music with technology, instruments are almost no longer an important medium for musicians, because they have laptop. That is from one side. With rapid technological advancement, I also see the flooding of creativity, everybody now can claim themselves as artists in this day and age. There are two sides of the coin. Not long ago, you had to really master and learn the fundamentals but also understand its relations with living in the contexts that do not only stand on their own linear ways, but interconnected with other cross disciplines. Do you see this more on the optimistic side? Do you accept that that now anyone can become an artist?

I wish the world can be like the song of John Lennon (Imagine). You don’t need countries, you don’t need everything. Everyone is an artist. The world can be a happy life for all.

What’s your message for young artists in Indonesia particularly who are still searching for meaning in Arts and their identity as artists?  

You guys actually have a very difficult position now because you are so close to a danger as a humanity. I’m serious. And the power of technology and you guys that live in that era, where do you want to take this world in the future. That’s a big question. Not for me. I’m gonna be gone, but honestly I want to witness how you guys deal with your digital era that made your life much easier but potentially disastrous.

But you can still help and direct us.

So, I think the big question is when your life is facing the great privilege to do anything because of technology, where do you want to bring humanity in the future?

So, the humanitarian aspect is still your greatest concern for the young generation.

Because when you keep continuing living in your maya (virtual) culture, you don’t need other people to interfere in your life. I can’t imagine. You’ll lose all contacts; you’ll lose all your needs which you think is not important anymore. Oh, I cannot imagine. You will be the first generation that would lay another layer of generations to come. What would you…what would be your legacy? That is the big question. PS: Don’t answer it!

Hopefully we can work together in finding the answer together in Hugging the Nature and Hugging the City in foreseeable future.

In the long run, I believe that you all will see the engagement of technology, will bring you the new notion for legacy that you all should think about.

Great. Thank you very much!


*Grillo, Paul Jacques (1960). “Form, Function & Design.” New York, Dove Publications. (p.50)