Going green in Jakarta expresses itself in many ways…

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Extinction Rebellion demonstration on October 13th in Jakarta. (Photo: Nabila Andrawina/@Bilawina on Instagram)

IO – Greeta Thunburg is a political activist and climate change warrior but most of all she is a child who is frightened at the possibility of the destruction of the world and the extinction of the human species. Her speech in September of this year at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York where she addressed world leaders and demanded of them, “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood…” went viral and raised concerns everywhere about the extinction of mankind with the destruction of the environment. Greta spearheaded a movement of striking school children called School Strikes for Climate. The emergence of an adult international civil-disobedience movement known as Extinction Rebellion was one of the consequences. It demands that governments declare a climate and ecological emergency and take immediate steps to address it. The movement began in the UK and has spread around the world. All of this has also helped increase awareness in Indonesia of the climate change emergency the world is facing and it has encouraged different groups to promote going green in different ways. 

An Extinction Rebellion group was created two months ago in Jakarta and Indonesia experienced its first Extinction Rebellion demonstration on the 13th of September 2019 (https:// extinctionrebellion.id/). They marched from the Gelora Bung Karno sports stadium down Jalan Thamrin to the Hotel Indonesia Circle. The marchers carried signs demanding action on climate change and one was dressed as a giant dinosaur carrying a sign demanding the government stop the extinction of the planet. 

Meanwhile, art group ARTBEAT held an exhibition entitled “Elements” which refers to the elements in nature. They will not only give KAB Green Project a donation but used the exhibition to help promote KDM’s work as well as providing them with new contacts via the email addresses of visitors to the exhibition. 

KDM pick-up collecting rubbish for sorting and re-cycling. (Photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

KDM or Kampus Diakonia Modern is a foundation established in 1972 to assist both marginalized children as well as street children (www.kdm. or.id). It has a centre where children can sleep and are fed and given home schooling on the borders of East Jakarta and Bekasi. Arnando Prio Wibowo was a marginalized seven-year old when he joined them in 1999. Now he is one of KDM’s leaders. In the beginning 2000s KDM had a problem with a massive mountain of garbage at the back of their centre which caused skin rashes, scabies and diarrhea from its swarms of flies. They began to clean up the garbage mountain and as they were doing so they had the idea to sort the garbage and sell it for re-cycling. Their idea spread and they created KDM’s Green Project where KDM collects people’s non-organic rubbish for sorting and re-cycling mainly in South Jakarta area but also around Menteng. For this they have a small team of 3 and a pick-up truck. 

The Jakarta Green Project (www. Jakartagreenproject.wordpress. com) is a group of people who share ideas about how Jakartans can live a greener life style which is how Kathy Mitchell an Australian national heard about KDM and became involved in its Green Project. Kathy previously lived in India where she found a big interest in going green. There she learned that when she segregated her rubbish into plastics, paper, metal etc it could double the income of garbage collectors as they no longer needed to spend so much time segregating it. If in India she learned about segregating rubbish in Indonesian she learnt about reducing rubbish. “Nando keeps telling us that in Jakarta we also need to reduce waste. So, for example bring your own shopping bag to the supermarket. Don’t keep getting plastic bags. Use tumblers and lunch boxes and never use Styrofoam,” reported Kathy. 

ARTBEAT was created when a group of like-minded Indian ladies in Indonesia who paint and do craft work decided to meet regularly to work, learn and create together. They would meet informally in the house of one of the members and they did water colours, a workshop for macramé or art journaling using different tools. It is always a social event, “And being Indian there is bound to be food and soothing music,” commented Anjali Patwardhan who is a member of the group. 

It began with Indian ladies but after a while it also accepted some other nationalities. Anjali explained that they chose the theme “Elements” because environmental protection is the subject of the hour and because they would like to give a little back to society. “We have seen through the news how natural disasters have brought so much suffering. Many of them caused by environmental degradation and we wanted to help people and the planet. We have done so in a small way by painting on that environmental theme and donating to KBD Green Project.” 

Light of Purity and Power by Shanthi Seshadri. (Photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

For the exhibition ARTBEAT chose the theme “Elements” referring to the four elements in nature namely earth, water, air and fire. Nineteen women artists took part and they produced roughly three paintings each. Shanthi Seshadri painted a very powerful image of a woman looking down at a small flame burning on a wick in a small clay bowl in her hand. The light from the flame is reflecting in her face causing it to almost glow and the scarlet border of her sari draped around her face matches the red of her lips and the mark on her forehead. It is the red of fire. “I am at present involved in so many activities and this is making me very much aware of women’s empowerment and strength and that reflection of the fire in her face represents to me women’s empowerment,” explained Shanthi who comes originally from Karnataka in India’s south west. This talented lady likes to create Andhra Pradesh kalamkari textile paintings for cushion covers, saris and scarfs, the mural art on canvas of Kerala and the Tanjore paintings of Tamil Nadu. In the past Tanjore paintings used real gold and precious stones in a form of embossing and painting over. “I only use gold paper and red and green semi-precious stones. In Tamil Nadu such paintings have religious significance but I use it too for other figures such as Buddha or Thai dancers.” 

Shanthi also likes to create a new form of art first produced in Germany called Zen tangling. It is a form of doodling in mandalas and is used to bring down people’s stress levels. “From childhood I used to crate patterns called rangoli patterns which were a sort of free hand pattern and now we have developed that to fill mandalas but sometimes I use it on figures for the dress the hair or the face. It’s our Indian form of zen tangling,” she said. 

Agrupa Panigrahi is from the state of Odisha whose sailors were some of the first to visit Indonesia. Till today they still celebrate Bali Jatra where small boats with lights are sent out to sea to commemorate the voyages of their early seafarers. Agrupa finds Indonesia inspiring. “Really, now I know why Orissa people liked Indonesia so much. There are just so many similarities from food to textiles to language even facial expressions! As in Orissa people here are so close to the earth: they put plants into the earth, they keep birds and they also are very open to other cultures but love their own. They do not worry about their own culture but also do not forget it. Agrupa produced five paintings and perhaps the most striking reflects the element of water. In a tranquil seaside scene of sky, water and beach in blue and orangey brown hues rest three small boats. From one of the boats white cranes take flight. She says that her painting was inspired by seeing people with not enough water. “Some people have to buy drinking water while others just use it to wash their cars. I think the most beautiful of God’s creations is water. It is wet and cool. God moved to open the face of water and there you see the spirit of God. Nothing is as transparent as water and God’s spirit is transparent. It is everywhere, we just cannot see it.”. There is a smile in her voice as she says, “There is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline; no matter how many times it is sent away.” 

Ujwala Prabhu is also from Bangalore, the tech town of Karnataka. Her name means “light” or “enlightened” and she says that she has always been curious about people and searches for a story before painting. “When I do a painting and it has a story, I enjoy it so much more. There’s more passion in it. Where a line is, is not so important.” 

As a child Ujwala sketched faces from magazines and remembers drawing Indira Gandhi’s face. Later in life she went to Delhi Art College and liked to look at the photographs on Flicker. There she found a photographer named Claude Renault whose photographs of India appealed to her enormously. His photographs were from all over India, places she was unable to visit herself. She wrote and asked him for permission to paint elements of his photographs. He agreed and her paintings show similarities with his photographs especially the figures and how they are positioned in connection to each other and their backgrounds. It is interesting that she was influenced by his photographs and he says that he was influenced by Indian art – and they were both influenced by Gauguin’s art and all of this is apparent in the photographs and the paintings. What a small and global world it is. 

Mera Saya 2 by Ujwala Prabhu. (Photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Ujwala’s painting entitled Mera Saya 2 means My Shadow in Hindi. “All the elements are in a figure” she says. She painted the picture after her mother passed away and at the time she was immersed in thoughts of her mother’s maternal instinct to protect her children which is reflected in her painting where the larger figure is sheltering the smaller one – although that is a private view of her painting and each viewer should interpret it according to their own inner voice and associations. 

Floral decoupage work by Nalini Narang. Photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Nalini Narang’s specialty is decoupage art where she transfers a paper with a picture on to a different medium such as wood or glass for example. Her creations depict flowers, olive plants and flaming red chilies which represent the element of earth. “I am not an artist. I cannot paint. So, I express my creativity through decoupage where I transfer pictures of flowers or plants on napkins to wooden plates or trays using a special decoupage glue and ironing the napkin on to the wood or glass. I then paint in or shade the background. I am a botanist. My mother had a lovely garden with loads of flowers, also inside our home and so many herbs. That’s how it all started…” 

Hydrate your soul by Rashmi Joshi. (Photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Rashmi Joshi who helped found ARTBEAT painted a stunning painting of lotuses with flowers, pods and leaves in precise botanical detail. Rashmi has experimented with different art forms and mediums but her great love is painting flowers with water colours. “No flower is complete without all 4 elements working in harmony and they act as symbols of love, gratitude, encouragement and hope. I love all beauty and flowers are the epitome of beauty,” Rashmi remarked. “We had a garden when I was little and I remember stringing flowers together for ceremonies, offerings and for the hair. It is so much a part of Indian culture. In Jakarta I grow hibiscus and roses in my garden.” 

Naad (Ringing of bells) by Leena Malve. (Photo: IO/Tamalia Alisjahbana)

Leena Malve was formerly a graphic designer from Mumbai who while working with mechanical mediums discovered that she actually connected with her creative soul best when working with her hands and paints. She is perhaps the only artist who based all her paintings on the element of air for the most important thing in life is oxygen. One can almost sense her painting’s black and white bells moving. The precision with which she has drawn them clearly reflects her background in graphic design “Did you know that you can only hear sound if there is air? My painting is intended to stress that you can hear amazing sounds because of air. So the bells are very much in motion…” 

Leena is very concerned about the destruction of our environment. “It may be too late even now. As children we led very much more organic lives. Re-cycling, creating compost, using baskets and paper for our groceries instead of plastic … that was all not so long ago. Its only in recent years that we lost that organic way of living. We need to remember and with a little effort go back to that way of living… to save our planet…” (Tamalia Alisjahbana)