By Marcella Cheng, Jennifer Kim and Miyoung Kang
Kampung Code, once an “urban slum” now dubbed as “Yogyakarta’s Rio de Janeiro”, is famous for its brightly coloured homes that stand out spectacularly on the banks of Kali Code. These vividly coloured roofs have often become a platform for many advertising companies to take advantage of, including cigarette factories, but now have been subverted in a colourful Anti-Smoking campaign that we were proud to be a part of. The project started on Monday the 30th of January, until opening night on Saturday, the 4th of February. Our project was to design and paint a wall mural to fit in with and as an artistic response to the campaign.
The wall itself spanned about 1.5m x 2m. We aimed to design something bright and eye-catching, yet fitting with the other murals that were in the vicinity. Most importantly, the mural would have to clearly and strongly convey our anti-smoking message. Our greatest concern was being able to design something simple enough to be able to produce, as this was the first time any of us were going to be using spray paint as a medium. What we came up with had to be strong in its message, yet at the same time, not so revolting as it was going to be a permanent addition among the villagers’ homes.
The two people who were most influential in our project were two artists; Koma and his assistant Mosaif. Koma is a talented graffiti artist from Jakarta who has worked in various fields of graffiti world wide and has led an innovative design movement in his field using comic illustration. In Kali Code, he painted the roofs and walls of the village with vivid anti-smoking murals, and was our inspiration and guide for our work. However, it was his assistant, Mosaif, that helped us the most with our work. While he was officially there as Koma’s assistant, he spend many hours with us, even taking us to the paint shop and helping clean up our mural.
It was interesting to find that while most countries regard wall painting without permission of the proprietor as the destruction of the arts or an act of vandalism, graffiti and mural painting is actually permitted in most streets of Yogyakarta legally, and the government even encourages the autonomous participation of artists (Yogyantaro, 2017). For example, we often encountered murals in every corner of the city, which was also a source of inspiration for us.
(Rough Photoshopped sketch)
After many iterations, we eventually decided on a cartoon-like design that Jennifer drew, featuring a grotesque adult smoker suffocating their child with passive smoking. This illustration style was agreed to be the most fitting with Koma’s mural style, although still being uniquely different. The bright, eye-catching colours and cartoon style aims to attract youth and younger audiences, who most easily fall into the smoking culture in Indonesia. This was combined the words “Pikir tentang anak mu”, which translate to “Think about your children.” We agreed that the effect of smoking on their children or loved ones was a significant factor that often helped smokers to at least think about quitting, and that this was we were going to focus on.
Transferring our design onto the wall was a different problem altogether. By using different caps on the the spray cans, we could control hardness, sizes, thickness, consistency, compatibility and also patterns as well. Using all of them created different linework and gave hierarchy to our design. The spray cans themselves ranged from about 13000 to 55000rp ($1.3 – $5.5 AUD) each, with the most expensive being the flurouscent colours. Mosaif mentioned that it was these incredibly cheap prices that made street art so popular amongst the youth in Yogya (compared to Sydney, where the cans average about $10 or $12 each).
Overall, this was an amazing opportunity and project to work on. It was really interesting to see the Anti-Smoking campaign come to life in Kali Code and to see our work in practice. One of the best things that came out of this project was meeting and working with professional Indonesian artists, whose work was not only incredible to watch, but also a great inspiration to us all. Learning about and immersing ourselves in their culture and art, within the village of Kali Code was crucial in understanding the way the local context shapes design. For us, it was also a great opportunity to design this mural in response to their work, and to show an alternate way of illustrating the same message. It was fun to dip into an art style and medium we have never tried before, but is so central to Yogyakartan street art, and a great way to experience the local design culture.
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