Post C: Living In Indonesia

One of my friends, Louis, is a 22 year old carpenter and sculptor based in Sydney, Australia. He lived in Indonesia with his family for around 8 months in 2001. Along with his sister Tess, mother Kim and father Paul, he spent his time moving between Jakarta city and a small island in the north west of Indonesia called Bangka. In September 2001, he moved back to Australia, where he has lived ever since.

Speaking of his experience moving back to Australia, Louis noted significant cultural and social differences which impacted his day to day life even at an early age. “My friends in Australia always had to go home by this time or that (curfew) for whatever reason but in Indo(nesia) we just played until we were done or it was raining so much that the sewer would start coming onto the road…time to go haha! Nobody had to be anywhere.” This idea of unformed schedules and different day structures is typical of the Indonesian rural lifestyle, however even the large cities have not been able to shake the trend. As an 8 year old kid he was nevertheless very perceptive, noticing the stark contrast in hygiene and day to day lifestyle of the Indonesians. “One thing in particular I remember was that nobody in Australia had any of odd looking scars on there cheeks. As opposed to Indo where almost everyone I saw had them. I later came to know that they are from pimples, presumably caused by a lack of general hygiene due to the state of poverty and also the constant humidity which Australia didn’t have.”

The lighthouse on the island go Bangka, near where Louis lived. ( Indonesia Landmarks WordPress 2014)

I asked Louis if he had ever felt overwhelmed by life in such a dense city, to which he anecdotally replied, “There were definitely some hectic moments…” Elaborating, he told me of the time his sister had suffered a medical emergency due to her severe eczema. What would have been a simple run to the ER in Australia, became a stressful and protracted process. “Tess and I both knew that medical care was not an option in this 3rd world country and police where not like police in Australia, they could not be trusted at all.  We really where alone with no way to contact our parents.” He also noted that although he and his sister had a fairly easy time staying there, his mother, Kim, sometimes struggled, being a woman in a majority Muslim country.

Having travelled and lived overseas for more than a year, I was aware that immersion in foreign cultures gives a unique global perspective, even in local contexts. I asked Louis about his social experiences moving between Australia and Indonesia. He commented that “Compared to the people I went on to complete my schooling with in Australia, I had a very different perspective on the reality of the world. At the high school I went to, people talked about poverty in a far distant place…they had not seen a desperately malnourished child about my own aged beg a local rich private school boy for some of his bag of orange juice…I learnt that there were two different worlds that existed around us and that there where two very different types of people that filled that world.”

Of the working culture in Jakarta Louis knew very little, being only a young boy at the time. “I lived in hotel rooms while my dad worked and my mum attempted to home school me with little to no success.” When asked whether he would consider moving back to live there he replied, “There is no way I would live in Jakarta again, it’s a hectic city with nothing that interest me. Living back in the lighthouse at the very tip of a remote island with awesome surf, warm water and cool culture; I could do that!”

References

Indonesian Landmarks 2014, Lengkuas Island, Bangka Belitung, viewed 22 April 2015 <https://indonesianlandmarks.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/lengkuas-island-bangka-belitung/>

Bartel, L. 2015, Interviewed by Alessio Colli, (pers. comms., 21 April 2015.)

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Post D: Culture Clash: Punk Rock vs. Sharia Law

In a video segment entitled “Punk Rock vs Sharia Law”, Vice Media. Inc’s Nosiey music channel explores the deepening cultural rift currently developing between the authorities and the underground punk community in the city of Banda Aceh in Sumatra, Indonesia. The mini-documentary, presented by Swedish journalist Milène Larsson, provides a startling glimpse into the civil rights abuses and oppressive regime that the citizen of Aceh face in Indonesia’s only Sharia province.

Police officers shave the heads of the detained rock fans (Hotli Simanjuntak/EPA 2011)

The film tells the story of the arrest and persecution of 65 punks by the local authorities in December, 2011. Their clothes burnt and hair shaved, these young men were forced, for 10 days, to undergo ‘moral rehabilitation’ in the police barracks, where they were beaten and abused. Perhaps most tellingly, the punishment had no rehabilitative affects, reflecting a broken social systems that ignores the rights of its own people in favour of autocratic and oppressive rule. However it was not always this way.

Punk has been part of the culture and lifeblood of Aceh since the 1990’s, when punk band Superman is Dead, headed by revered punk rocker Jerinx, made waves with their politically charged musical style and unique voice. Although he does not agree completely with the punk youth movement of today, Jerinx tells of local government that shirks its responsibility towards its citizens and offers no social welfare support for the disillusioned younger generations. “You know, they (the youths) forget that in western countries if you don’t have a job, the government gives you money. Here, if you are jobless the government, they don’t even know your name.”

A live punk rock concert in Indonesia. Generally held indoors, these gigs feature mosh pits and politically charged music. (Karli Kk Munn 2014)

Further exacerbating the situation in Banda Aceh, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami destroyed nearly 60% of the city and killed some 160,000 people (Vice Media Inc. 2014). The punks have successfully rebuilt their community, but the casualties are felt nonetheless. Banda Aceh’s only pro-punk journalist, Chaideer Mahyuddin, says that although many have lost most or all of their relatives, and most are now homeless, “they are now more solid.”

The conclusion of the video is perhaps a perfect summation of the situation in Banda. As the the Vice team prepare to leave, they are told of a local punk gig that night downtown. As the punks explain, it is a very rare occasion that authorities would allow this sort of gathering to occur, however it comes to light that the organiser is well connected and therefore the police will turn and blind eye. The band is foreign and the concert is held indoors, but nonetheless the enthusiasm of the young punks is evident as the concert kicks off. Nevertheless, the experience seems bittersweet. Are the punks really free to revel in their music and lifestyle if the circumstances are to be so tenuous and controlled? Its seems that their freedom hangs in the balance, somewhere between a corrupted government and an oppressive religious regime.

References: 

Vice Media Inc. 2014 (Noisey), ‘Punk Rock vs Sharia Law – Music World – Episode 5’ , video recording, YouTube, viewed 18 April 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sbne-qCNzU&spfreload=10>

Associated Press in Banda Aceh 2011, ‘Indonesian punks detained and shaved by police’ , The Guardian, 14 December, viewed 18 April 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/14/indonesian-punks-detained-shaved-police>

Melville K 2014, Indonesian punk: PUNK’S NOT DEAD!, Audio Recording, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Radio National), 30 November, viewed 19 April 2015 <http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/360/indonesian-punks/5909858>

Post A: Indonesia and the motorcycle

Local context plays a hugely important role in how a design is shaped for the simple reason that as soon as it is released into the world at large, the designer loses the ability to influence it in the finite and controlled manner that he or she has heretofore been accustomed to. Traditionally a products release is seen as its final developmental stage. Months, sometimes years of work have lead to this moment, and it arrives with such finality that many fail to glimpse past it.

As an example of this continuing product design journey, we can examine the pervasive and vivacious part that the motorcycle plays in Indonesian culture. Due to a rapid increase in purchasing power of the average Indonesian within the last 20 years, motorcycle use is experiencing a boom. Currently some 77 million individual motorcycles are registered to drive on Indonesian roads, up from approximately 40 million in 2008. Such a rapid technological take up is seemingly unprecedented in a developing nation such as Indonesia, as it does not seem economically feasible. However, when examined more closely, the issue reveals itself to be more complicated.

Because the broken public transport system is not an option for most people, motor scooters and motorcycles play an important part in the day to day life of Jakarta’s urban population. (Honda Motors USA 2012)

Increased motorcycle use has been attributed to a gross failing in the public transport system, a political and economic issue. As Indonesia is rapidly propelled from its agrarian labour economy into an urbanised industrial economy, the nexus of its populous becomes a pressing issue. Citizen travelling to work from rural areas are forced to find their own way as the government’s public transport infrastructure fails them, in turn put more strain on the roads connecting economic and urban centres.

Examining on a more microcosmic scale, many factors become apparent that indicate how the actual design of motorcycles has facilitated their uptake and pervasiveness on such a large scale. First and foremost, motorcycles (particularly the most common ones, under 250cc) are accessible as a technology. Coming from farming implements and predominantly petrol based mechanical equipment, the motorcycle’s 4 stroke engine is easily serviced and maintained. Researchers noted even in the 1930’s, that the “Natives in Java, as elsewhere in the East, have seized on the opportunity given them by the petrol-engine to set up in business on a small scale with taxis and motor-buses.” (Davidson 2007). Building on this, the increasingly popular practice of repurposing 2 and 4 stroke engines into boats and other vehicles has proven the versatility of the technology and ensured its place as a staple artefact in the day to day life of the Indonesian population.

It is clear from this example that the motorcycle has, in the context of Indonesian culture and society, been heavily shaped and altered beyond its original intent. This organic evolution has facilitated its adaptation and growth in popularity, and in turn continued it on the next step of its design journey, affecting both the original design, and the end users who integrated it into their day to day lives.

References

Living in Indonesia 2015, Motorcycles, Jakarta, viewed 28 April 2015 <http://livinginindonesia.info/item/motorcycles>

Millsap S 2013, Video: How Do You Get Around Jakarta?, 17 November, Article and Video, viewed 26 April 2015, <http://onward.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/17/video-how-do-you-get-around-jakarta/>

Davidson J, Henley D 2007, The Revival of Tradition in Indonesian Politics: The Deployment of Adat from Colonialism to Indigenism, Routledge Contemporary South East Asia Series, 12 Mar 2007, pp. 98-99.

Post B: Feeding Hong Kong

Food waste continues to be a massive issue as urban populations in global cities grow at an exponential rate. Issues with over ordering, under consuming, and poor methods of distribution mean that food is rarely seen by the people who need it, and rarely utilised by the people who have  it. In Hong Kong, a food bank and distribution network called Feeding Hong Kong is tackling the issue head on, by “providing a bridge between the food industry and the hungry of Hong Kong, we provide a solution that simultaneously cuts food waste and feeds those most in need.” (Feeding Hong Kong 2009)

Examining Feeding Hong Kongs’ business provides insight into how a not-for-profit company can affect change in a city of roughly 7 million inhabitants. Their approach is effective because it has many avenues of engagement. First and foremost, the initiative aims to connect charities with for-profit business in order to facilitate the movement of surplus goods, mainly food products, but in some cases factory defective goods and old stock. By providing this connection, Feeding Hong Kong facilitates effective relief for resource poor charities, and by extension the communities they serve. As of 2013, the organisation has helped feed some 2700 homeless people in Hong Kong, saving over 10 tonnes of food from being wasted (Lee, 2013). This number continues to rise.

Hong Kong is a densely populated city with over 7 million inhabitants.
Hong Kong is a densely populated city with over 7 million inhabitants.

Importantly, Feeding Hong Kong is accessible, and this accessibility is critical to its continuing success. A user friendly, up to date, and resource rich web portal provides connection opportunities for both donors and donees. By providing this service, Feeding Hong Kong is able to seamlessly engage with its community, and the result is a vibrant, active and effective means of administering its services. Adding to this, the resources on the website help to raise awareness and educate the wider community about food waste, hunger, and food banking. This awareness allows individuals and companies to involve themselves appropriately and effectively with Feeding Hong Kong as a not for profit organisation.

Another important aspect of of Feeding Hong Kong’s ‘business’ model is that it follows a multi disciplinary approach to providing hunger and poverty relief for those in need in Hong Kong. As well as connecting donor organisations and charities, the not for profit instigates community outreach programs, such as the Edible Gardens project, a new initiative aimed at transforming Hong Kong’s abundant, unused roof real estate into sustainable community gardens that produce fresh edibles for locals. Alongside Edible Gardens, Feeding Hong Kong has a Chefs in the Community program that pairs professional chefs and partners them with charities to develop their food programs. This additional community outreach is effective in engage the Hongkongese people with those in the community that need their help.

Feeding Hong Kong is a great example of a not for profit organisation turning the problem of food waste into a charitable, community oriented solution. By connecting for profit businesses and charities, Feeding Hong Kong seamlessly facilitates the use and reuse of otherwise wasted food products. Importantly, the company works within existing systems, allowing it to provide an efficient service that is resource effective.

References:

Feeding Hong Kong 2015, Homepage, viewed 24 April 2015, <http://feedinghk.org>

The Global Food Banking Network 2015, Gabrielle Kirstein, Feeding Hong Kong to Speak at the American Chamber of Commerce, Chicago, viewed 26 April 2015 <http://www.foodbanking.org/gabrielle-kirstein-feeding-hong-kong-speak-american-chamber-commerce/>

Feeding Hong Kong 2015, Feeding Hong Kong Overview Presentation, HKCSS – Conference on Food Assistance, 4 September 2013, viewed on 24 April 2015, <http://www.poverty.org.hk/sites/default/files/FeedingHK_130904_0.pdf>

Lee, D 2013, ‘Beating waste and putting food on plates for needy’, South China Morning Post (International Edition), 2 September, viewed 25 April 2015, <http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1301375/beating-waste-and-putting-food-plates-needy>