This article is part of the Eleven Stories from the Southeast written by Muhammad Sibawaihi, Otty Widasari and Manshur Zikri, published by Forum Lenteng in 2016. We re-upload it on the AKUMASSA website in the framework of the “Darivisual”.Pemenang had a prosperous granary. People lived from the wealth of it. There was a lot of Pemenang’s wealth which had been contributed by the residents since a long time ago into the collective granary. And the most valuable wealth of the residents of Pemenang was the religious harmony of three religions there. Just like the granary, people surely had to keep their lives well by maintaining the granary. Like a religion, to take care of the life, there were rules and religious advices that were regulated by what was stated in the holy book. The three religions in Pemenang had their own holy book. And all holy books had the same good messages, like the messages we always got from our mother.
One time, Sulung Widya Prasastya, a graffiti artist, flipped through pages of the holy book of Dammapadha which he borrowed from his new friends of Buddhist Community in Tebango Bawah Village to get an understanding of literature of the essence of that book. Sulung scanned it with the sense ability he possessed. It was none other than words of kindness that were written in that book. It was not different from what he also learned in his own religion.
People of Pemenang indeed loved their land so much like they loved their own mother. Sulung really admired their love to their land, just like what he knew, for example, Tebango Buddhist Community who had periodic routine activity to clean up Pemenang Market and Bangsal Beach. So, Sulung also began his journey in Pemenang City by following their footsteps, cleaning and beautifying the market. As an artist who used to work on city walls, Sulung repainted the dirty and dull monument, gateways, and walls which had become a place where the market waste had rested for quite a long time. Even though it was not too significant, a bit of brightness in the market could be seen because its walls and monument were clean and white again. Around the bright and white monument, the garbage was scattered. When Sulung continued to work the next day, some cleaning workers joined him, while cleaning up the garbage around the monument and the market. How pleasant, although a few days later the garbage filled that location again.
Perhaps the instincts of the street artists had been like that, making public space as the working site, always giving an accent to the city land-use. One time Sulung and Bujangan Urban, his fellow graffiti artist from Jakarta, walked up a steep hill towards Tebango Bolot Village. They wanted to see the work process of The Broy, a street artist and cartoonist from Surabaya. He had a mural project at Public Elementary School 5-Pemenang Timur which was located in Tebango Bolot Village. While The Broy was beginning to draw the theme “School World” with the children on their school walls, Bujangan Urban also automatically made an unplanned move, beginning to repaint the school’s walls. The colors of the writing and symbol of Tut Wuri Handayani, which meant “(for those) behind should give encouragement”, the legacy of Ki Hajar Dewantara, Father of Indonesian National Education, had already been barely visible. Bujangan Urban also began to re-intensify those colors.
The street artists’ works which were usually common in big cities were often considered as an act of vandalism. The conflict of urban land-use perspective between law enforcement and street artists perhaps came from the state’s fear of the walls which spoke loudly about criticism of the country, the criticism that was feared would roll the waves of certain awareness, which widened and disturbed the stability of the country.
Although in fact, seeing the work patterns of street artists such as Sulung, Bujangan Urban or The Broy, their desires were actually in accordance with all systems that desired a civilized and dignified city.
Back to Sulung, after some corners began to look cleaner, Sulung felt that maybe these white walls had to be given a bit of other colors, to make them more cheerful. He began to write texts which responded to the situation of Pemenang Market, such as: clean market, well fortune; clean market, everybody’s happy; market can be created, cleanness can be marketed; Pemenang the clean city. Through the propaganda he did Sulung put ideal things for a site, the ideal things which everyone knew would not be realized in a short period. It was a placement of the messages with a fairly radical speculation it seemed, considering the graffiti messages which were commonly known were in fact inversely proportional to messages in the public interest that were normally managed in government propaganda, as Sulung did. The graffiti messages tended to be harsh and provocative. However, one that should be appreciated of this work was that Sulung did not do it spontaneously as a result of sporadic research. In fact, he had done some sort of small-scale literary research before by studying the messages of holy books, a group of messages which indeed had similarities between religions. Then he applied them in practical realm.
Street art worked to intervene in public spaces by negotiating spaces or occupying spaces by throwing a rhetorical question about “whose space is this”. In Sulung’s work this time, the messages were not only thrown in one way to the stakeholders, but at the same time also to the community itself, who should have thought of their land, their motherland.
As he continued to walk through every corner of Pemenang City, Sulung visited and established relationship with the people. He often chatted with the youth group of Buddhist Community in Tebango Village. Sulung was happy to find out that his idea was in accordance with the program that was planned by Sanggar Komunitas Kearifan Lokal Tebango (Local Wisdom Community of Tebango) or K2LT Studio. So they began to plan a collaboration to make wooden planks which would be filled with peacefulness texts which would be taken from the Dhammapada.
Happiness follows the good remarks, deeds and thoughts.
Someone whose senses are under control, who eats reasonably and who is passionate, will not be controlled by anger.
Hatred will never end if it is replied with hatred.
Thought is the pioneer, leader and maker of everything.
A fool is lulled into carelessness. A wise man is always vigilant.
Actually, those who fight will perish…those who are aware will immediately end the fight.
It was simple. The group that managed the local wisdom had a plan to attach the texts from the holy book in the houses of people of their community and Sulung offered himself to make them. Then for the realization of that collaboration, women would collect the money from the sale of their coconuts, would buy the paint, thinner, brushes, and food. Sulung was so touched by this initiative, and he felt tightness in his chest that he almost cried when they gathered and prayed for him, as a sign of gratitude, in their religion’s procedure. They were from different islands, with different religions, but they felt like they had the same mother. Together they wrote a message to the mother, their landowner. What other kind of aesthetics we had to discuss in such working process?