Radio Sarha on Jatiwangi Art Factory

Sarha is a community radio based in Palestine which is managed by a collective called Sakakini. As part of a lumbung members, they host lumbung members. Lumbung which means rice barn is a concept used by Documenta 15 as a curatorial theme covering from cultural to economic practices. Radio Sahara invited Jatiwangi Art Factory to get to know them better. It was 5 pm Indonesian time.

It is unusual to see the word art and factory in one name, said Sahara. We are curious. Could you tell us story behind it?

Thank you. Yes, because there are many rooftile factories here. We also have one in our place, our house. Then, we were thinking of making another factory, the art factory. This is our place for activities. Since 2005 we have tried to take some notes. Arief is the founder. He returned to his hometown after a long trip and time in Jakarta, Bandung and other places. He then decided to go home and started to initiate Jatiwangi Art Factory (JAF).

Very simple purpose.

Yes, because his family still lives here, as a source of food. This makes JAF different from other collectives in Indonesia. Because we are the only collective that has mother. A mother who nurture us. Laughing.

Interesting! You don’t use artists to introduce yourself. You can also be called gangster. How important is the definition?

Yes, because there is no definition of art in JAF. We have only had rooftiles factory as an identity for hundreds of years. We thought maybe we could start from that history. And as you mentioned earlier, we can also be called gangsters. Our lives in the 1990s was indeed like a gangster because there were conflicts over rooftile factory issues, etc.

In the beginning we didn’t talk about art because no one understood art. Maybe art in our context does not separate art from the everyday. It is the reason why we don’t introduce ourselves as art collective to our neighborhoods. That would be weird. They know us as relatives who were living in Arief’s place.

It is also difficult to define ourselves as artists, or as gangsters, and sometimes also as friends of local heroes such as Arief’s brother. This made it easy for us to do anything with our neighborhoods. People say we are helping the community, but we are actually the community itself. So, we do not represent anyone.

This sometimes scares the government, because we are dealing with the masses. They worry that we are smuggling our ideas that affect its policy and programs. Laughing.

This is amazing to hear as the name is a strategy you use, rather than let it define you and limit you. We’re going to continue this conversation. But before that, I’m going to put some music here. The song is about durian.

Rhythmic guitar playing accompanied by the sweet voice of a young lady, with the beat and bass accompaniment that flows smoothly in the ears. The song tells about the joy of welcoming the harvest that nature gives in the surrounding rooftile factory in Jatiwangi.

The song was created in 2012 at a residency festival. There is a friend from America who creates the lyrics. There are artists from Sao Paolo too. This song tries to archive the harvest here including the smell of the night, the smell of grain, and others. It was composed into songs to archive memories and harvest experiences.

Jatiwangi, apart from the factory, is also a rice field area. A lot of land is used to grow rice. When it was rice farming, they didn’t go to the factory. when all is finished, they return to the rooftile factory.

It’s an interesting thing because art is deeply rooted in people’s lives. This is what’s interesting here, right? I think this is something important where art is not a distance from people’s lives. Not only making art an object, but also making an impact for change. What about the economic model offered by JAF in its context?

We deal with it through praying, the young people from JAF said jokingly. Yeah, we happen to have a mother here. Also, Arief’s family has a very large land area. We are lucky here that we don’t have to rent land, because we live in our parents’ house. This is a wonderful thing. We’re safe in term of the space issue. There are also people who kindly contribute.

The government also later gave us buildings, funds and other infrastructure. Maybe they are afraid of gangsters. Laughing. We get funding in 2016. Previously, only the foundation parents. Laughing.

So, your monther, your friends, and community friends, and private donations. I’d like to go to smuggling idea. Did you plan it in the beginning?

Well, we actually learn this organically. Maybe when we have international funding because more and more international friends are coming here. They tell their friends. We get connected to the international networks. It is organic. Flexibility is important for us. Because we do not have any fixed model.

In the early days, back in 2005, we didn’t need much money. We could still live without money. Slowly then the money came. Sometimes we were afraid of the repercussions of having money in the first place. But then we tried to manage money. Thankfully we still survive. Sometimes we set up a kind of “trap” for the government to speak out, and give them a challenge. What if you could make this or that, for example.

In this respect, however, government in our context is different from that in other places. Here the government is around us, and not too far away, we make a music band inviting government people to join. So, there is a conversation. This may be something different elsewhere, in Jakarta for example. Or even in Palestine.That is the social capital that we had from the start. Besides, it happened that Arief’s brother was a head of the village. So, even though we don’t have money, we have social capital.

Of course, this is different from Palestine. Here the government is the problem, and even the enemy. How to develop structure and be able to manage in a community where sometimes the state doesn’t help you work but stops you from doing it. Alright, now we hear the next song. Sahara played a song by Jatiwangi Factory band. It’s marvelous and triggers a sense of joy.

 Very nice song. Who made this song?

It is our friend Tedi that made the song using ceramic guitar. Guitar from rooftile.

Can you tell us a little about it?

This story is entitled nalar (reason) made during the presidential election in Indonesia. The music was taken from traditional musical instruments, for rearrangement, then Tedi made a ceramic guitar and a flute using the ceramics. The guitar gives a wholesome sound. The song was inspired by the village head election. It was though released during the presidential election in Indonesia.

Tell me with this music festival using ceramic. This is very special what you do and the material. we also heard that eleven thousand people came to the festival. How did it happen?

Yes, so there are lots of rooftiles here. We invite people to use what we have as a resource. Trying to reconnect with our neighbors and use musical instruments and compose songs together. At first it was just a tool to invite people to gather.

Tedi then created a band that made him famous. Since then it has become very easy to get young people together. Later, we made a festival. Every three years we invite people to bring tiles from the land we live in. We waited three years to play music with people for 20 minutes. This then became a routine ceremony. I personally feel that the momentum of being together is important and will be remembered further.

You said you have kitchen where you cook. You combine what a house is to community and beyond that. I haven’t seen that a lot in my life. We eat together, but we never cook together. The process becomes more engaging. Alright everyone, we are playing another song called Wakkare. The song was beautifully sang. The guitar and beat harmoniously played. It took us to another moment of joy.

What is the meaning of wakkare?

It is actually a Japanese word. It archives something for us. There is a conflict with the construction of the airport. This word is reminiscent of the Japanese colonial past. Wakkare means goodbye where people had to move and take refuge. For us this song is important, because it tells about our problems. So, this becomes an archive. Previously this was only in the minds of the older generation and was forbidden to sing about. Then, we searched and remade and played with ceramic instruments. We made this song during a video festival in our village. We made karaoke and sang this song together during the festival.

Is it still forbidden?

Laughing. That’s why we organized the event because this is an excuse to invite mayors and governors so there is no reason for state officials to ban it. This is a kind of bargaining.

Interesting! f I may ask, the village is already making ceramics. And now they don’t do it anymore?

They are still making pottery, rooftile, and brick. But the factories were reduced and foreign factories came, such as the Nike factory, the biggest Nike factory in Southeast Asia. This makes changes in people’s lives. That’s why we consider this necessary. We didn’t use confrontation because many villagers were also working there. That’s why we need flexibility. Smuggling idea is one of the strategies.

Every three years we produce musical instruments like flutes. Then we pray together for the flute. Later we collectively played them. It was only the production used for the festival. We came to schools and communities and made flutes together.

Roof tiles that were held in 2018 invited many people to come from various parts including other regencies and cities. It’s actually a festival made for Jatiwangi people to gather. But then the people around came.

For me this is interesting to see JAF do something like this! People make their own musical instruments and play them themselves. This is something rare. Because people often become consumers of culture, not producers of culture.

Are you involved in development of community in general?

During this year we talked about terracotta cities, as our models and future projects. This will be a 5-year project. We work with several parties including the government. So, to make that model, we invited the governor as an artist, not as governor. He is Ridwan Kamil who before becoming governor was an architect. So, in this context, policy is an art. And the governor as an artist.

Previously, the government has proposed Jatiwangi as a development area that brought Nike Company, but later we created the concept of a Terracotta city. Then this year a policy was signed that Jatiwangi is the model for terracotta. Next year, we will talk about some points such as certain areas that cannot be purchased because of the agricultural land in the concept of a terracotta city.

How would you see your opportunity in document a as a tool?

Since it’s still early days, we try to make friends. Our activities always start with building friendship with anyone. We have to make friendship. This lumbung is another way for us for silaturrahmi, to make consolidation, brotherhood. We are happy to welcome all of you here.

Marvelous conversation. The next rooftile music is in 2021. There is no audience, everyone is a cultural maker. Time is running out. Before we play the last song to end this, we say thank you. We hope to meet very soon.