Flower Interruption: Becaks, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, 2004
I traveled to Yogyakarta, Indonesia for the 4th year in a row in the fall of 2004. The primary reason for this visit was to work on the catalogue for the Sama-sama/Together project to be published in the spring of 2005. However, it was also an opportunity to visit with old friends. One of these is my friend Gipar (who goes by the nickname Kuta). I met Gipar during my first trip to Yogya and over the years he's become a friend who I've looked forward to seeing and spending time with each year.
In 2003, Gipar watched the progression of the Sama-sama/Together mural project. When I returned in the fall of 2004, he asked if I would paint his becak. I was honored to be asked, and said I'd love to. Soon after I started painting in the becak yard, I was inundated with requests from other drivers to also paint their beceks. Due to time, I was only able to complete three and start three others. Since the flower design I used for my Bungas mural in Yogya had proven to be so popular and has also come to be my signature in the city, I used this imagery to paint on the becaks.
While I painted, the economic ramifications of doing this work became clear to me – by painting their “helicopters” I was creating the possibility for them to attract more business. It made me realize that this could also be applied to painting signs for the women who sell their goods at market (a potential future project). The whole experience was quite enjoyable and in many ways reminded me of when I was a bartender at the Butte Tavern in Eugene Oregon in the early nineties. At the Butte, even though I was an outsider, I was considered a special member of the fraternal order of blue-collar men who would gather everyday Monday through Friday at 3:00 pm to drink beer together and shoot the shit until about 6:00 at night. The becak drivers were very grateful for my work and would bring me food, coffee, and water throughout the day. They also arranged for a professional body worker to come to my hotel and give me a massage (which was one of the best I've had!).
In exchange for painting their becaks, the drivers also gave me political T-shirts from the last presidential election in September 2004 these included:
PDI-P (Democratic party of Struggle of Indonesia) -- Former President Megawati Sukarnoputri's Party
The PDI-P was formed in 1996 by disaffected politicians from the Democratic Party of Indonesia who did not agree with the New Order's control over political parties. Since then, it has become a symbol of struggle for democracy and protest against the New Order's repressive era. It is mainly supported by nationalists and working class voters.
PAN (The National Mandate Party)
The Council of People's Mandate (MARA) was the embryo of this party. MARA was formed in 1998 by 50 prominent scholars and democracy fighters to protest against Soeharto's regime. As one among hundreds of newborn parties formed after the downfall of the New Order, PAN promotes total reformation. In the 1999 election, PAN targeted young professionals, students, and the urban middle class, as well as trying secure its traditional support from Muhammadiyah members. PAN is associated with Muhammadiyah - one of the biggest Moslem organization - as many of the Muhammadiyah leaders are actively involved in this party.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Muhammad Jusuf Kalla (The newly elected President and Vice President -- Yudhoyono is a former military general)
Partai Patriot Pancasila
I gave these T-shirts as gifts to friends upon my return.