Round posters each 58cm in diameter are hung on the legendary Kerkweg Bridge in Yogyakarta. Passers-by who stop at the traffic lights under the bridge can see many posters urging people to vote wisely in the Indonesian elections on April 17.
There are 22 poster designs, one of them showing a person with a smartphone covering their eyes, implying that smartphones are the biggest culprits in the spread of fake news. Written on that poster is “Differences in religion, ethnicity and race are not a reason to hate each other”, to remind people to think carefully about information on religious, ethnic and racial issues.
The 22 posters are the work of Indonesian artists from the Taring Padi community, who organised a project named Terompet Rakyat (the people’s trumpet). Taring Padi has been known for its “ideology” of art for people since 1999. This community regularly runs Terompet Rakyat projects to respond to general elections.
Author Heidi Arbuckle in her book Taring Padi: Radical Cultural Practice In Indonesia wrote that Taring Padi proclaims its work as an effort to prepare for popular democratic culture in Indonesia.
Yogyakarta-based artist Fitriani Dwi Kurniasih said that they were responding to four issues in this year’s Indonesian elections namely corruption, human rights, SARA (ethnicity, religion, race and groups) and fake news, and environment and agricultural conflicts.
Taring Padi has been hanging Terompet Rakyat posters in strategic places around Yogyakarta since March 3. They also sent the posters to other art communities in other Indonesian cities such as Jakarta; Malang, East Java; and Blora, Central Java in case they wish to hang the posters in their cities’ public spaces.
Fitriani said Terompet Rakyat aimed to remind people to vote for candidates with a strong commitment to Indonesia’s most crucial issues.
“The messages in the posters are also the people’s demand. We are part of the people who want our voices to be heard,” said Fitriani.
She also makes posters to prevent people from getting involved in SARA conflicts, which tends to increase during election season. In the poster, she drew people of different religious backgrounds to represent diversity and peace.
“I disagree with religion being made into political tool, as it is a personal issue and very sensitive,” she said.
Artist Dodi Irwandi made a poster depicting a guitarist singing “1, 2 and 3 and other parties are all the same, similar in their lies, you can choose or not choose, don’t be pushy, it’s my right.”
He said that being able to vote for who you want in the election was a right that had to be respected, even if someone chooses not to vote.
“Nobody should be forced to vote,” he said.
Dodi chose the visual of a singing person because he is also a musician. He is a member of a group named Dendang Kampungan which is also part of Taring Padi.
Indonesia Democracy Network (JADI) member Farid Bambang Siswantoro assessed Taring Padi’s posters. He couldn’t agree with a poster that approves of voters abstaining in the election, but he thinks it is important to make a poster that reminds people to be at peace again with those they disagreed with.
Terompet Rakyat posters are now carrying on their task in a public exhibition space.
Previously, the posters, which were first designed in 2018, were showcased at an exhibition to commemorate Taring Padi’s 20th anniversary at the Indonesia Art Institute (ISI) campus in Yogyakarta last December.
The posters were also showcased at Democracy Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February. – The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network