Tasa Nugraza Barley
Most people pass Jakarta’s profusion of blank canvases without even a second thought for the potential that lurks on the city’s dirty, neglected spaces. But a group of students in Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta, has taken ownership of those spaces, or more particularly walls, bringing beauty to dilapidated areas of the capital.
Three years ago, students from the Institute of Political and Social Sciences (IISIP) established Kampung Segart, a community of muralists that now boasts more than 20 active members, including students of IISIP and alumni, who meet monthly to paint murals on some of South Jakarta’s forgotten spaces.
Co-founder Bayu Jolim, who now works as a professional photographer, said there wasn’t a muralist club in Jakarta when he helped start Kampung Segart. “We thought we needed a medium where we could interact with other artists and share tips,” he said. “We usually paint on walls under the highways or overpasses.”
Ryan Popo, another member of Kampung Segart, said the idea for murals grew in response to the dirty walls of their university neighborhood. “People were ignorant when it came to keeping the walls in public areas clean,” he said.
Murals in public spaces often run the risk of being classified as graffiti, or even vandalism. When Kampung Segart first set out to transform the walls around its campus with colorful artistic renderings, some opposed the idea. “They thought we wanted to vandalize the walls,” Ryan said. “Although the reality was otherwise.”
Bayu said the city’s walls were often full of commercial posters, and he complained that people seemed uninterested in properly maintaining the spaces. “Imagine if the walls in your house were dirty. I’m sure you wouldn’t feel comfortable living there. We thought we could do something about it,” he said, adding that it wasn’t long until people realized what the group was doing and support blossomed.
“When they found out what we could do with the public walls, people began to support us,” he said. “People didn’t realize that our community could actually make these forgotten walls more beautiful.”
Kampung Segart’s meetings give members a chance to share tips and tricks. Bayu said the group has learned many techniques from the Internet, and added that being a muralist wasn’t too difficult.
“It’s not really as hard as most people think,” he said. “The key is to be creative. Just let yourself be as crazy and wild as possible. You shouldn’t be afraid to experiment, because you have such a big canvas to draw on.”
When in action, the scope of Kampung Segart members’ artistic expression is never limited. “They can basically paint whatever they want, as long as their paintings don’t offend others,” Bayu said.
Although there’s no specific genre to adhere to or agenda to push, Bayu said the group usually composed funny illustrations or caricatures.
“The reason is very simple. It’s because funny drawings easily attract people’s attention,” he said. “We also want to entertain people through our murals.”
Bayu said he liked to spread positive messages to people walking by the walls that showcased his drawings. “Living in a city like Jakarta can make people go crazy,” he said with a laugh. “That’s why I like to remind people about important things like being patient or helpful to others.”
To buy the necessary equipment, such as brushes, oil and ladders, the community’s members contribute funds each month. But Ryan said the equipment didn’t cost much. “It’s another good thing about being a mural artist; you don’t have to spend a lot of money,” he said.
With more walls to decorate, both Bayu and Ryan said they hoped their community would last for a long time to come.
Bayu said the capital needed more urban muralists.
“There are so many neglected, dirty walls around the city that need to be decorated,” he said. “By making these walls beautiful, we actually make the city a better place to live.”
For more information, visitkampungsegart.blogspot.com