Resilient Cities
S3 E3: Jakarta - Art Defying Moral Conservatism

Jakarta: Art Defying Moral Conservatism

Indonesia, where the national motto is “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” or “Unity in Diversity,” is home to both the world’s largest Muslim majority as well as six additional religions. The country has had a difficult history under the 32-­year dictatorship of General Suharto whose repressive and corrupt militarized rule led to the deaths of hundred thousand.

Despite the repression, his government prioritized religious tolerance. His resignation in 1998 ushered in a new era with a more liberal socio-­political environment, opening up spaces for different groups to organize. Conservative groups took advantage of this change and in recent years, a growing Islamist movement and a new wave of conservative populism are  threatening the identity of Jakarta’s religious and ethnic diversity. The impact has been particularly grave on LGBTQ communities, secular groups, women, and other marginalized people.

This episode features: Ari Bayuaji, an Indonesian-­Canadian visual artist whose sculptures address the problem of censorship; Kartika Jahja, a singer whose music contains strong messages for gender equality; Sakdiya Ma'ruf, a Muslim stand-­up comedian whose controversial performances urge people to engage in dialogue about taboos in Indonesia; and Tamara Pertamina, a transgender performance artist whose practice questions notions around religion and sexual identity and orientation. Each is daring to push the boundaries of their own craft, widening the space to tackle controversial subjects in a place where artists are becoming increasingly suppressed.

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