The Rame Rame issue of Garland #8

The Indonesian nation was founded on the five principles of Pancasila: divinity, humanism, nationalism, democracy and social justice. In 1945, the Indonesian President Sukarno reduced these to the fundamental principle of gotong royong, or mutual cooperation. This is the official story of values Indonesia presents to the world.

This issue of Garland is a kind of “gotong royong”. We’ve been advised by a dedicated team of young Indonesians who are keen to see this value updated to the country of today, 72 years later. The textile designer, Frans Pandjaitan sees this concept as more relevant to agricultural communities, where members of the kampung (“village”) come together to sow seeds or harvest. For urban dwellers like himself, it is more limited to big social events like weddings or funerals. For product designer Nadia Pramudita, this spirit still pervades much social life, such as the ngariung shared meal that is part of Sundanese culture and is now a fashionable kind of gathering in Jakarta. As a more familiar version of the sentiment of cooperation, Nadia suggested the phrase rame rame, which is typically said to rouse a group of people to action.

Rame rame  is a contribution to the ongoing exploration of the value of creative practice in the broader Indo-Pacific. With the quarterly essay by Rob Finlayson about Rodney Glick, we visit Bali, where many Westerners have been travelling not only for holidays, but also to work with the many skilled artisans. In Ubud, Glick has established a unique practice that combines not only a series of Hindu-inspired sculptures, but also a chain of cafes, filled with his designs for furniture and eating. With a keen ear for the conversations around Glick, Finlayson conveys the easeful flow of sociability that grounds his work.

We’re lucky as well to have an explanation by Mas Ruscita of the very material form of spirituality that underpins this Balinese attitude to the world. The Balinese cooperative Ketemu extends this into the social realm with a Schizo-friends project, realised in a yoga park. To the north of the island, Gede Kresna’s Rumah Intaran revives Balinese crafts, trades and recipes for local inspiration. And Marty Hope’s Elephant Shark represents an attempt to restore an image of Bali in the “old days”, before it became so commodified.

Collaboration is a key theme. Annie Gobel’s Complete Me jewellery project takes rame rame to Melbourne. Nuraini Juliastuti offers an Indonesian take on Tom Nicholson’s collaboration with diorama artisans in Yogyakarta. The artist Rosslynd Piggott writes about the value of her partnership with Venetian glass makers. Lisa Waup and Sarah Weston present their collaboration of Indigenous design and fashion. And the next instalment in the Stringlines series on fibre art tells the remarkable story of mentorship between a Sumatran datu spirit man and a newly lauded Indigenous artist, Jenny Crompton. Indonesia seems to have embraced social media and it is worth learning how they have adapted it to their values. During the course of this issue, we will be exploring the potential of Instagram as a platform for working together.

There’s much to learn about Indonesia itself. William Ingram and Jean Howe articulate the philosophy of Threads of Life through a visit to a traditional weaving community in Flores. Fauzy Prasetya shares his thoughts on what it takes to set up a ceramics studio today. Two articles are about the Dayak culture of Kalimantan: Karen Macdonald takes us to a Dayak wedding ceremony and Stephanie Brookes looks at the fibre craft that holds a village together. Marian Reid and Emily Lush discuss the iconic craft of Timor-Leste, tais weaving.

As always, we discover strong cross-cultural dialogues. Carla van Lunn writes about a fashion exchange between Australia and Indonesia, while Elizabeth Shaw reflects on a parallel jewellery exchange. Alexandra Crosby introduces us to some current thinking around design from Surabaya.

As well, there’s a roundup of stories from across the region. We hear from Lisa Cahill on Charlotte Haywood, Mark Stiles on Helen Wyatt, Elliat Rich on her design interpretation of central Australian landscape, Renate Mellão on the Brazilian embroidered house, Madeleine Kelly on an exhibition by Mexican artist, Claudia Fernandez, and a series on Japanese ceramics artists by Shoko Ono, Yoshika Yajima, Naho Yamashita and Tomoko Kawakami.

One of the goals of each issue is to find ways of connecting people together. We’ve been very lucky to have excellent advice from Frans Pandjaitan, Nadia Pramudita, Annie Gobel, Grace Samboh and Anisa Fardan Nabila. We hope they will help us continue to provide an Indonesian voice as Garland travels to other parts of our world.

To see the complete list of contents, go here.

What to make of 2014

Master batik artist Tony Dyer with a young Japanese textile student at the Semarang International Batik Festival in May 2013

One of the major events of 2014 will be the Golden Jubilee of the World Crafts Council, which will be held in Dongyan, China, 18-22 October. It will be very interesting to see how the Chinese presidency of WCC uses this unique occasion to promote local craftsmanship. One day ‘Made in China’ may be something that actually adds value to a product.

The China event will be an important occasion to present the Code of Practice for Partnerships in Craft & Design, which has been developed over the past three years of discussions that were part of Sangam: Australia India Design Platform. We’ll be developing a platform based around those standards to promote fair partnerships between producers and developers. This year, the network will extend to Indonesia, with a workshop at Kampoeng Semarang looking particularly at commissioning of batik artists.

The key element that draws me to craft is the way it engages with tradition. While the modern world encourages freedom, it is hard to conceive of a meaningful life without responsibility. Custodianship gives meaning to our otherwise fleeting lives. And craft traditions require skill and imagination if that are to be something we can pass on to future generations.

This is something quite evident to indigenous peoples, whose own culture is vulnerable to colonisation. Retaining language and custom gives purpose and honour to individual lives in indigenous communities.

By contrast, the dominant white Anglo world seems to require little from us in order to flourish. It runs increasingly on automatic, sustained by machines and global corporations. But there are still buried traditions that we can uncover and pass on. Colonisation involved removing the social value from objects, otherwise considered the primitive domain of fetish or idol. The challenge is to recover social objects such as charms, crowns, garlands and heirlooms that offer a hard currency of interconnection.

Amulets from the Sonara Market in Mexico City - how to turn objects of destruction into agents of good?

The project Joyaviva: Live Jewellery across the Pacific travels to Latin America this year. It will be very interesting to see how these audiences respond to the challenge of designing a modern amulet. Can folk traditions transcend their nostalgia and become relevant elements of contemporary life?

The broader questions associated with this will be played out in a series of roundtables as part of the South Ways  project. This will seek to identify creative practices that are unique to the South. The first one in Wellington will look at the relevance of the Maori ‘power object’, or taonga, to Western art practices such as relational jewellery.

Other projects will help tie these threads together. The performance work Kwality Chai will explore what an Indianised Australia might be like. This relates to the utopia of Neverland, in which Australia becomes a haven for cultures that have no home in the world, such as Sri Lankan Tamils.

Craft keeps us alive to the debt we owe to previous generations. I’m very pleased to be involved with Wendy Ger’s Taiwan Ceramics Biennale where many artists have mastered clay as a language for the unique expression of ideas and values.

So there’s much to be made of 2014. Let’s hope this includes a future for 2015 and beyond.

Welcome Signs: Contemporary Interpretations of the Garland

    Welcome Signs website now online at

    A common cultural thread throughout the Asia Pacific region is the ceremony of welcome. Honoured guests, returning fisherman and sometimes lost strangers are treated to delicacies, gifts, song and dance. The garland plays an important role as a beautiful and scented wreath with which to adorn the neck of a guest.

    With urbanisation, traditional communities and families are becoming increasingly fragmented. The welcome garland changes its function from an ephemeral part of the ritual to a keepsake of home. Degradable materials like flower petals can be replaced by other materials, including plastics, money and confections. This is particularly poignant in Pacific communities, where sea-level rises combined with economic diasporas is placing increasing pressure on maintenance of traditional culture.

    Welcome Signs is an exhibition of jewellery and adornment that draws on the tradition of the garland. It considers how the cultural traditions might be sustained despite displacement and urbanisation. And it re-considers the role of welcome in a world increasingly made of strangers, including temporary citizens, such as students and refugees.

    As a project, Welcome Signs draws on the success of the Melbourne Scarf Festival, which over five years explored the many cultural dimensions of this popular craft, including its religious, tribal, fashion, psychological and even technological aspects. By comparison, the garland is like a closed scarf whose meaning is more in the act of bestowal than in the wearing.

    It also draws from the Turn the Soil exhibition that toured Australia in 1998-9, featuring the work of second-generation Australians. As this exhibition visited venues throughout the country, it focused on different stories about the particular contribution of non-British cultures to the story of Australia.

    Welcome Signs aims to be a touring exhibition that not only contains beautiful and interesting objects, but also acts as a catalyst for thinking about the practice of welcome today. Jewellery will be sourced from throughout the Asia Pacific. This will include Australasian contemporary jewellers who create unique works of art out of these traditions. Works will include:

  • Salusalus and leis from Pacific islands, including new forms from Auckland
  • Innovative versions of the var mala garlands that are part of Hindu ritual
  • Urbanised versions of the phuang malai in Thailand
  • Contemporary interpretations of the tais from East Timor and selendang from Indonesia
  • Contemporary art neckpieces from Australasian jewellers, including wreaths, laurels and medals

Welcome Signs: Contemporary Interpretations of Traditional Garlands consists of several components

Delhi exhibition (confirmed)

New Delhi, India, 4-6 February 2011

Exhibition for the World Craft Council Jewellery Conference, Abhushan: Tradition & Design – Dialogues for the 21st Century

This exhibition from the Asia Pacific region will form a key element in the international survey of jewellery for this major convention

Touring exhibition (in development)