Street art giving a hand to public space, Yogyakarta

street art, yogyakarta

Considered as the cultural capital of Java, Yogyakarta has always been a creative city in musical, theatrical and pictorial arts.

It was, during the Sailendra and Sanjaya dynasties reign, the city of the central government. The javanese metropolis was also chosen as the administrative capital of Indonesia for 3 years until the dutch colonisers left the country.

Strongly turned to modernity and education, the city has many high schools and universities including Gadjah Mada, first university created after the independance of Indonesia. The Institute of indonesian Arts is also located in Yogyakarta.

Although the city has shown a powerful cultural identity, Yogyakarta is no exception to the spiral of capitalism.

We notice, walking in Yogyakarta streets, that signs in the public space are dedicated to malls, real estate, office rent, hotels, goods and propaganda. Symbols of the public space tend to disappear, though they are key elements giving the inhabitant the possiblity to identity itself to an ideology, a history, a place or a neighbourhood. Only few places remain as the memorial « Monumen 1 Maret », symbol of the successful attack of the Indonesian against the Dutch in 1949, or the « Tugu Adipura », large-scale construction of the trophy rewarding Yogyakarta development and received by the central government, still have these functions.

Mural of Apotik Komik

Mural of Apotik Komik

In 2002, a group of young artists, « Apotik Komik », decided to fight against the desertion of the public space.

For this purpose, they used the street art as a mean of expression. According to Michael Chin, art introduction in public space is an excellent initiative to make the place more comfortable and enjoyable. This alternative, suitable to creation of social link, enables inhabitants to appropriate the neighbourhood.

This is how the project « Mural Kota Sama-Sama », approuved by the local power, started.

The streets of Yogyakarta became large open artist workshops where everybody, « Apotik Komik » and inhabitants, was welcomed to contribute and  be part of the area’s identity.

The project was successful and a lot of walls were embellished.

In order to make the action more attractive, « Apotik Komik » members invited, the following year, a grapher crew from San Francisco (CAMP) to repeat the act under the name of « Mural Kota Sama-Sama – you are welcome ».

That second project was even more successful, making Yogyakarta region murals very popular, ending medias to call the metropolis : the city of Street art.

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