International mural artists bring color, life to Indonesian street walls

Photo taken on Sept. 13, 2023 shows a man rides his bike passes mural on a wall as apart of The Epicentrum Art Festival, an art street mural and graffiti festival in Tangerang, Banten Province, Indonesia, on Sept. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Agung Kuncahya B.)

“When the street is our canvas, creativity is limitless,” said Edi Bonetski, art director of The Epicentrum Art Festival, which featured eye-piercingly fascinating works created by communal and global muralists.

by Hayati Nupus, Abdul Azis Said

JAKARTA, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) — The 9 kilometers of dusty streets of Tangerang, a city near to the Indonesian capital Jakarta, has become an open air gallery, colorful and beautified by more than 50 mural and graffiti artists from different nations.

Dika Badik Adrian, a 28-year-old from Indonesia’s West Sumatra province, painted a row of three pop art-style characters squabbling over a basketball in a mural.

The figure he developed in 2018 and appears as the main subject in all of his works is called Fresnot, an acronym meaning freedom is not free. This time, the Fresnots wore hats and brightly hued polka-dot masks in shades of blue, red, and purple.

“Wear a mask, so they don’t get exposed to street dust,” Badik told Xinhua recently.

This painting is a part of the Epicentrum street art festival, organized by the local community and has attracted artists from countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and also Indonesia.

Photo taken on Sept. 13, 2023 shows a motorist passes mural and graffiti on a wall as apart of The Epicentrum Art Festival, an art street mural and graffiti festival in Tangerang, Banten Province, Indonesia, on Sept. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Agung Kuncahya B.)

Sports, together with art and culture, are the primary topics of the painting process which run from Sept. 10 to Sept. 17.

The topic of sports is also present in the creation by Tangerang muralist Yosua Tan. He sketched a picture of a man with sunglasses and a football, a global favorite sport, and wrote “mafia” next to it. This illustrates a moral critique of football, which he said frequently turns into a political arena for certain parties.

“We hope that football doesn’t turn into a political event; sport should stay sport,” he said.

Ibnu Jandi, the festival’s conceptualizer, said Tangerang is an urban area which was in the past a deep forest but quickly transformed with expansion of the development of the capital, with thousands of industries emerging and migrants coming from different provinces.

Similar to urban areas in other nations, not only the wooded areas vanished but also the local culture in many cases, many roads are clogged with traffic, and public spaces are congested, he remarked.

Photo taken on Sept. 13, 2023 shows an artist drawing mural on a wall as apart of The Epicentrum Art Festival, an art street mural and graffiti festival in Tangerang, Banten Province, Indonesia, on Sept. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Agung Kuncahya B.)

Akid One, 37, a Malaysian muralist, tried to showcase urban traffic in his works finished with classic tan colors, like an ancient landscape.

He said that after arriving in Indonesia, he observed the Legok highway, took pictures of it, and then used the images to create a mural showing the commotion of streets, in which there are many motorcycles travelling at high speeds, some with helmetless riders, or overloaded with woman and children, street merchants, and vehicles hauling cargo.

This scene also brought back him memories of his home country Malaysia, where he said streets were congested with cars.

“This is young people’s expressions, they are not only trying to make the streets more attractive, but they are also ‘rebelling’ against crowded, dirty streets and shrinking public areas,” Jandi explained.

Photo taken on Sept. 13, 2023 shows motorists pass mural on a wall as apart of The Epicentrum Art Festival, an art street mural and graffiti festival in Tangerang, Banten Province, Indonesia, on Sept. 13, 2023. (Xinhua/Agung Kuncahya B.)

The festival’s art director, Edi Bonetski, added that every street has its story, and they chronicle a city’s extensive history.

“When the street is our canvas,” he remarked, “creativity is limitless.”

Spaces for expression are expanding into the meta world as technology develops, Bonetski said, while offline works are still being done.

Evidently, a city’s old walls are now lovely, its aspirations are on show, and anybody may view and appreciate them.

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