Mekong Cultural Hub

Eco-social Urbanism: A Look Into Reciprocal Community Ecology

Today we invite you to meet up with the Delta X group consisting of three SEAΔ alumni—Zun Ei (Myanmar), Joanne Mun (Malaysia) and Raz Salvarita (Philippines) fellowship curator Marco Kusumawijaya and assistant curator Anitha Silvia. The collective story told by the team below shares their recent excursion to three cities in Indonesia, as part of their project study focusing on Eco-social Urbanism.

Giving-and-receiving is a natural course of the natural environment such as the ebb and flow of the tide; the cycle of the seasons; the natural rhythm that pulsates within the instinctual beingness of each creature – and yet the recent disruption of the pandemic has tested that level of compassion especially among people communities and so this journey with three creative visionaries with their hosts, fellowship curator Marco Kusumawijaya (an architect and scholar) who is assisted by art researcher/producer Anitha Silvia has brought an inner look at how reciprocal community ecology remains an integral stronghold among creatives to carry on the work of sustainability in the grassroots.

The convergence of three SEAΔ alumni fellows for this Delta X Program by the Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council brings excitement to journey together in person by trailing along three cities – Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Bandung – in Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands along the “ring of fire”. 

Coming from three countries, Zun Ei from Yangon, Myanmar is a medical doctor and visual artist working and experimenting on paper-cutting and installation art; Joanne Mun hails from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and an architect by profession while actively involve in urban sustainability; and Raz Salvarita from Panay Island in the Philippines is an artist-activist working on reviving creative practices in rural communities. 

The scope of their engagement started in March over online “nongkrong” or casual discussion on the theme of “eco-social urbanism” where they shared their own practices and working ecology; they also met several guests that helped shape the conversations especially on the topic of “collaborations” and “collaborative works”. 

And the journey together continues since arriving in Indonesia at the end of June. They are currently on a residential for two weeks at Bumi Pemuda Rahayu, an intentional space for art residency located in the village of Muntuk (center for bamboo craft) at Dlingo in Yogyakarta.

The “nongkrong” continues and frequently happens inside the “dapur” or kitchen which is sustained with food, stories, and laughter. The themes incorporate the experiences from on-site visits to artisans in the neighborhood teaching the group how to weave and demonstrating how to prepare and cook the village food; interactions with artists in their studios or working spaces; immersion with a community farm school; visiting galleries and art fair; as well as public markets; and dwelling in a traditional wedding of the neighbor. 

Having reached half-way of the cultural immersion, the commonality in conversations are the following: that the arts in many forms remain an activator for social transformations – as it facilitates the current of social imagination; the concept of creative economy is vital integration in the local craft sector; the flourishing pockets of community-based ‘sekolah’ that recognize interdependence with community members’ committed participation have created a safe space for budding young creatives; artistic linkages with fellow artists, institutions, cultural workers, village artisans among others help enliven the veins of reciprocal exchange of ideas, inspirations, and intentions. 

As the journey moves onward to Bandung, the group has embraced the enriching experiences so far; and continues to be enlightened with shared discussions; and reinvigorates a new source of encouragement to take back home after the Delta X sojourn.  


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