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June 2008

An exhibition of a selection of the works of Indonesian painter, the late Semsar Siahaan, is currently on in the Cemara gallery in Jakarta. Anhybody in jakarta, should take the opportuinity to see these works. They include some of Semsar's black and white drawings as well as later works, painted in colour. It is also includes his "G8 Pizza" work - a work depicting the ugly inhumanity of capitalism.

Semsar, who also studied Marxist ideas while in Australia in the early 1990s, was an integral part of the anti-dictatorship and pro-people movement of the 1990s, often the victim of direct violence. He was a personality sensitive to the ugliness of capitalism and the pain suffered by the people. His paintings are infused with pain and they invert the ugliness and shattered ugliness of capitalist reality into a seering, moving kind of beauty. He absorbed that pain into himself too which shows through into his self-portratits, I think. See the example below.

Self potrait-Semsar Siahaan.JPG

A self-portrait

Below is one of Semsar's later paintings where he moves to floral colours. Still the pain shows.

semsar's painting.JPG

Below is an example of one of Semsar's earlier black and white works entitled, "Head", taken from Edi Cahyono's Semsar Gallery website.


For some more examples of Semsar's earlier black and white work see the example's on Edi Cahyono's Semsar Gallery site, such as burjuisi or buruh bangunan("construction worker)" or Perkawinan (Marriage)

For more on Semsar see INSIDE INDONESIA, also see a second INSIDE INDONESIA article


Main placard reads:


On the way to the World Bank

june1 WB.jpg

GET RID OF SBY and JK and the parties of the political elite,
the causes of the fuel price increase!
(Photo source: Politik Rakyat Miskin and

For detailed reports, it is best to check the APSN website, where reports are usually a put up 1 or 2 days after the action.

The corporatisation of universities in Australia and elsewhere over the last two decades has been part of the general implementation of what was called in the 1980s ‘economic rationalism’, now more frequently referred to as neo-liberalism. This comprises a steady dismantling of the welfare state in order to reduce taxes and other imposts on both individuals and corporations generating high incomes or profits.

A part of the dismantling of the welfare state has involved the slashing of budget for staffing and research at universities. It has also seen the introduction of student fees and government enforcement of a policy to make universities also generate somC of their own income through commercially profitable activities.

Ideologically, even in the early 1980s, the pressure was on for all sections of the universities to prove their usefulness to the political, economic, social and cultural agenda set within the framework of economic rationalism and the dismantling of the welfare state. In the field of Asian Studies, there was much talk of presenting Asian Studies as something useful to the private sector. Universities almost competed to set up research centres that depicted themselves as being useful to understanding the region in the context of the needs of the private sector. A result of this more-or-less systematic accommodation of a philosophical or strategic orientation set by the government’s new agenda has been the decline in government resources being made available to Asian Studies in universities.


Pramoedya Ananta Toer's polemical work protesting discrimination against the Chinese in Indonesia is now available in English. An excerpt from an introductory essay in the book by Max Lane is below.


EXCERPT from "Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Racialism and Socialism".

In the 1960s, Indonesian politics was characterised by a deep and fundamental battle around the question: what kind of country should independent Indonesia become? Political integration of the Chinese Indonesians was viewed by Toer, and by a large number of Chinese Indonesian leaders, as something that would be achieved by Chinese Indonesians, like all Indonesians, joining the struggle to finishing the Indonesian national revolution and consolidating Indonesian socialism. The largest active Chinese Indonesian organisation during the sixties was BAPERKI (Badan Permusyawaratan Kewarganegaraan
Indonesia – Consultative Body of Indonesian Citizens) which adopted this perspective. It was banned and its leaders also arrested in 1965, at the same time as Toer and hundreds of thousands of others.


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