HerStory#2 Arahmaiani Feisal

Arahmaiani Feisal is an Indonesian contemporary artist who has been fearless in voicing her thoughts by revisiting the past, exploring different media and spaces and diving into different cultural contexts.  


This time, Canberra is privileged to have Ms Arahmaiani Feisal to share her critical takes on various political, cultural and social issues which are expressed through her art works combining different media including video, painting and performance. The discussion was held on 17 March 2015 as a collaborative effort between ANU ISA, PPIA ACT and Indonesia Synergy in commemorating the 2015 International Women’s Day.

Ms Arahmaiani took the audience through several of her works and elaborated the meaningful messages behind, including her art performance entitled ‘ Lapen Wedding’ presented in Yogyakarta in 2004 depicting the deceptive political parties’ campaign at that time as a wedding celebrated with lapen (a low-priced locally produced alcohol).


Further, she introduced her most recent research in tracing back the ancient history of Majapahit Empire to examine Indonesia’s deeply-rooted deficiency of self-critic skills. She underlined the prevailing misconception of Ken Arok as a prominent figure particularly in Javanese society, despite his violent ways in obtaining power. It has stricken her as criticism is almost non-existent in the society. Her questioning then called for a deeper study which she hopes could later be publicised as a piece of reflective writing.


On this occasion, she also talked about her recent comparative study on different religions in order to find the unifying principles so that these belief systems will not anymore being misused for political purposes. Her involvement in several community-based environmental projects in places like Indonesia and Tibet as well as her teaching career in Germany has likewise displayed her activism towards different concerns, not just locally.

Although she has been known as an internationally-recognised artist, Ms Arahmaiani revealed that there is no success without struggle, particularly as being a female artist from Indonesia. Her boldness and perseverance have surely inspired many women.

Photos: Yosafat Leonard (PPIA ACT)