Arts & Culture

Ketemu Project: Empowering Through Art

Learn more about the Skizofriends Art Movement

Words by
b-side staff

Ketemu Project is a social art initiative by Indonesian artist Budi Agung Kuswara, also known as Kabul, and Singaporean artist Samantha Tio, who also goes by the moniker Mintio.

Not wanting their practice to be limited within the commercial art market, they kicked off Ketemu in 2011 to develop creative projects that involved and empowered the local community while tackling social issues.

Skizofriends Art Movement is one of the projects that came out of Ketemu, and it has been recognised as Indonesia’s first psycho-social rehabilitation space. Since its launch, it has been using art as a medium for mental wellness and expression, and challenging the stigma on schizophrenia.

Kabul shares with B-Side the story behind Skizofriends Art Movement and its impact.

What inspired you to kickstart Ketemu Project with Mintio?

It all started when Mintio and I had our first community art project, Malam dijari kita/ The wax on your fingers, in a Klaten village in Central Java. By working out of the studio and having direct interaction with the subject of our work, we experienced a very inclusive process of art making.

Through the project, we learned that by removing ourselves as ‘studio artists’ and fully taking on the role as facilitators, in the spirit of involvement and social responsibility, we are able to explore and unlock many more possibilities.

It’s a methodology that surprised us, producing results that we never imagined.

So in 2013, we moved to Bali to develop Ketemu Project, a platform that uses this methodology to reach more people in a sustainable manner.

How did Skizofriends Art Movement come about?

In 2015, I was visited by a team from an NGO, Search for Common Ground, for an experimental programme that pairs up artists with activists. This was exactly what Ketemu Project was looking for, so we joined the programme and they provided us with the seed funding to kickstart projects. Twelve projects came out of this initiative, but so far, Schizofriends Art Movement is the only one that has remained sustainable.

And why the focus on people with schizophrenia?

At the time, I was actively consulting Dr Rai, a psychiatrist, for my research. I found it interesting that he gathered his patients living with schizophrenia for a weekly sharing session. It provided them with social support beyond medication. I was interested to learn more, so with a colouring pen and paper, I visited their homes and met their families for a few observations.

To my surprise, they were incredibly artistic and had a unique way of thinking. It wasn’t even ‘out of the box’ thinking anymore. For them, the box never even existed in the first place. However, because of the stigma of schizophrenia, they have been unable to fully express themselves, and many are lonely and jobless. This also put quite a strain on their families.

This experience inspired me to ask Dr Rai to partner up on a project to conduct a weekly creative workshop at my studio for people living with schizophrenia.

About two years into the programme, Dr Rai, another colleague from Denpasar’s health department and I asked for permission from the mayor of Denpasar to use any abandoned buildings in the city, as most of our members are from the area. We finally got a place and we named it Rumah Berdaya, which means House of Empowerment. It is now recognised as the first psycho-social rehabilitation centre in Indonesia that is based within the society instead of at a mental hospital.

Through art as a tool for expression and empowerment, we’ve been working to challenge the stigma and reintegrate people with schizophrenia back into society.

Has art been a medium for your personal mental wellness?

Yes, for sure!

Art invokes in me a feeling of home.

It is always a welcoming space to be, in no matter what my condition in life is.

Do you think your art has changed after your experience in Skizofriends Art Movement? If so, how?

Yes! Knowledge isn’t simply information I have gathered. It’s also how I experience the information and how it becomes a part of my life experience. It is only then that I can truly declare that it has become my knowledge. My experience with Skizofriends Art Movement is one such process, and it has become a fundamental aspect for the development of my current artwork.

What maintains the sustainability of the programme?

In the first year, we focused on skill-based workshops because our seed funding would support us for only six months. So we created products like incense stick (used daily by Balinese) and T-shirts with their designs to sustain our operations.

We never put our personal identity as the title for this project to maintain its inclusiveness. We want anybody to be able to participate and take pride in their participation.

Are there any plans to expand the programme or extend it to other beneficiaries?

Not at this moment, but we are always open to new possibilities!

Related Articles

[mc4wp_form id=”3383″]