Arts & Culture

Ladies on Wall: The First Female Graffiti Artist Community in SEA

Reclaiming the streets through art

Words by
Joice Tentry

When Ladies on Wall first took place in 2014, it attracted nine female graffiti artists to come together to paint.

Today, the annual event has grown both in number and influence. It is the first female graffiti artist community, not only within Indonesia, but also in South East Asia, with more than 60 female graffiti artists who strive for women empowerment in the street arts scene.

Spread across at least 10 cities in Indonesia, Ladies on Wall members continue their tradition of coming together to do a themed street art painting. They also organise and participate in various events and activities related to street arts, as well as voice their concerns about women empowerment in the creative industry in Indonesia.

How was Ladies on Wall first initiated? What was the story behind it?

Bunga: Back in 2014, I pursued my passion in graffiti after I graduated from university. I was invited to The Rebel Daughters, a female graffiti event in Singapore. I did graffiti art there, along with more than 15 artists from other South East Asian countries.

When I returned to Indonesia, CIML, a local female graffiti artist, invited me to paint together. It was rare for female graffiti artists to get together to paint because the scene was dominated — and still is — by male artists.

Both CIML and I then organised an event in South Jakarta and invited our friends to join us. Nine girls were rocking the wall on May 2014, and it was the first female graffiti event in Indonesia. I knew the event would get big and I named it Thinking About Walls, which was eventually renamed Ladies on Wall.

The participants enjoyed the event and told me that they would like to do it again next month. But I thought it would not be too special if we did it too often and so, I suggested that we do it annually. I was also inspired to make the Indonesian version of The Rebel Daughters. I love to support girls who like to do graffiti art and I’d invite them to the annual Ladies on Wall event.

Ladies on Wall has inspired new members to join each year. We started with nine girls from three cities in 2014. Three years later, more than 60 girls from 10 cities participated in the event. It has turned out to be a movement and it is the first female graffiti community in South East Asia.

How do you perceive the street arts community in Indonesia, especially from the perspective of a female artist?

Dakjoah: The street art community scene here is not so different from that in other countries. It’s filled with many artists with inspiring ideas, most of whom are males. From my perspective as a woman, we can walk hand-in-hand and grow together. As we grow with Indonesian culture, we tend to help and have each other’s back in the community.

Bunga: I can offer perspectives from an artist and a non-artist. As an artist, it makes us special when we do something that is traditionally dominated by males. Some female artists get more opportunities for commissioned work, and male artists who feel that they are better qualified have said that this is unfair. My perspective as a non-artist is that a female street artist is more valuable for marketing purposes and commissioned works.

Amanda: The street arts community in Indonesia is similar to that in other communities. For women to do graffiti (which is dominated by males), it’s seen as something unique. It shows that it is possible to do things that are usually done by men. And in Indonesia, this is still considered rare. Many people consider this to be something different and cool.

Where do you usually get the inspiration for your arts or paintings? Are there any specific themes behind the arts featured on Ladies on Wall?

Kare: I always practise to upgrade my style by looking at other artworks as my references. I see it in many perspectives (by rotating my phone, for example) so I can find my own perspectives (for graffiti styles) like font, styles and colour. And then I do the sketch, modification, and develop it to my own style. For the theme, it depends on what’s currently happening in Indonesia.

Amanda: I usually get inspiration from other artworks, and looking at the style and colour references of various sites like Pinterest and Instagram. And for the specific theme, it depends on the other members.

Do you have a favorite artwork from Ladies on Wall? Which one and why?

Dakjoah: We recently did a piece together, and to me, it is the best one so far. We each worked on a section of the graffiti and it was done nicely.

Kare: I think we always do our best for every artwork. Making art on a huge medium is challenging, but we always finished it properly. You guys are amazing!

Bunga: I have never paid much attention to the artwork or results, hehe. To me, the moments that we spent together are more precious than the artworks.

Amanda: I love all our artworks. Everything I do with Ladies on Wall is the best and my most favourite moment in my life. I can meet my second family, make some pieces together, talk and laugh together. That’s a really precious moment for us because our schedules are really hectic. I really appreciate every work and meeting that we make.

What is Ladies on Wall’s future dreams and plans? What can we expect to see from the community in the future?

Dakjoah: We hope to reach out to more women and empower them to join the street arts scene because we have each other’s back. Sharing skills is a something we always do as a community.

Kare: More empowered women who have strong passion, who are inspiring, and who support one another.

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