Narrative of Portrait Paintings of Kartini Kendeng

Dewi Candraningrum

In North Kendeng Mountain Central Java Indonesia, several international cement corporations have deforested and mined their way to profit and are met with Kartini Kendeng’s resistance. The North Kendeng communities who call these places home have encountered both the disruption and destruction brought by extractive industries. This initiative documents their stories via visual media, that is the photos of my portrait painting of them. Each painting used acrylic on 50×60 cm canvas and had been documented digitally from 2014 to present day.

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Kartini Kendeng are women ecological defenders against cement mining. The women from Kendeng sing kidung every time they protest, in defiance against the extractive industries. Kidung is a chant of worship and prayer, dedicated to the giver of life, the creator of the universe and in appreciation of nature, which is the source of food, clean air, and the home of all humans, animals, and plants as sentient being. Kidung is a part of life for the women of Kendeng and is a reflection of their hopes and prayers. Kidung is sung by these women during all of their daily activities, when working in the rice fields and terraces, cooking, helping their children to study, and even during fighting for ecological and social justice. These kidung are religiously sung to initiate protests in the North Kendeng Mountains.

On 16 June 2014, a number of women from Rembang, led by Sukinah, set up tents in from of the cement mining in Watu Putih, Kendeng Mountains, Rembang, Central Java. Sukinah represents the phenomena of women’s leadership that is often present in movements to challenge mining in Indonesia. Another phenomenal woman leader before her was Aleta Baun, who led the resistance against the marble mining in Mollo, Nusa Tenggara Timur. Apart from Sukinah, nine other women Kartini Kendeng rose from the movement to preserve the karst topography and biodiversity of the Kendeng Mountains and cemented their feet into wooden boxes outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.

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These women included Sukinah, Sutini, Karsupi, Ambarwati, Surani, Deni, Murtini, Ngadinah, and Giyem. These nine women are called ‘Kartini Kendeng’ because the grave of Kartini, an Indonesian feminist heroine, is less than three kilometres from the site of the cement plant. Other influential women from Kabupaten Pati in Kendeng are Gunarti and Paini. Gunarti as the indigenous woman of Samin Sedulur Sikep from Sukolilo in Kabupaten Pati, is relentless in caring for the community and teaching local residents how to protect and preserve the earth. Paini, from Kecamatan Tambakromo in Kabupaten Pati, is the only woman to have legally opposed the establishment of the cement corporations through the process of litigation. Paini is the only woman mentioned in the lawsuit involving the cement factory, whose biggest investor comes from Western Europe

Use the arrow keys to view portraits of ‘Kartini Kendeng’

An olive skinned woman stands in front of a brick wall. She is wearing a black shirt and a headscarf that is decorated with human portraits.

Portrait of Dewi Candraningrum

About Dewi Candraningrum

Dewi Candraningrum, Indonesian painter known for her uncompromising and passionately vibrant colored of portrait paintings that deal with such themes as ecology, identity, the women faces and human bodies which she called as “womb document”. She founded studio Jejer Wadon & Alas Wadon and runs regular discussions on ecology, feminism, and gender with the community. In addition to her artistic work, she also currently teaches gender studies in several universities. She got her master from Monash Univ & doctoral from Universitaet Muenster. She is Chief Editor of Indonesian Feminist Journal Salasika as well as edited series of Ekofeminisme I-V in Bahasa. She had exhibited her paintings at TIM Jakarta, Gallery Cemara, Bentara Budaya Balai Soedjatmoko, Sangkring Art Space, etc.

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