Despite Extractivism

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.

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.

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.

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.


The Extracting Us exhibition and conversation series is co-curated by Siti Maimunah, Elona Hoover, Dian Ekowati, Alice Owen and Rebecca Elmhirst with critical insight and support from independent curator Celina Loh. Online exhibition designed and developed by Celina Loh with the Extracting Us Collective.

This project is made possible by support from 
ONCA Gallery, the Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, the Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmunity research network funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 764908), and collaboration with the Women in Action on Mining in Asia (WAMA) collaborative network and the ‘Sustainable’ Development and Atmospheres of Violence: Experiences of Environmental Defenders project funded by The British Academy.


WEGO-ITN (Wellbeing, Ecology, Gender and cOmmuny International Training Network) is an EU-funded research network contributing to the political ecology, feminist studies, human geography, anthropology, and development studies’ understanding of extractivism, commoning, care, communities, livelihoods, embodied subjectivities and resistance to development. WEGO-ITN is made up of scholar-activists working on feminist political ecology from ten institutions in six European Union countries: Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and ten institutions from eight countries for training and secondments: Australia, India, Indonesia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and USA.

The Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics (SECP), based at the University of Brighton, undertakes interdisciplinary research to address global and planetary challenges such as climate change, human migration, social inequalities and resource access or depletion. SECP explores the environmental, spatial and cultural dimensions of ecological and social challenges in specific places, to offer new knowledge and practice for the creation of more sustainable and socially just societies.

ONCA logo

ONCA is a Brighton based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity. ONCA promotes positive change by facilitating inclusive spaces for creative learning, artist support, story-sharing and community solidarity. ONCA Gallery works with artists, educators and organisations to co-deliver exhibitions, events and workshops that explore social and environmental issues.

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About Despite Extractivism

As with the Extracting Us exhibition, we invited the Despite Extractivism contributors to consider how their work can follow our guiding principles:

• The online exhibition brings together artistic and creative contributions that explore everyday community experiences of and responses to extractivism, and/or engage in ongoing conversations around extractivism, communities and care, in its various forms and registers.

• It includes three core aims:
– to challenge ‘north-south’ and ‘producer-consumer’ narratives on extractivism
– to listen to perspectives from those most affected, and develop actions of solidarity and resistance across countries and continents
– to challenge the viewer to make (sometimes unexpected) connections and develop solidarity (e.g, inviting the viewer to take specific actions or connect with the community

• The exhibition thinks about extractivism and care in terms of materials from (and of) the earth, and considers the experiences of humans and the rest of the natural world.

• The exhibition will include narratives of resistance where possible/relevant; and avoid relying on pathos that might develop an ‘us/them’ feeling

• The exhibition will work with quality materials while also challenging ‘professional’ or ‘distanced’ kinds of aesthetics

Despite Extractivism assembles expressions of care, creativity and community from diverse sites of extraction and geographical contexts. Extractivism is characterised by the violent accumulation of resources, which often devastates and disrupts affected communities and the natural world. Collectively, the works in this exhibition illuminate and explore ways of questioning, subverting and resisting the logics and impacts of extractivism.

Despite Extractivism
is part of the ongoing ‘Extracting Us’ collective journey exploring the  diverse, uneven but sometimes connected ways in which resource extraction also extracts from communities. It is an invitation to explore questions around extractivism and its logics, but also to explore the already-existing alternatives.  How do communities and creatives (struggle to) cultivate care for nature and for each other despite extractivism? Can sites of extraction be a fertile ground for alternatives?  Can artistic interventions help foster new sensibilities and solidarities with distanced extractive contexts?

Like weeds growing through the cracks in concrete, and in their flourishing slowly forcing the cracks to widen, the contributors to
Despite Extractivism scatter here their seeds of ways of thinking or being in extractive contexts. 

There are stories of artists who are involved with communities inhabiting landscapes threatened by destructive projects, imagining and practising ways of being which subvert and resist extractivism:  V’Cenza Cirefe’s
Counter-mapping in the Sperrins (resisting gold mining in Northern Ireland), Chesney’s Down The Line (resisting the HS2 railway in England)  and Federico Pardo’s forthcoming contribution (resisting gold mining in Cajamarca, Columbia).

There are illuminations of other tactics of resistance, from the creativity of the Kartini Kendeng women ecological defenders and their portrayals by Dewi Candraningrum (resisting cement mining in Java, Indonesia), to the counter-mapping initiative by the Pari Island community, JKPP and collectives to stop extractive tourism (Seribu Islands, Indonesia).

There are explorations of the uneven geographies of extractivism, with Karin Edstedt’s (Title) embroidery depicting the disproportionate environmental injustices of mining on indigenous communities (copper extraction conflict in Laver, Sápmi; coal mining in Kalimantan, Indonesia), and Sandro Simon’s audiovisual work Bidonmondes drawing attention to the omnipresence of extractivism through the everyday repurposing of imported palm oil canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal (originating from extractive palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).

There are intimate accounts of uprooting due to extractive projects, accompanied by the persistent determination to build or rebuild lives in Between Rivers by Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik (Intergenerational care and multidimensional extractivism, Russian Urals), This is my Home by Maria Rosa Pessoa Piedade & Marilene Ribeiro (dispossession caused by the Belo Monte dam, Brazil) and In the Forest We Believe by Albertus Vembrianto (Covid-19) exacerbates migration from a coastal area affected by gold mining waste, Papua, Indonesia).

Finally, there are invitations to engage with practises and performances which inspire embodied reflection on the destruction and destabilising effects of extractivism in distanced contexts: Arabel Lebrusen’s Toxic Waves II (in response to deadly failure of a dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine in Minas Gerais, Brazil ) and Choules+Roisner’s
REGOLITHIC (in response to global extraction).

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