Friday, August 31, 2012

A Morning Stroll Through Bukittinggi

The following morning in Bukittinggi (West Sumatra) brought favorable weather, which we took advantage of by marching across the town.

An early, mist-enshrouded morning from the rooftop of the Lima Hotel.

A parade of youngsters in traditional garb marching through the streets.

Minangkabau princesses.

Those wondrous rumah gadang rooftops... The water buffalo holds an all-important part in Minangkabau life and Bukittinggi's architecture reflects this fact.  From tilling the fields and providing meat and milk, to playing a central role in the tribe's creation myth, these giant ruminants are held in high esteem.

The humble trash-picker.

A local gym.  Invariably where all the creepy old dudes congregate.

Traditional transportation.

Buy your very own ramah minang.

Or a pictorial representation of one...

Panorama Park.  At dusk, giant flying foxes (fruit bats) wheel and careen through the air overhead, giving spectators an aerobatic show.

During the latter years of World War II, the Japanese invaded Indonesia and made Bukittinggi their central command post for Sumatra.  You can explore the dark, dank, and appropriately labyrinthine Japanese Caves (Lobang Jepang) in Panorama Park.

Despite being a cool respite from the heat, we tired of our underground journey quickly.  Putting the creepy back in crepuscular.

Surly macaques run the show at Panorama Park.  Local teens have taken to feeding the monkeys soft drinks and other sweets.  Cavities and sugar hangovers now abound in the primate community.

This is where you go when you die in Bukittinggi.  A room with a view.

The most-celebrated landmark in town: the clock tower.  Constructed by the Dutch, yet crowned with a Minangkabau house after Indonesian independence.

Practical information:

To get to Bukittinggi you can either fly into Padang and make the short journey north by car (roughly 2.5 hours) or take an arduous, ridiculously long and uncomfortable bus ride south from North Sumatra (which we did and takes up to 20 hours due to poor road conditions).  The plus side on taking the bus is that you will cross the Equator overland, which we thought was cool. Also, if your a fan of blaring Indo-pop and chain-smoking clove cigarettes through the night you'll fit right in on the bus. Happy travels!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lyno Vuth and Sa Sa Art Projects

Official Press Release:

khi nào | when: 6g tối, Thứ bảy 1 tháng 9 | 6pm, Saturday, 1 September 2012
Ở đâu
| where: CACTUS Contemporary Art Gallery  - Nguyễn Huy Tưởng, P.6, Q. Bình Thạnh,TP.HCM

Please join us for an informal gathering with visiting artist-curator Lyno Vuth, artistic director of Sa Sa Art Projects in Phnom Penh. Lyno Vuth will share his experience working as a young artist in Cambodia, as well as establishing and running an independent art space in his city. This event will be held in Vietnamese and English. Free of charge.

Về Dự Án Nghệ Thuật Sa Sa || Sa Sa Art Projects là một không gian nghệ thuật phi lợi nhuận, được những nghệ sĩ trong tập thể Stiev Selapak thành lập và tự quản lý từ năm 2010 tại Campuchia. Nằm trên đường Sothearos Boulevard (thủ đô Phnom Penh), Sa Sa Art Projects là một không gian ủng hộ và tổ chức những hoạt động nghệ thuật thử nghiệm và đường đại. Việc này được làm qua những hoạt động lưu trú, giảng dạy, giao lưu và sự tham gia của cộng đồng. Bạn có thể tìm được thông tin tại trang

Về Vuth Lyno || Vuth Lyno là Artistic Director của Sa Sa Art Projects. Đa số những dự án và tác phẩm của Lyno là nghệ sĩ mang đậm tính chất thị giác kết hợp với âm thanh. Những hoạt dộng của Lyno thường thường tồn tại dựa trên sự tham gia của cộng đồng, để nghiên cứu về những hoạt động xã hội và nền văn hoá khác biệt của Campuchia. Ông cũng là người phụ trách quản lý những cuộc triển lãm và hội thảo tại Phnom Penh. Lyno là Quản lý Nghệ thuật thị giác cho Hội Thảo Nghệ Thuật Thanh Niên Campuchia năm 2012, Cũng vào năm 2012, tác phẩm của ông được triển lãm tại Gwangju Biennale (Hàn Quốc) và cuộc triển lãm nghệ thuật Đông Nam Á trong chuyến lưu diễn RiverScapes IN FLUX.

About Sa Sa Art Projects || Sa Sa Art Projects is a non-profit artist-operated space founded in 2010 by the Cambodian art collective Stiev Selapak.  Located in the historic apartment bloc The White Building on Sothearos Boulevard, Sa Sa Art Projects serves as a venue to support experimental art practices.  We do this through residencies, classes, talks, and community participation.  More information at

About Lyno Vuth || Lyno Vuth is Artistic Director of Sa Sa Art Projects.  His art practice encompasses photography and sound.  His works tend to be participatory in nature, and to engage specific Cambodian communities and cultures unique to them.  He also curates exhibitions and organises related events in Phnom Penh.  Lyno is Visual Art Curator for 2012’s Cambodian Youth Arts Festival, and in 2012 is exhibiting at the Gwangju Biennale and in the touring exhibition of Southeast Asian art, RiverScapes IN FLUX.

nhờ | thanks: Alec Schachner, Sophie Hughes, Phuong Quoc Tri, CACTUS Contemporary Art Gallery, the institute of Lower Learning

Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Minangkabau Highlands: Bukittinggi

Bukittinggi is a buzzing, beguiling town in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra ringed by lush terrain and volcanoes (one of which, Mt. Merapi, is active).  The city itself is left in a perpetual haze by the smoking giant and is a picture of a thousand contrasts as teens dashing off text messages on speeding motorbikes fly past ornate Minangkabau buildings adorned with buffalo-horn rooftops.

After arriving on a hellish, 18-hour bus journey, we settled into the first hotel we found that had vacancy (which was a journey in itself) and hit the streets to stretch our legs.

We wandered through the town.  Up and down slopes, in and out of shops, and through the misty, rain-slicked streets.

The Minagkabau people of West Sumatra are the world's largest remaining matrilineal society (numbering about five million).  Property and homes are inherited by the female side of the family and despite the heavy Islamic influence (brought by Acehnese merchants in the 17th century) on Minang culture, women still maintain a powerful position in society.  They control the selection process for village chiefs and married men still must leave their wife's bed at daybreak to go and eat breakfast at his mother's home.  Here, religion and traditional customs carry on a working relationship.

The remnants of colonial architecture can still be found in less-trodden sidestreets.  During the 19th century, the city was known as Fort De Kock and was a Dutch hill-station centered around farming and gold-mining. 

The remnants of Fort De Kock, once ringed by cannons, now houses a public park and a depressingly ill-kept zoo, where we snapped photos of the fauna, the flora, and the locals.

These Minang girls were all freshmen in university and keen to show off their English skills.  As conservative Islam has gathered steam in recent years, young women are now eschewing the traditional Minang style of a simple scarf for the better coverage provided by the Malay style.

The poor conditions at the zoo were a bit jarring, but like most zoos in Southeast Asia, one should take in the experience with a degree of equanimity.

The Minangkabau Museum, designed like a traditional village meeting-house, has some cultural exhibits.

The world-renowned Bukittinggi aquarium is found in the belly of this beast.

This pelican avoided the cruel rain by burying his beak deep down into his feathers.

The drizzle changed into a downpour and the camera went into hiding as we marched off to dinner and a long-awaited sleep in a real bed.