panel detail
Detail of the panel "Retake our land" with important figures in Brazilian and Indonesian politics.

For two weeks, the Taring Padi collective, from Indonesia, stayed at the Florestan Fernandes National School (ENFF) of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) for an artistic residency. The project, carried out in partnership with Casa do Povo and the institution Framer Framed, from the Netherlands, was based on the desire to promote exchanges between the Indonesian group and MST militants. 

Douglas Estevam, pedagogical coordinator of the ENFF and member of the coordination of the Coletivo Nacional de Cultura of the MST, talks about the relationship that was established with the Taring Padi collective: “There is an affinity of third world history, of colonized peoples, of oppressed peoples, which they had to fight against peoples of dictatorial regimes. Although they are very different historical contexts, we have a political history that brings us together and that allows for a very productive space for connection and understanding”. 

The ENFF is located in Guararema, in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, and was inaugurated in 2005 with the aim of providing political training for social movement activists. 

Dodi Irwandi, Aris Prabawa, Hestu Nugroho and Bayu Widodo, from Taring Padi, during the artistic residency at Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF). Photo: Luiza Lorenzetti.


Taring Padi was formed in 1998, a year after the uprisings that ended Suharto's military dictatorship. Former President Hadji Mohamed Suharto held power from the overthrow of his predecessor Sukarno in 1967 until 1998, when he resigned. On the collective's website, they state that one of the group's principles is to eradicate bourgeois notions of the art world as "works of art" and the idea of ​​an individual creator. Therefore, Taring Padi's works are collectively produced on four main supports: banners, posters, puppets and a popular booklet. 

Four Taring Padi members came to the residency in Brazil: Aris Prabawa, Hestu Nugroho, Bayu Widodo and Dodi Irwandi. In an interview for arte!brasileiros, the group explained that the concept of art is connected with social justice and politics. Therefore, their works always relate to the people and communities they visit for the production of their collective works. 

“We were very lucky, because we were able to absorb a lot of information from the classes we had here. We learned about a part of Brazilian society, about the political scenario and about the context of the [MST] movement, and also about the land and about the people, with whom we were able to learn directly at the Mariele Franco Camp”, explains Hestu Nugroho.

Everyone agrees that the similarities between Brazil and Indonesia facilitated the creation process and also the connection between the groups. In the sociopolitical context, Taring Padi mentioned corruption, military violence, environmental destruction and poverty as common themes, but also mentioned that they share the same sense of humor as Brazilians, despite the fact that the language was an initial barrier, which was attenuated by the presence of a translator, but also by living together. 


MST militants from different locations – the participants came from São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Paraná – lived daily with the Indonesian group throughout the two weeks of residency. They all stayed at the ENFF accommodation and, in addition to artistic activities, contributed to the organization and maintenance of the school. 

Felipe Gemelli is part of the MST communication sector for the Vale do Paraíba region and was one of the movement's guests to participate in the project. Gemelli was surprised by the group's history as well as Indonesian politics.

“This contact made us understand better the purpose of their work and the importance of reclaiming the land. The MST also has this proposal that land is a common good. The work of popular organization of denouncement, of criticism that they do is very punctual to the system. And the MST has this role of denouncing the abuses of agribusiness, of real estate speculation. So, we worked in that direction, so much so that the main panel is called 'Retake our land'”, he comments. 

The aforementioned panel is the result of the artistic residency. Performed together, the work brings references to the points of connection between the groups and honors personalities such as Mariele Franco, Cacique Raoni and Olga Benário. The panel also celebrates the fauna and flora of both countries and criticizes land exploitation and agribusiness. “Take back our land” [rebut tanah kitaa] is the name of the painting whose motto appears throughout Taring Padi's repertoire. 

In addition to the panel, in its passage through Brazil, the collective also produced puppets, one of the supports frequently used by Taring Padi. Puppets are part of the culture of Java, where the group was formed, as a way of telling stories. Made with cardboard, the puppets are used to support popular demonstrations in the struggle for social justice. 

The panel was presented on April 20 at Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes (ENFF) and on April 21 at Armazém do Campo, in São Paulo. Afterwards, the Indonesian group will travel with the work to Holland and Australia. 


Casa do Povo was responsible for bridging the gap between Taring Padi and the MST. The director of the institution, Benjamin Seroussi, got to know the work of the Indonesian collective during documenta fifteen, in Germany, in which the group was accused of anti-Semitism. 

documenta is a contemporary art exhibition that takes place every five years in Kassel and, in its last edition, caused controversy with the panel People's Justice (2002), by Taring Padi, for containing images considered anti-Semitic. The panel was covered and quickly removed from the display. 

At the time, Fabio Cypriano wrote to the arte!brasileiros: “The fact generated a formal apology on the documenta website, both by ruangrupa [the collective that signs the artistic direction of documenta fifteen], and by Taring Padi, in addition to having organized a debate on antisemitism in art, in the June's end. The Taring Padi, by the way, occupies several spaces in the exhibition, one of the most beautiful in an old public swimming pool, the Hallenbad Ost, with a diversity of posters and posters of political demonstrations, many made as engravings. The controversy, however, served as fuel for cultural wars that like to attack contemporary art”.

The 8 x 12 meter banner was produced in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2002 by several members of the collective. The illustrations sought to criticize the Suharto dictatorship, but contained two Jewish characters in which one had an SS hat, the Nazi police, and the other was represented as a Mossad soldier, the secret service of the State of Israel.

In apology, available in full on the documenta website, the group states: “The image we used was never intended to be hatred directed at a particular ethnic or religious group, but a critique of militarism and state violence. We misdescribed the involvement of the government of the state of Israel – and we apologize. Antisemitism has no place in our hearts and minds.”

For the group, the partnership with Casa do Povo, an institution of Jewish origin, represents a turning of the page for what happened: “This project is proof that we can connect with anyone, in any way”, concludes Aris Prabawa.

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