Soul Of Yogyakarta: Spiritual Journey and Natural Destinations

Yogyakarta is a Special Region in Indonesia known for the rich traditional arts and cultural heritage. In 2013, I went on a photography assignment to explore the natural treasures that become the soul of the city. This video journal is a throwback from visiting Mount Merapi, natural caves of Gua Maria Tritis, and Parangtritis sand dunes.

Iwan Putuhena

Shot with:

Canon 5D Mark II

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Music by Shamana – Reckless
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Focus Point: Oktagon

Photography is an expensive hobby and profession, so when you’re purchasing a camera or other necessary supplies, you want a store that provides quality products, knowledgeable guidance and reliable service. Oktagon in Kemang offers all of the above for amateur and professional photographers alike.

Oktagon first opened for business in 2002 at Gunung Sahari in Central Jakarta. Owner Wiryadi Lorens says he wanted to contribute to the development of photography in Indonesia. A young and creative entrepreneur, he saw an opportunity to offer camera retail sales, service repairs, rentals, gallery and photography school, all under one roof. In 2007, to meet the rapid development of the photography industry, Oktagon opened its second store in Kemang.

Oktagon client Andreas bought his Canon 50D at the store in Kemang three years ago, and has been a regular ever since. “I’m comfortable with the professionalism of the staff. They always have good advice when I purchase lenses or other products, and more importantly I can return for repairs if there are ever any problems,” he says.

Oktagon sets reasonable prices, which other stores often use as a reference. “They call frequently; I already recognize their voices,” says Zakaria, a camera expert at Oktagon who learned the trade from Oktagon’s training program when he began working at the store three years ago. As a new employee he was required to attend classes at Neumatt, Oktagon’s photography school. “Eventually I bought my own Canon 450D,” he says.

Photography is an expensive hobby and profession; the price range for an SLR (single-lens reflex) camera runs anywhere from Rp 5 to 80 million rupiah, and as much as Rp 300 million rupiah for a commercial or billboard camera, not including accessories, lights and lenses. Oktagon offers a credit installment option for serious buyers or professionals.

For beginners, Zakaria recommends Oktagon’s newest product and current best seller, the Canon 1100D, priced at about Rp 5 million for a complete kit. For most customers, looking for the best price is a priority. But at the end of the day, according to Zakaria, it is worth paying the extra money for the product service guarantee just to be on the safe side.

Choosing between Canon and Nikon is every beginner’s biggest decision, he adds, noting that both brands are great cameras. Whichever one you choose, it’s best to stick with lenses and other accessories that are compatible. Oktagon’s advice: pick a brand used by most of your friends or photography community; this way you can trade and borrow lenses from each other.

With the growing interest in photography, the market for professional cameras is no longer just for those who work as photographers, but for anyone with an interest. Many photography-related activities are held almost every weekend in Jakarta. Websites such as http://www.fotografer.net and http://www.ayofoto.com bring together amateur and professional photographers for exhibits, workshops and other events. Oktagon, too, often sponsors events and gatherings and provides free rentals for lighting and other accessories.

An industry that used to be dominated by men now attracts more and more women, Zakaria notes. When he first started working at Oktagon, only two out of 10 customers were women; today the number of female clients has doubled. “Just the other day, a housewife bought a Canon 5D to take pictures of her children and for travelling. It’s an expensive camera for a beginner and for that purpose alone. But that’s what she wanted, and she was excited to start.”

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Focus Point: Oktagon

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

Oktagon
Kemang Icon
Jl. Kemang Raya No. 1,
Tel: 021 719 2757
oktagon.co.id

Store Hours
Monday – Friday: 09:00 am – 20:30 pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10:30 am – 17:30 pm
CLOSED ON NATIONAL HOLIDAYS

My Jakarta: Laura Muljadi, Model

It’s not easy being different in Jakarta. In the Netherlands, dark skin and exotic eyes can land you a modeling gig. But in Jakarta those same features, coupled with the fact that you’re 181 centimeters tall, warrant stares and whispers. But Laura Muljadi, 25, became a fixture at Fashion Week. Things weren’t easy for her — her mom made her shower with milk in hopes of lightening her skin. In college she weighed 82 kilograms. But instead of blaming people who put her down, she made things happen on her own. Now, when she’s not doing the catwalk, she tells kids at schools to be themselves. and stop caring about what other people think.

What does it feel like to be stared at all the time?

When I was younger my hair was really short and everybody thought I was a guy or a transvestite.

Even when I was in the Miss Indonesia pageant a blogger said I should join Miss Transvestite Indonesia.

When people stare I just smile back at them.

I’m ethnic Chinese, but you can’t tell. I stopped walking with my dad when I was 14 because I was so tall at that age people didn’t think I was his daughter.

You didn’t always think you would be a model, did you?

When I was growing up my dad only saw things as black or white. He always said: ‘There are only two types of girls in the world.

The pretty ones and the smart ones. You can’t be in the middle. If you’re in the middle you won’t survive.’

My dad always gave me books. I’ve always had books.

You have dark skin, which is normally not considered beautiful in Indonesia.

I grew up in the ethnic Chinese community. Even my cousins always thought I was different.

Once, when I was in elementary school, my teacher was talking about blood types and he said ‘Laura, it’s gonna be tough for her if she gets sick because she’s adopted and her parents might have different blood types.’

How was it even possible for him to say that in front of his students?

I was 9 years old. Of course I cried.

When I was younger, my parents would order pure milk and I would have to shower in it. They thought it would make my skin lighter.

But I always believed that things were going to happen for me.

You received a scholarship to go to school in the Netherlands. What did you study there?

I took up international communications management.

After school, I came back to Jakarta and got an office job related to my major, but modeling took over, and now things have gotten a bit carried away [laughs].

Any advice for young models ?

You need to be smart. Know what’s best for you.

You can buy all the whitening products here, but if you don’t have the confidence you’ll never be pretty.

You don’t need to be sharped- nose or anything. I go to schools and talk to kids and they say ‘You’re so lucky.’

But I tell them in this world only 5 percent of success is luck, 95 is hard work and motivation.

What do you tell the kids when you visit the schools?

I tell them ‘If you don’t want people to hate you, if you don’t like conflict, then don’t take risks.’ When I joined Miss Indonesia people were like ‘What were you thinking? They never pick people who look like you.’

I told them I’m not here to win, I’m here to pursue my dreams and to inspire people like me.

I don’t mean those who are dark-skinned, I mean different from the stereotype of what’s pretty.

When you were in college in the Netherlands you hosted a radio show that was broadcast in Indonesia.

It’s like Radio Indonesia. It’s a government-funded radio station with programs in nine languages. I did a show called ‘Voice of Women.’

The program started out as something completely different, aimed at college-age kids. Why the change?

I did my thesis on migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.

People here know all about the bad things that happen to migrant workers in Singapore and Malaysia, but they don’t focus on or broadcast the good things.

So you were talking about good things?

I found a balance. We broadcast the good and bad stories so the people from cities and villages knew what to expect.

Sure, a lot of bad things happen, but there are success stories that no one ever hears about, especially from Saudi Arabia.

I wanted to tell the listeners what they could expect to happen — both the good and bad.

Some people benefit from going abroad. But the media never broadcast those stories.

But does anyone really want to work as a maid abroad?

That’s the thing — some people go abroad and then come back and are celebrities in their villages.

Some people are even given an inheritance from their employers.

Especially in Taiwan, Indonesians are seen as caretakers and nurses, not maids.

Some get rich and just stay in Taiwan. But you never hear that.

People only want to hear how miserable other people are.

How did you get your big break?

When I was going to school in the Netherlands, I worked as a waitress at a cafe.

I weighed 82 kilograms at the time. A regular at the restaurant owned a modeling agency.

She said ‘If you lose all this weight in six months I can assure you’ll get a job.’

I went from 82 kilos to 49 kilos in six months.

Everything went in a blender. I didn’t chew anything for three months.

So what were you having for dinner, oatmeal?

I drank juice and blended vegetables. It was disgusting. I could never do it again. Then I tried to blend rice and meat, and the second month I even blended mie goreng.

 

Laura was talking to Iwan Putuhena & Zack Petersen

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Laura Muljadi, Model

 

Pictures Courtesy of  Laura Muljadi

Fashion Factory: FAME Management

Dendy Oktariady can often be found surrounded by a swarm of beautiful people, but it’s not all play – he is behind a Kemang model agency that is helping to put Jakarta on the global fashion map.

It’s not unusual to spot foreign models in a Kemang café or fitness center. Photo shoots and casting calls are held every day throughout the district. Models and aspiring actors line up regularly at production houses for auditions, dressed in their trendiest clothes, chasing that next big gig. Meanwhile, at the studios, cameras are clicking away to capture the latest looks soon to grace Jakarta billboards, fashion spreads and commercials.
Working behind the scenes is Dendy Oktariady, the young and ambitious owner of Fame Management. Since he opened the Kemang agency four years ago, Dendy has launched the careers of numerous models from around the world, bringing them to the pages of Indonesian fashion magazines. A trailblazer in the industry, Dendy is working to put Jakarta on the map as the world’s next fashion capital. Models from Fame are featured regularly in international and local fashion magazines, commercials and television shows.

Since his earliest days in the industry, Dendy has trained his eyes to recruiting fashion talent. At the age of 18, he worked as an event coordinator at Fashion Cafe with Indonesian actress Debby Sahertian. He went on to become a fashion columnist and stylist, before heading to Milan in 2004 to study under Luca Boccelli as a stylist and personal shopper. During his two years in Milan, Dendy also began working as a talent scout for a model agency.

On his return to Indonesia in 2006, he got to work setting up his own agency. Fame Management soon began to shake up the industry as Dendy started inviting foreign models to work in Jakarta. “When I was in Milan I cast hundreds of people every day who came from everywhere. I thought why can’t we do the same in Jakarta?” Dendy says.

Today, Fame Management represents 30 local and foreign models. Fame’s international talent hails from a host of countries, including Brazil, Russia, Holland and Germany. “Our agency is becoming so well recognized internationally that models from abroad now contact us,” Dendy says.

Fame actively recruits talent from around the world and especially welcomes models with work experience in other Asian
countries. But it’s the Caucasian models who are especially in high demand, according to Dendy.

“The image of white skin and blond hair is still the ideal picture for magazines and commercials to represent the international
look,” he says. “Just walk around a department store and you’ll see that for every ten models representing a product, there’s only one dark-skinned model.”

The industry has grown quickly in the last four years since Fame was founded. Jakarta has increasingly attracted models from around the world, and they are playing a vital role in jump-starting the fashion industry. “Our local models have to step up, learn and accept the challenge to be better,” Dendy says.

Dendy himself is ready to step out of his comfort zone to set a new trend. “This agency is like my baby. Now that it’s established it has paved the way for me to start other fashion-related projects,” he said. “There are now many competitors providing international models as well, so we’re going back to basics to dig for local talent. We always have to think like fashion, create something new and exciting.”

In June, Dendy established the De Mode Career Center, a sister company to Fame that aims to develop new local talent and provide training in modeling, acting, make-up and public speaking. De Mode also encourages those who are already models to develop their talents in acting, singing or other areas that will give them another career to fall back on after modeling. “Anyone can join to expand their career; you don’t have to be skinny and tall like a model to have a future in the entertainment industry,” he said.

The center plans to hold its first Talent Hunt competition at the end of October to search for local talent. The competition is open to any aspiring model in Indonesia and will offer the winner a scholarship to train at De Mode.

“My goal is to have an Indonesian supermodel on the international stage,” Dendy said.

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Fashion Factory: FAME Management

Pictures courtesy of FAME Management Indonesia

For more information on FAME Management visit www.fame-model.com

My Jakarta: Jerry, Online Editor of Provoke! Magazine

If you would have told Jerry five years ago that he would end up becoming a professional writer, he would have laughed. An IT graduate with a dream of becoming a filmmaker, Jerry now works as the online editor at Provoke! magazine. In this interview, the 25-year-old shares his thoughts on his love of movies, the things he dislikes most about Jakarta and how venting on his blog helped him get a job in media.

I’ve been to coffee shops and bookstores, but I don’t see your magazine anywhere. Where can I find it?

We distribute magazines to high schools and distros [local clothing stores]. But Provoke is not solely for high-school students but for all young readers. However, our biggest readership comes from high schools in Jakarta and Bandung. We distribute our magazine to 150 schools in Jakarta and 50 in Bandung. This year our goal is to get into the Yogyakarta and Surabaya markets.

How did the magazine start?

Provoke began as an underground music magazine. It came in a form of a small, folded newspaper that was distributed to people in the underground music scene. Until it was bought by Gundo Susiarjo, who tweaked the business strategy for the magazine but kept the same sense of idealism and vibrant spirit.

How did you come up with the name?

The idea was we wanted to provoke creative thoughts.

What kind of stories does Provoke cover?

Every issue that’s relevant to the youth. We still cover underground music, but we also have a rubric that we use which we call being “indo-pendent .” Every month, we interview people who we consider to be artists. We also have special reports, a column reviewing special events and many more features.

How long have you been working at Provoke?

I’ve been working here since June 2009. I came in as a writer, a photographer and a reporter. Then I started writing more feature articles. Now I’m the editor for Provoke-online.com, which means I’m more focused on the Web site.

How many people are working at the magazine?

Provoke! has around 20 to 25 full-time employees. It’s small, but we’re all close. Our time is flexible so there are times when we don’t have to report to the office to work.

What’s your circulation? How do you make profit from a readership that’s mostly high-school students?

Our circulation is around 30,000. The magazine is actually free, so we depend heavily on the money we get from advertising.

Tell us something about your college days.

I took up information systems. I know it has nothing to do with what my present career is. I just took it up because my family wouldn’t let me go to film school. So I picked out anything as long as I could graduate and the school was not far from my home.

Do you enjoy writing?

Yes I do. The funny thing is, I began to like writing only when I joined Provoke During my days in elementary and high school I used to contribute stuff to our school magazine, so I had that experience. In college I had a blog, which I used as part of my portfolio to apply for this job.

What kind of blog?

It’s a blog where I share some sarcastic ideas, because I used to be angry all the time [laughs], mad about everything. But lately, I haven’t had the time to blog anymore.

What do you think about the younger readers today?

I think they’re more informed, not only because of magazines like Provoke but also technology like the Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays with the youth’s knowledge of current events, it’s hard to tell if they are in high school, college or working.

What do you like most about Jakarta?

I’ve been living here since I was born so this is my home and I love it. Since I’m a movie buff, I like the fact that I can find or watch any movie that I want. Morally speaking, it’s wrong to buy pirated DVDs, but I can’t deny that I buy them. If I had to buy an original DVD every month, I would be left with no money. It’s a bad thing, but I need it [laughs]. I hope someday when I make more money I can buy original movies.

What don’t you like about Jakarta?

I don’t like the Metromini, the Kopaja and similar vehicles. Even motorcycles. I think there’s too many of them. It has come to the point where they annoy me.

What are your career plans?

I enjoy what I’m doing now and I love my job. It’s fun to write about people and get to know them and obtain experience, but what I really want to do is become a filmmaker.

What’s your favorite thing about Provoke?

The reason I wanted to join Provoke was because of its comic treatment of issues. It’s not really a humor magazine per se, but the first time I read it I thought it was really funny. Since then, I’ve always wanted to write humorous stories.

What do you think makes Provoke unique?

Artwork for the cover is one thing that makes it unique. We feature a different artist every month who comes up with a piece that basically sums up the theme of one particular issue.

 

Jerry was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Jerry, Online Editor of Provoke! Magazine

 

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Angie Valerie, Jeans Designer

When friends asked Angie Valerie to help them with a project, she never guessed that it would lead to a business. Though she is still in school, Angie is now a partner in Jakarta-based jeans company Vision Mission. That’s fine by her, because she’s been hustling since elementary school.
Today, the 24-year-old Angie shares with us her passion for her jeans and her love-hate relationship with Jakarta, and clues us in on what might be the next big fashion trend.

What made you decide to start your own jeans company?

It all started with my friends’ school project last year. They created a business plan for a jeans company and since I’m studying visual communication design at UPH [Pelita Harapan University], they asked me to help with branding and design. From there the project became serious and they saw my commitment, so they asked me to become a partner. I’ve enjoyed working on this project since day one, even though I wasn’t paid. I’m the only girl in the team, this brand is my baby.

Where do you manufacture the jeans?

Everything is produced and made in Jakarta, from the raw materials to the buttons, even the packaging. While searching for suppliers, I realized that I could find anything I needed in Jakarta.

How did you come up with the name Vision Mission?

We had a few choices for names, but none of them fit our vision and mission. Then we realized that we kept mentioning the words “vision” and “mission” repeatedly, so we decided to go with that name.

So, what’s unique about the jeans?

At the moment they’re only for men. There’s no hype; we just focus on quality, branding and basic needs, so that the boys in the team would want to wear the jeans themselves. We’re just going back to basics because, at the end of the day, that’s what people are looking for.

What’s the price range?

They’re affordable despite the quality materials that we use. The average price is around Rp 390,000 [$43].

Are you competing with any other jeans companies?

There are several brands in Bandung. Last year alone, around 10 new brands came onto the market. Competition is always out there, although each brand has its own market. However, we support each other because we want people to appreciate local products because they contribute to the country.

Who’s your target market?

Anyone looking for comfortable, quality jeans at an affordable price. I have a few pairs of VM at home. Even though they’re for men, girls still buy them to wear as “boyfriend’s jeans.”

What do you do to relax?

I’m a laid-back person. You can find me at a coffee shop or the movies. There’s this place called That’s Life in Senopati; it’s my favorite coffee spot because it’s on the second floor of the owner’s house, so it’s very homey. It’s a good place to chat and spend time with friends.

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or an artist?

I’m more of an entrepreneur, but I never label myself. I love art and music, but ultimately, I want to make something that I can be proud of. Like an artist, I want people to see my work. For people to appreciate your work, you have to be able to market it as well, right?

How many tattoos do you have?

Five. A bracelet tattoo that I drew myself of a Native American feather, one on the back of my neck, a tribute to my grandpa on my back, a triangle behind my ears and one on my elbow that has a very deep meaning.

Any hobbies or businesses outside of Vision Mission?

I enjoy photography, design and cooking. I like to try new things. I used to work as an event organizer and I have contributed articles to magazines. Even back in elementary school I used to print off song lyrics and sell them to friends for Rp 1,000. I like to hustle [laughs].

How do you like living in Jakarta?

It’s a love-hate relationship. I hate the congestion, weather and pollution, we all do. The fact that there are high-rise buildings only served by narrow streets shows a lack of planning, but on the other hand, that’s what makes Jakarta different.

Where can we find VM jeans?

Strictly online at www.visionmissionjkt.com. Starting up with a small budget has forced us to be creative and find an alternative solution to opening a boutique. Selling online is more effective because we can control everything better in real time.

Do you see a future for online shopping in Indonesia?

Yeah, I see a really big future, especially in Jakarta. We make use of media such as Facebook and Twitter to build personal relationships with our customers. The key to online business is trust.

So, what’s in? Are skinny jeans still hip?

They’re out, but it’s all personal preference. We have super slim and slim cut. Dry jeans are in at the moment. These are jeans that you never wash, so it adds lines and character to the jeans. And the prediction is that prewashed jeans will be back in style soon.

Angie was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Angie Valerie, Jeans Designer

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Santa Claus

Finding Santa Claus is no easy task, especially in a tropical city like Jakarta. Imagine wearing that baggy red coat with white fur, a winter hat, boots and, of course, the beard in the sweltering heat. So that means the only place to locate him is in the air-conditioned malls around town. Santa talked to the Jakarta Globe just before his busiest night of the year.

How long have you been Santa Claus?

This is my second year. Last year I was a Santa here in the mall as well. Lucky for me, I got to do it again this year. I think I’ll be doing this for a while.

Santa, you’re cashing in big time. How much do you charge for pictures? 

It costs $7 a picture, which we print out here. You also get a file to take home. You can only get it once a year.

You keep touching and fixing your beard, is it itchy? 

No, it’s not itchy, but it gets really hot after a while and it’s hard for me to talk. I have to wear this from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and I’m the one and only Santa around here.

So what’s your real name? 

Santa.

Do you personally celebrate Christmas? 

Yeah, I do, I’m Christian. But Christmas and Santa is for everyone.

Have you had any interesting experiences while being photographed with the kids? 

Afterward some kids ask, ‘Santa, where’s our present?’ Most are expecting a real present. I don’t have gifts with me, I’m only here for pictures. When that happens I get confused and feel bad. I just tell them to wait until Christmas and hopefully the parents can work with me [laughs].

Can you tell us about some of the wild Christmas presents kids have asked for? 

There are plenty of weird requests. Recently a girl asked me if she could take home the reindeers.

Where is the North Pole? 

I’m not sure, somewhere in Antarctica? Anyway, it’s a secret [laughs].

Where is Mrs. Claus? 

She’s at home making and preparing the presents for the boys and girls.

There are no chimneys in Jakarta, so how do you get into the houses?

Well, I just use the escalators, or sometimes the elevators when I’m tired [laughs].

Santa, you’re kind of fat. Have you considered working out? 

I’m already old, it’s OK to be fat.

Do you like to eat nasi padang ? Can you get it at the North Pole? 

Yeah, that’s my favorite, too bad they haven’t opened up a franchise at the North Pole. Maybe it’s too cold.

How can you tell the good kids from the bad ones? 

I can tell from a distance as they approach me. The bad ones jump around and come straight toward me as if they’re about to attack. Some want to climb all over me. And then some kids try to strangle me or pull my hair and beard off. The good kids say hello, shake my hand politely and wish me a Merry Christmas; those are the ideal ones, little angels.

Do some kids get scared? 

Yeah, lots of them do. I’ve seen them crying, but their parents still urge their kids to get a picture with me. Now that I think about it, it’s probably them who want to see me, not the kids.

Do kids in Jakarta know who Santa is? 

Well, it depends on their age. Those meeting me for the first time tend to ask questions. Those who were pictured with me last year are already familiar with Santa. Some, who already know the “Big Secret,” are not too excited to see me. But I think images of Santa are everywhere now. At the movies, in commercials and magazines, so kids from Jakarta are familiar.

Where do you park your sleigh and reindeers? 

Oh, they’re standing by in the basement; I have a monthly parking permit.

Why does Rudolf have a red nose? Is he drunk? 

No, elsewhere it would be because he’s cold. But since Jakarta is hot, I think he must be allergic to pollution [laughs].

You have some cute little helpers; do you like being surrounded by the ladies?

Well, I’m getting old, they help me with the little things like keeping me entertained when I get bored, massaging me when I’m tired and protecting me from any kids who try to beat me up. But they’re here mostly to keep the fathers happy while the wife and kids are busy taking pictures with me [laughs].

Isn’t Santa supposed to be white? 

Yeah, but I’m here in Jakarta so I got a tan.

Do you have any childhood memories of Santa Claus?

I remember the spirit of Christmas itself. As a kid I always got excited about my presents. My mother would say, “Here, this is from Santa,” and that happy feeling was different from receiving a gift on any other day.

Where will you be spending your Christmas?

Well, after I deliver all the gifts, I’ll spend Christmas with my family, friends and neighbors.

Santa was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was posted in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Santa Claus

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: June Luhulima, Diver and Doctor

Being both a doctor of physiology and a diver, June Luhulima’s journey of exploration is never ending. Today she talks about her experience as a participant in the world diving record set at Sail Bunaken 2009, understanding how our bodies work and her recent volunteer work in Padang.

What did you study and what exactly do you do for a living? 

I learned physiology; it’s the logic of life, understanding how your body works. I earned my degree from Christian University of Indonesia (UKI). I enjoy learning about how the body works while exercising, diving or being exposed to hot or cold weather. Today, I consult and teach, specifically in relation to diving. I was a consultant for a Kempo martial arts team when it won two National Games’ [PON] competitions. I worked with the trainers to enhance the performance of athletes by giving them accurate calculations for their training programs, workouts and nutrition.

What organizations are you involved in? 

I’m a member of the Association of Maritime Doctors [Perdok-LA], an organization that focuses on the condition of people that live and work near the sea, such as fisherman or divers, and also the All-Indonesia Sport Diving Association [Possi], as chairman of its research and development commission. The two associations collaborate to teach the proper way to dive and the dangers, and I’m involved with both organizations.

How long have you been diving? 

Since 1976. It’s my hobby and I’ve always been interested in learning what happens to our bodies underwater. I was a dive instructor before I got my degree, that’s why I focused on underwater physiology at school.

Where have you dived, and where is your favorite place? 

In the Banda Sea, Manado, Thousand Islands, Kalimantan, Bali, Ambon, Lombok and many other places. The Banda Sea is my favorite because there’s a straight drop off a cliff face and the fish are much more beautiful than any other place I’ve been to.

The world diving record was broken at Sail Bunaken 2009, and you were a part of that. Tell us about it. 

We planned it in 2008 and it became an event for everyone, including the Navy, tourists and dive clubs. Our marine territory in Indonesia is vast and we were concerned because that there weren’t as many divers as before. Our mission was to attract a younger generation of divers and have them consider jobs related to the ocean and underwater themes. We had 2,486 divers and zero accidents.

What are the benefits of diving? 

Well for me personally, going underwater really helps me to be more creative, clear my head and fuel my imagination. So if you are stressed, I really recommend it. Also, when you’re breathing underwater from a tank, you’re breathing six times more oxygen than on land. It’s good for your skin and it helps you to look younger [laughs].

When and where is the next big diving event? 

Sail Banda Sea is coming up in 2010. This time we’re aiming to get instructors involved. However, in nearby Ambon we’re going to have other activities and competitions like underwater photography and underwater orientation, so everyone can join in.

Is there anything that you take from the ocean and adapt to your everyday life? 

Yes, the way I dress. The color coordination of my clothes is inspired by the sea. Like the fish in the ocean, if its white and grey with a yellow tail, I try to wear the same colors. For example, I would wear a white blouse, with a black skirt, yellow scarf and a grey belt.

Can you compare the human body and the ocean? 

Well, the fact is that the body is a universe in itself. Sometimes, when I teach, I show two different pictures, one taken underwater and one of a human body under the microscope. My students can’t tell the difference.

You just came back from Padang, how was that experience? 

I went with friends from the Global Rescue Network two days after the earthquake. I was chosen because they had medicine but no doctors. We were sent to Padang Pariaman, since the bigger cities were already provided for. When we arrived there was no rescue station, no leadership and conditions were bad. The central government was not there to organize and there were no specific instructions. The other rescue teams just went in and out of the area, dropping off food. But what the people really needed was to restore the water supply and construct toilets and a public kitchen. That’s what we did and we stayed with the locals until everything was ready.

Did the money from Jakarta get distributed properly? 

There is more than one door. For example, one of the TV stations provided food and medicine with donations from viewers, but I didn’t see anyone coordinating the distribution properly. They just gave everything away as they traveled for good photo opportunities. The government should assign each organization to focus on one area to rebuild schools, mosques and build basic facilities.

How do you feel about living in Jakarta? 

I like the rhythm, everything is at a fast pace. But it no longer suits me because I have asthma. Travelling abroad or going out of town is like servicing your car every couple of months, I do it to recharge my batteries whenever I’ve had enough of the city. And when I return, I’m motivated, I have new ideas.

June was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: June Luhulima, Diver and Doctor

Picture Courtesy of June Luhulima

My Jakarta: Dji Dieng, Supermodel

Now that batik has been officially recognized as part of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, the next logical step is to have one of the most beautiful women in the world spread the word.

Supermodel Dji Dieng, who was born in Senegal and raised in Paris and the United States, was in town recently to promote batik and songket, Zero Malaria and “55” cigars, produced using tobacco grown in Yogyakarta.

Is this your first visit to Jakarta? How do you like it so far? 

I love it. I didn’t expect everything to be so cool. The shopping malls are great, the people are very nice and polite, there are many beautiful girls and the food is great. I love spicy food.

Have you had the chance to see anything around the city? 

Not yet. Yesterday, I got to meet designers Zainal Songket and Denny Wirawan. I’ll be doing work with them for a photo shoot.

You are one of the most beautiful black supermodels, yet Southeast Asian fashion is dominated by Caucasian and Asian models. Why? 

It’s simple, the color and height, everything is different, so it’s a new market. I hope by working with designers in Indonesia, I’m opening the door for other black models. I’m going to collaborate with Fame Management Indonesia to come here regularly to do runway shows and photo shoots.

You are a goodwill ambassador for Unesco, and have been honored with the Award for Humanity and the United Nations Volunteer Award. Where do you get the inspiration to help others? 

I grew up volunteering because my family has been doing this since I was born. They’ve been helping people in Senegal, by giving them food, clothing and shelter. I’m very active with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer prevention, and I have my own association for malaria awareness.

Tell me a little bit about your non-profit organization, Zero Malaria? 

Well, anyone can get malaria. You can get it anywhere in the world, in Asia, Africa and even Europe. Every year three million people die from malaria. It’s one of the most dangerous diseases in the world.

Have you had malaria? 

Yes, I almost died from it in 2004. I was in the hospital for six months. I got it while I was in Africa. That’s why I have to do this, because no one talks about malaria and how dangerous it is. That’s why I created my own association, to raise awareness. 

How can you help the Indonesian people and raise awareness here?

We do shows and concerts and we collect all the money to buy mosquito nets and medicine that we give away to the kids at schools in poor residential neighborhoods. We teach them how to use the nets properly to help save lives.

What do you think about fashion in Jakarta? 

I love it. Yesterday I saw so many great pieces of clothing at the mall, the traditional batik material is so good. I bought a lot of dresses for myself, and I’m very happy to be here, with all my heart.

Are you familiar with batik? 

Yes, of course. In Africa, we have something similar. Batik in Indonesia has a very good quality and a lot of designs. When I come back in January, I will do a lot of shopping.

You have the distinction of being know as the supermodel with the longest legs. What’s that like? 

It’s good because it’s in the record books. I was the third supermodel to take over the title and I hope no one takes the honor from me.

You work with designers like Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood. What about up-and-coming designers here?

I want to work with them. The fashion industry in Indonesia is growing. If I can work with new designers in Europe, I can do it here as well. And it’s also because the dresses here are perfect.

Your cigar company uses tobacco from Yogyakarta? 

This is one of my projects that I’ve been doing for the past two years, exporting Indonesian-made cigars to Europe and the United States. The brand name “55” comes from five leaves and five types of tobacco, and you can see my face in the logo. Right now we are making the small-size cigars for the ladies. It’s very classy. I love cigars!

Dji was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Dji Dieng, Supermodel

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Dendy Oktariady, Modeling Agency Head

Dendy Oktariady has had his finger on the pulse of fashion since he was a teenager. Today, he is the director of Fame Management, which consists of a modeling agency, stylist and casting divisions and a whole lot more related to the serious business of fashion.

He took some time off from his busy schedule to talk about the growth of an industry that has ignored the global financial crisis, and how he’s working to put Jakarta on the map as the world’s next fashion capital.

How do you spot new talent?

We have talent scouts everywhere and they give us links to the models. If their look is in line with the Indonesian market then we invite them to meet with us. Height and look is what we focus on. The Indonesian market doesn’t really go for pale skin or blond hair; they are more into the tanned and dark look.

Who is your role model?

Tyra Banks, because I think she’s a model with a brain. I’m not a model myself, but I think we need more models like her to be able to build the fashion industry in Jakarta.

What is the most popular work for your models? And how do you measure their success?

Magazines, music videos, commercials and fashion shows, of course. For magazines, we always target the cover for more exposure. Each model has to get at least five covers during their six-month probation with us. If they can achieve that, then we will extend their contract for up to five years … or until they get old [laughs].

How did you first get into modeling and the fashion industry?

I started when I was 18 years old. I worked at Fashion Cafe with Debby Sahertian — she was the [public relations head] at that time and I was the event consultant. My job was to choose models for fashion shows every week, so since then I’ve been part of the growth and development of models in Jakarta.

Where did you develop your fashion acumen?

I studied economic management at Trisakti University. Then from 2004 to 2006, I studied in Milan under Luca Boccelli as a stylist and personal shopper. There I learned how to handle a fashion client, not just for a company but also on a personal level. I also worked as a freelance writer and contributor for fashion magazines, answering reader questions about shopping and fashion.

Europe, especially Milan, is the fashion capital of the world. Why did you come back to work in Jakarta?

I’m Indonesian and I think our country needs more talent in this industry, so why not focus on my own city? I was one of the first people to invite foreign models to work at Look Model in Jakarta. When I was in Milan, working in an agency as a model scout, I cast hundreds of them every day and they came from everywhere. At that time I saw an opportunity. Why can’t we do the same in Jakarta?

When was your agency established? How many models do you have right now?

I started my agency in October 2006. At the moment we have 30 models — 10 internationals from Brazil, Russia, Poland, Holland, Germany and the Philippines, and 20 local models.

How do you support local designers?

We pay attention to new local clients, boutiques and designers. We work with them for a more reasonable fee compared to our international clients. We want to help them, especially the up and coming Indonesian designers.

How’s the fashion business in Jakarta, especially during this global financial downturn?

I can sit here in my office while putting on nail polish and the phone still rings … Indonesia’s weird, I’m not so sure if people in Jakarta are being affected.

As the director of a modeling agency, do you get invitations to parties?

Of course, because I’m the image … queen of the damned [laughs]. All the clubs in the city give VIP treatment, so I take my models and talent there. That’s the thing about the entertainment industry; we entertain each other.

What’s the best part about your job? And what are the challenges facing models?

I love my job, especially if I have the chance to work with an airhead model, then that makes it interesting, fun and challenging for me … there’s an art to it.

In the book and movie “The Devils Wears Prada,” the fashion industry is portrayed as tough and mean. Is it really like that?

People in the fashion and modeling industry tend to be mean and stuck up, because they have high levels of confidence. If there is something in the set that is not right, we can terminate the contract in a second. For example, if one of my models has a bad attitude, I’d rather just let her go because I don’t want it to be stressful and ruin our image.

How do you get away from the stress of Jakarta?

The difference between my agency and others is that I like to connect and bond with my models. We do everything together — travel, work out and watch movies. I don’t see my models as dollar signs with a face. And in return, hopefully, they don’t look at me as the big boss.

Dendy Oktariady was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Dendy Oktariady, Modeling Agency Head

My Jakarta: Bernice, Freelance TV Producer

Bernice isn’t allergic to everything, it just seems that way. But being allergic to peanuts, shellfish, MSG, metals and a handful of other things hasn’t stopped this freelance TV producer from seeing the world and shooting some of Indonesia’s most memorable commercials.

Bernice, who has been in the business for 32 years, took some time out to talk about how she brought Central Jakarta to a halt, how Agnes Monica’s smarts make her the easiest actress to work with and why the bajaj is the best form of transportation in the city.

You have a lot of allergies, so is Jakarta the right city for you?

I’m allergic to birch tree pollen, which is cross-reactive to 39 other allergies, and I pretty much have them all. So basically I’m allergic to peanuts, shellfish, MSG, metal, clothing dyes and many more things. I don’t miss lobster because I’ve never had it, so it’s not a problem. But in Jakarta, it’s hard to avoid food with MSG. To overcome my metal allergy I have to ask for a plastic spoon or I carry my own every time I eat out. And I avoid contact with metal as much as I can. When people ask why I always wear white clothes, I really don’t feel like explaining to them that I’m allergic to clothing dyes, so I just say that it’s my favorite color. I don’t really care if they think that I’m weird, because there are a lot of strange people around. They probably think that my traditional healer suggested that I don’t touch metal or wear any color other than white.

Tell us about one of your favorite commercials.

It was shot for Mitsubishi a couple of years back. It was fun, because we blocked all roads to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle at night and had the water fountain turned on. We brought the car from Ancol all the way down to Citos [Cilandak Town Square], then from there to Hotel Indonesia with a police escort, and we shot one frame per second, which had never been done before. I was the producer, production designer, and the first assistant director. In a big production, it’s better to control everything rather than having three different people doing it.

Besides Jakarta, where else in the world have you worked?

America, Europe, Central Europe, Northern Europe, Asia, Japan, India and Thailand. And I hope to do a project in New Zealand soon.

What do you like about Jakarta? What makes you come back here for projects?

I like the dynamism in Jakarta. In Europe everything is organized well in advance. In Jakarta, a client can call and say, “Hey, we’ve got this project, could you come now?” Then I ask, “When is the shoot?” and they’ll answer, “In about three days from now!” And you have to accept the challenge, because if you don’t, then you’re out and they will find a substitute in a second, because competition is so intense here. So either you’re in or you’re out. I’ll give you an example. In Finland, when there is an “urgent project” that means it is due in six months. In Jakarta, when they say it’s urgent that means the deadline was yesterday.

Who is your favorite actor or actress to work with?

Actress, I would say Agnes Monica. She is not easy to work with, but I think she is one of the few with a brain that can interpret the shoot, very professional and very fast. She will give you options. If we ask for her to turn her head, she will do it 12 times and every take is beautiful. I think because she was a child actress, and the fact that she speaks English, makes it easier for the foreign crew. She’s got stamina, and more importantly she’s very smart.

How do you get around the city?

Bajaj [auto-rickshaw] of course, because when I get into a taxi cab and tell the driver the address, I’m always asked which way I prefer to go and the fare is always unpredictable. I don’t even know how to get to my destination, so don’t expect me to give you alternative routes. With a bajaj it’s very simple. Jump in, tell the driver where to go, negotiate the price, and somehow he will find it.

What’s your favorite area in Jakarta?

Kemang, because it’s the area I know best. I’ve spent a lot of time there. Today, most of the agencies, production houses and everything else related to advertising are located around there. So when I’m working, I can just walk.

What do you like most about Jakarta?

Definitely not the traffic … but I do enjoy working here. The variety of projects, encountering problems and solving them. For example, one week I may shoot a car commercial, then the next I’ll be doing a shampoo ad. In the West, if you make one great car commercial, you’ll most likely get stuck making them. But in Jakarta, never expect that everything that you have learned in the West can be applied here. Don’t use your yardstick, but Jakarta’s, which is great.

Your schedule seems hectic. Can you tell me what you’re up to now?

Well, I arrived here three months ago because I have to write a children’s program for Dubai. It’s a 10-episode audio book that was made entirely in Bali. While there, I also shot a Jetstar Airlines TV commercial for Australia, and next week I’m shooting a documentary for Yayasan Melania, a Catholic organization, which is actually community work because I didn’t take any money for making the film.

Bernice was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Bernice, Freelance TV Producer