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Jitet Koestana: The cartoonist as tickling dagger

  • Hans David Tampubolon

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, July 14, 2014 | 06:48 pm
Jitet Koestana: The cartoonist as tickling dagger (JP/Hans David Tampubolon)" border="0" height="400" width="550">(JP/Hans David Tampubolon)

For political cartoonist Jitet Koestana, a drawing pen should be as sharp as a dagger yet at the same time as soft as a feather.

“We, as cartoonists, must be able to stab right into the heart of dirty politicians but not brutally kill them with our pens. Instead, we have to tickle them and kill them softly,” Jitet told The Jakarta Post recently.

In an exhibition space at the Bentara Budaya Jakarta arts space in Palmerah, West Jakarta, Jitet is showcasing his method of afflicting the comforted through cartoons.

The exhibition, which closes on July 13, also displays the works of cartoonists GM Sudarta, Tommy Thomdean, Rahardi Handining and Didie SW.

Like Jitet, his peers use wit and satire in conveying their messages. For example, Thomdean displays two cartoons, titled Number One and Number Two, which can be interpreted as satirical representations of Prabowo Subianto and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The exhibited works of Jitet mostly revolve around the horror and the dark side of exploitative capitalism and unfair global trade.

Party by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)Party by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)
One of Jitet’s most striking works on display is a painting titled Future Life. It shows a stone-frozen logger with his mouth wide open with laughter. Under his feet is a large tree that has been cut down. Yet the logger’s superiority to the tree becomes meaningless as he is frozen, and a baby bird is chirping through his mouth.

Jitet also satirically questions whether the Indonesian government is independent of foreign intervention, in his work titled Berdikasing, which is an acronym for “to stand using foreigners’ legs”.

Berdikasing displays a state official delivering a speech in full nationalistic regalia, yet his hands are tied with puppet strings ,symbolizing the reality that most of the current leaders in the country are nothing but puppets for their foreign masters.

While in Future Life and Berdikasing Jitet uses soft satire, he is more brutal and sarcastic in Goldfather and Party.

Goldfather displays the figure of Uncle Sam from the legendary “I Want You” propaganda poster while his left hand holds a bucket of gold bars.

Jitet’s Party could be his most sarcastic work and the most symbolic as well. It shows the shield of Garuda Pancasila, Indonesia’s national symbol, being eaten by rats.

Berdikasing by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)

(JP/Hans David Tampubolon)

For political cartoonist Jitet Koestana, a drawing pen should be as sharp as a dagger yet at the same time as soft as a feather.

'€œWe, as cartoonists, must be able to stab right into the heart of dirty politicians but not brutally kill them with our pens. Instead, we have to tickle them and kill them softly,'€ Jitet told The Jakarta Post recently.

In an exhibition space at the Bentara Budaya Jakarta arts space in Palmerah, West Jakarta, Jitet is showcasing his method of afflicting the comforted through cartoons.

The exhibition, which closes on July 13, also displays the works of cartoonists GM Sudarta, Tommy Thomdean, Rahardi Handining and Didie SW.

Like Jitet, his peers use wit and satire in conveying their messages. For example, Thomdean displays two cartoons, titled Number One and Number Two, which can be interpreted as satirical representations of Prabowo Subianto and Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo.

The exhibited works of Jitet mostly revolve around the horror and the dark side of exploitative capitalism and unfair global trade.

Party by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)Party by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)
One of Jitet'€™s most striking works on display is a painting titled Future Life. It shows a stone-frozen logger with his mouth wide open with laughter. Under his feet is a large tree that has been cut down. Yet the logger'€™s superiority to the tree becomes meaningless as he is frozen, and a baby bird is chirping through his mouth.

Jitet also satirically questions whether the Indonesian government is independent of foreign intervention, in his work titled Berdikasing, which is an acronym for '€œto stand using foreigners'€™ legs'€.

Berdikasing displays a state official delivering a speech in full nationalistic regalia, yet his hands are tied with puppet strings ,symbolizing the reality that most of the current leaders in the country are nothing but puppets for their foreign masters.

While in Future Life and Berdikasing Jitet uses soft satire, he is more brutal and sarcastic in Goldfather and Party.

Goldfather displays the figure of Uncle Sam from the legendary '€œI Want You'€ propaganda poster while his left hand holds a bucket of gold bars.

Jitet'€™s Party could be his most sarcastic work and the most symbolic as well. It shows the shield of Garuda Pancasila, Indonesia'€™s national symbol, being eaten by rats.

Berdikasing by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)Berdikasing by Jitet Koestana (JP/DON)
'€œThe rats are colored with a purpose. They represent political parties, which have different colors, and they are having a party, by damaging our Pancasila shield through their rampant and senseless corruption,'€ Jitet said.

Jitet, arguably the best political cartoonist of his generation and the winner of over 40 international awards, says that he did not learn his trade not from formal art school education.

'€œI have just loved drawing since I was kid. During my early adult years, I joined a cartoonist club in Semarang and honed my skills there,'€ Jitet, who was born in Semarang on January 4, 1967, said.

During his younger years, Jitet worked as a freelance illustrator. He found it difficult to maintain a steady monthly income, at one point living on the streets.

Street life, in some ways, honed Jitet'€™s social sensitivity and his ability to capture the imagination of marginalized people.

In 2005, he had a breakthrough when he was hired by the Kompas daily newspaper to regularly fill its political cartoon column.

This was not an easy task. He replaced the legendary GM Sudarta, who for decades provided political cartoons for Kompas through his Oom Pasikom character.

'€œI knew I could never replace GM Sudarta. So I needed to develop an anonymous character that was similar to Oom Pasikom but with my own touch,'€ Jitet said.

Jitet'€™s unique style then earned him a regular spot in Kompas. His work began to receive recognition and awards from both the domestic and international scenes.

He says that he wants to work to convey important messages about the crucial work to be done by the next president.

'€œAs a political cartoonist, I find today'€™s situation in Indonesia problematic,'€ Jitet said.

'€œOn one side, the continuous turmoil within our politics and social life allows ideas to flow freely into my work, but this condition also saddens me because it shows the lack of attention from our government toward the lives of the public.'€

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