Thu, 17 Jul 2003

Poster art spreads the message of tolerance

Boudewijn Brands, Contributor, Yogyakarta

Racism and violence toward foreigners and minorities is by no means unique to Germany, it is just that that country's experience with Nazism is so extreme and well documented that the sins of other countries tend to pale in comparison.

Having finally emerged from the violence of World War II, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, Germany is particularly sensitive to discrimination and violence against immigrants. So the country is gravely concerned by recent neo-Nazi activity and attacks on immigrant groups.

To avoid a repeat of its terrible history, the German authorities want to reach out to the public with messages condoning fascism and violence.

A good medium for spreading positive messages to the people is through posters, so a poster design competition was organized among students at German art institutes.

A selection of these posters has now reached Indonesia, where hopefully they can teach the people here about tolerance and acceptance.

So what are the signs of fascism? One is uniformity, eliminating space for individualism by making everyone dress the and think the same way. The Nazis had brown shirts and shops owned by Jews were ransacked, as were the homes of Turks more recently.

Does Indonesia contain fertile ground for fascism? How to interpret the wish to make everything yellow, wear all black uniforms, have private armies, force your own morals or beliefs on others in the name of democracy, bomb discos where people dance and drink alcohol? What is being done to prevent a repeat here of May 1998 or the bombing of churches?

In Indonesia, it is not polite to make such observations too forcefully. Keeping quiet has become ingrained in daily life.

How about a poster competition here?

Indonesian artists have already created numerous political works. However, most of these works only appeal to a well- educated cosmopolitan minority.

So perhaps a local poster competition would help bring the message of tolerance to the masses, as it did in Germany.


Serang! Kekerasan Sayap Kanan (Attack! Violence of the Right Wing), an exhibition of German antifascist posters, at the GoetheHaus at Jl. Sam Ratulangi No. 9-15 in Menteng, Central Jakarta, tel: 021 23550208. The exhibition will run from July 16 to Aug. 7.