Armed with artistic talent, higher-than-the-sky ambitions and ready to charm with endearing quirkiness, these fabulous five have left lasting impressions in the passing year and ready to make their marks in the next.
“Yes, graffiti is a form of vandalism,” Darbotz laughs while expressing the particular truth. “But I’d rather see it differently. The walls are dirty so what I’m doing with graffiti is to make them more beautiful and more pleasant to look at,” he adds. Inscribed his art on public spaces for the past ten years, Darbotz isn’t a mere vandal. He invented the cumi (the squid): An alter-ego and a signature that is present in every creation. The manifestation of his creative energy has escalated his career, from tagging on the streets with a school gang to having his work displayed in renowned galleries and art festivals.
The street artist has taken part in numerous international exhibitions, such as in Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Germany and France. He, too, has collaborated with international brands like Nike, Jansport and Mercedes Benz.
Although Darbotz continually faces the risk of having his work wiped out, he still proclaims his love for the streets. “I love the vibe and rawness of the street. I love the construction of the walls.” And in 2013, he realized a dream project: Creating a massive graffiti for the façade of ArtOtel, Jakarta’s newest, hippest boutique hotel. “I believe that’s the first time I see graffiti of that magnitude in Jakarta, or maybe in Indonesia,” he notes. The mysterious artist, who refuses to reveal his face when photographed, doesn’t take a long pause in having to explain his inspiration. “I have a love-hate relationship with this chaotic city, Jakarta. Maybe if I weren’t born here, I wouldn’t be able to create all this art.”
If all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players, Mandif Warokka would be its star, center staged and in the spotlight. With a philosophy that inspired the moniker to his restaurant, the executive chef of Bali’s Teatro Gastroteque is a maestro in his own right. “Teatro means theater. The kitchen is a stage, and the chefs are actors,” he remarks. His bright career might have been catapulted by a slew of prestigious awards along with sought-after guest positions in five-star restaurants across Europe. But what fuels him daily is his love for food. Derived from nature and childhood memories, his passion for cuisine continually inspires artful Asian-fusion dishes. With vivid hues imparted by fresh ingredients and assembled in precise compositions on beautiful plates, Warokka’s creations are veritably works of art.
Warokka dreams of reaching for the star: the Michelin star, that is. And having coveted the gold medal for Bali Culinary Professional’s Five-Courses Gourmet in 2009 and a guest spot in Germany’s Michelin-starred Eisvogel, this dream might just come true. Just when it seems that this well-rounded chef has done it all, he confesses his wild culinary secret: “I’d like to try working with durian. It’s the best fruit in the world.”
Don’t stop the music
The flourishing Jakarta lifestyle scene is always in need of good music, so here we’ve got DJ Shawn Muljadi, a figure who satisfies the crowd with his electro vibe and jiggling tunes. To the House DJ of the Year nominee, house music simply happened to him. “When I was in primary school, my uncle used to own a club named Am/M/EM Club. I got a lot of exposure to house music from that, so I’ve always been more interested in electronic music, as opposed to bands,” Muljadi reminisces. A true life-changing occasion was during his studies in Melbourne, where turntables and mixers were like microwaves—everybody had one.
Now a resident DJ in Union, one of the most popular restaurants in the city, Muljadi continues to evolve. “My personal style is mostly tech house/techno. But now I have a more adaptive set, because in Jakarta, you have to. You can’t play your own stuff sometimes. And as an artist, it’s a pretty big challenge at first.” Despite the challenges, the flow of a set and the balance between new and old tunes are what he thought to be essential DJ-ing skills. However, he views 2014 as a year to pursue his other passion: information technology. “I’m trying to focus more on my day job, and not on a long-term plan with DJ-ing, which is more like a profitable hobby. In fact, I just started an IT company with my brother, so that’s where I want to focus most of my energy on.”
A long-time expat and author of the book, “Jakarta Inside Out,” Daniel Ziv’s latest venture, “Jalanan,” delves deep into his adopted country’s culture and politics, exposing the reality of those living in the margins. Painting an accurate picture of the hard-knock existence in the capital city, the musical documentary—due for release in Indonesia in February 2014—follows the colorful lives of three street musicians over a five-year period. What first started as a film documenting the lives of street buskers becomes a looking glass that reveals the issues faced by a developing nation and how they affect the daily lives of individuals.
The painfully honest film and its raw depiction of a side of Indonesia that most people often brush aside are testament to Ziv’s love of storytelling and desire for authenticity. “More than anything, I’m inspired by ordinary people I meet on the street and their incredible personalities and stories,” he explains. “While I also find inspiration in film, music, architecture and design, real people are still what excite me the most. Storytelling is still the most powerful form of communication.” Ziv admitted to being drawn by the fresh, unpolished talent of the street musicians in his documentary as well as the stories behind their original songs, which often contain a satiric blend of political messages and comedy. Bursting with raw energy and sincerity, this heartfelt documentary’s win for Best Documentary at this year’s Busan International Film Festival is every bit deserved. What’s next for Daniel Ziv? “I’m working on a new book—my first one in Bahasa Indonesia—about Indonesian identity on what makes us Indonesian,” he says with a smile. “I realize that’s strange coming from a bule (foreigner), but sometimes it takes foreign eyes to notice certain local things.”
Kung fu fighting
With high-profile roles in “Fast and Furious 6” and “The Raid,” many would assume that Joe Taslim is high rolling in the celebrity circuit and floating on a flood of film offers, but the contemplative actor has better things to do. “I have offers both from Indonesia and Hollywood that I’ve turned down,” he says with a furrowed brow. “As an actor, it’s about picking the right projects you believe in, not about how many offers you get.”
For Taslim, acting is a multi-faceted profession with so much more to offer than seeing his name on blockbuster movie posters and international recognition. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be an actor,” he fesses up. “I believe besides entertainment purposes, movies could inspire people and make them feel alive—which makes me feel alive as well.” Being the ambassador for the new Nissan Juke, Taslim does not consider himself to be a star, rather an artist with a point of view who finds his voice in film. He coolly dismisses the worldwide attention he has garnered as a mere form of interaction between an actor and the audience. Instead, he happily exchanges that intoxicating rush of attention with much-needed quality time with family and friends. In actuality, Taslim’s inner calm keeps him grounded, serving as a compass that propels him further in his career path.
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