Heri Dono, ‘Merdeka Atau Belum’, 2011, Rossi & Rossi

'Merdeka atau Belum' means ‘Freedom’ or ‘Not yet’. The vehicle is a symbol of a country. The boy on the vehicle is a metaphor for the new generation. The symbol of Keamanan Nasional (National Security) in many cases is always used as a weapon. On 20 March 1602 the Dutch East India Company - also known as V.O.C. (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) was established in Indonesia. For some 350 years Indonesia was under the colonization of this company. Indonesia’s history is a series of colonialism by countries such Portugal, England and Japan. Indonesia’s Independence came on 17 August 1945 just as the Second World War ended, declared by the nationalist leader Sukarno. From 1945, Indonesia was led by Sukarno and his deputy Hatta, who took the country away from democracy towards authoritarianism. On 30 September 1965 an attempted military coup led to years of bloodshed before General Suharto was appointed President; between 1968–1998 he lead the country. He is popular as The Smiling General. The sociologist George Aditjondro, refers to that period of the regime as ‘brown colonialism’.

About Heri Dono

Heri Dono’s figurative paintings give a complicated picture of Indonesian society and politics that is intertwined with larger international issues and concerns. Having grown up in a tumultuous period of Indonesian history, Dono often confronts violence and social turmoil in his work, as well as Western culture as it is viewed in his country. After leaving art school, the artist began studying shadow puppetry, incorporating puppets in his installations and drawings to probe darker elements of human experience. Dono, who has participated in multiple editions of the Venice Biennale, has said: “Art is not just about exploring the beauty or the aesthetic but to give awareness to the audience. Artists have a moral responsibility to add to the conversation, to make people aware of injustices.”

Indonesian, b. 1960, Jakarta, Indonesia, based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia