‘Tumpengan Instinct’: Articulating Mothers’ Massive Duty to Pass on Wisdom – Art & Culture
Richard Horstman (Jakarta Post)
Mon 21 March 2022
Intersecting political intrigue with the obligation to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations, artist Manda Selena explores identity, creative power and the fate of motherhood in the modern age.
As the creator and nurturer of life, a mother’s primary obligation is to her child. However, his responsibilities go far beyond this and become increasingly complex in a patriarchal society at an unprecedented time of global economic and socio-political turmoil.
Manda Selena, also known as “Pinkygurl”, an emerging artist, fashion designer and young mother based in Bali, advocates that mothers must embody their warrior instincts and guardian angel spirit to ensure the survival of their children . This archetypal energy is the basis of a unique contemporary Indonesian artwork, Tumpengan Instinct.
Manda’s quirky, multi-layered, large-scale installation art, displayed in the raw concrete interior of a gutted shop in Kuta, is the result of two years of research, his storytelling style derived from his culture of storytelling ancestral. The work is inspired by the Javanese ceremonial banquet, tumpengan.
MYTHICAL INSPIRATION: “Maharanca”, a costume by Manda “Pinkygurl” Selena, is inspired by Dewi Sri, the Hindu goddess of fertility and rice. (Courtesy of Max Kinsky) (Courtesy of Max Kinsky/Courtesy of Max Kinsky)
Support and security
The feast includes cone-shaped yellow rice that symbolizes the sacred mountain that is the abode of ancestors and gods, with seven side dishes that represent support and security, granting virtuous blessings to an individual. Tumpengan Instinct signifies the artist’s prayers, aspirations and wisdom that she wishes to pass on to her granddaughter.
Four large drooping paintings depict a mother’s journey from gestation to birth and then the formative years of the child. Inspired by rajahan (magical Balinese illustrations on fabric), line drawings, symbolic text referring to Javanese mysticism and Islamic scripture tell the story of Manda. The finale is a picture of triumph, having passed on knowledge to the growing child.
The characters are lighthearted, depicted as children’s pop culture icons, the Teletubbies. A representation of an angel divides the two-sided installation; the counterpart is not passive and embodies a mother’s defense mechanism.
Fleeting Wisdom: Manda Selena’s “Tumpengan Instinct” draws inspiration from Bali’s “rerajahan” tradition, magical fabric illustrations, as well as other elements of Indonesian storytelling culture. (JP/Richard Horstman) (JP/Richard Horstman)
The centerpiece is a futuristic six-armed cuirass, their hands in mudras and peace signs resembling a Hindu goddess. His fingernails are fitted with menacing blade-like spikes. Knife configurations and cellurit (sickles) signify the need to fortify wisdom through the transfer of knowledge. An undercurrent of violence is always present.
In a hostile world where everyone is vulnerable, sharing moral and cultural values is essential to maintain our life force. Unfortunately, the threat of physical and psychological violence against women and children is increasingly real.
“During my pregnancy, I researched the origins and [nutritional values] of our daily diet. I wondered why rice is the most consumed carbohydrate in Indonesia, despite the other more nutritious options,” Manda explained.
“Rice is inherently political, amplified by the false ideology of ‘ga kenyang kalo ga makan nasi’ [no rice, no full stomach]. This idiom has practically Javanized the entire territory of Indonesia,” she said.
Inner Goddess: A futuristic cuirass with six arms fitted with blade-like studs is part of Manda Selena’s installation art, ‘Tumpengan Instinct’. (JP/Richard Horstman) (JP/Richard Horstman)
A fashion education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore informs Manda’s art. Through her obsession with the body and art as a figurative framework, she explores identity through a panoply of masks, armor and weapons. Her childhood addiction to video games and fantasy and sci-fi films describes her razor-sharp aesthetic. Manda’s paradox of the cute and the macabre unearths the subterranean thoughts and desires of the collective and individual unconscious.
“The New Order [regime] imposed profound changes on Indonesian agriculture. Globalization has transformed the traditional circular agricultural economy into high-yield production, degrading soil and food quality with gigantic profits [going] to companies. The result of this intervention has been addiction to toxic government-subsidized American fertilizers forced on farmers by the national army,” said Manda, who was born in Jakarta in 1994 and has lived in Bali since her mid-teens.
Brave fashion: Emerging artist Manda Selena, also known as ‘Pinkygurl’, has a fashion background from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, as evidenced by this playful and cute outfit dubbed CIHUY. (Courtesy of Manda Selena) (Courtesy of Pinkygurl/Courtesy of Pinkygurl)
“Indonesia’s one-sided policy [system] marginalizes the masses. However, the stories we share with our family and community become empowering tools for social change. Our daily food choices are a simple but fundamental economic right. They can become our political voice through acts of resistance against a monopolizing regime,” Manda said.
Tumpeng Instinct is a chapter of Kejawan Kolossal Fantasy, a continuous manifestation of installations and performances.
Manda highlights the relevance of contemporary art as a mode of communication between generations: inventive storytelling for the new paradigm. New and imaginative means of knowledge transfer are evolving along with our species. As a result, they are becoming more and more essential and determining the future of cultural wisdom, especially in an age of ubiquitous modernity.
WARRIOR SPIRIT: Manda Selena’s ‘Tumpengan Instinct’ is adorned with stylized weapons that transmit knowledge from mother to child. (JP/Richard Horstman) (JP/Richard Horstman)
“Manda is critical and courageous in the face of society’s stigma against women,” said curator Fauzi Lyanda who commissioned Tumpengan Instinct for Ruang Baur Seni: Fraksi Epos Gotong Lorong, an art event held from February to March at the South Beach Discovery Mall in Kuta. “She presents a new space for the deconstruction of cultural issues, offering new understandings that become extraordinary.”
“After college I started a streetwear brand to quit it as I didn’t like the process of making ready-to-wear clothes. The fashion industry only works on the surface” , Manda said.
“Now I create unique fashion items for my husband’s international brand, Ican Harem. Our brand is our identity and a beacon for our audience. As artists, we seek deeper meaning in our clothes, merging the inner and outer experience to create contemporary narratives for a bold new creative generation.”
Flow of Knowledge: “Tumpengan Instinct”, an art installation by Manda Selena, focuses on maternal distress and the power to pass their knowledge, especially cultural wisdom, to their children in this age of modernity. (JP/Richard Horstman) (JP/Richard Horstman)
“I fell in love with the weirdness of Pinkygurl’s art and had to collect some of her clothes – the element of cuteness is immediately appealing,” said Madame Priscilla, PR and marketing consultant living in Jakarta . “It triggers a rarely experienced confusion, which some may find disturbing. Its uniqueness touches and challenges aspects deeply rooted in the subconscious: childhood and sexuality.”
New and imaginative means of knowledge transfer are evolving in concert with our species. As a result, they are increasingly determining the future of cultural wisdom, especially in an era of ubiquitous modernity. Pinkygurl highlights the relevance of contemporary art as a mode of communication between generations – inventive storytelling for the new paradigm.