In Kotagede, I live with a family of cat-loving four where art is quite literally in the name.
My father, Bapak Indarto, is a sculptor, currently working on a bronze komodo. He is perhaps one of the silliest people I know, constantly making jokes about the way I conduct myself, which usually ends up in daily exaggerated shrugging and who-can-speak-in-the-highest-pitched-voice contests. And yet, at the same time, my bapak’s presence always offers a source of calm and down-to-earth understanding.
My mother, Ibu Idoh, is a tailor. She works from home, creating beautiful floral designs on bright fabrics. On a few occasions, I had the opportunity to assist her in her work, burning holes through fabric with a solder in order to cut out her designs. Strangers are constantly coming in and out of my house to consult with her about a skirt or dress that they want, which ultimately means I get to meet so many new people every week. In terms of personality, my mother is perhaps the loudest and most vocal of them all, always making jokes and laughing freely. She is constantly speaking to me in Indonesian, fully aware that I understand maybe 30% of what she says, but this doesn’t deter her. She continues to speak at full speed, confident that I can figure it out in time.
My older sister, Fatmala Artasari, is an artist if I ever have met one. Quiet and reserved, she, like her father, is a calming and down-to-earth presence, observing everything around her. And yet, I’ve learned that if you even mention anything KPOP or the word kucing (cat) to her, she explodes with things to say and laughter to share. I love discussing her work and thought processes behind them. She is currently researching adolescence and how it has evolved from generations before with the advent of technologies, portraying all this and the complex relations to self in her bright and playful paintings.
My younger brother, Juniarto Dhani, is a bundle of mischief. As soon as our parents leave the house, he runs for the chopsticks and empty bins so he can play drums. And the beats that he makes with his improvised drum set are actually some of the best I’ve ever heard. In addition to drumming, Dhani loves playing gamelan orchestra and video games like Fortnite with his friends, two things which to me as an outsider seem on the totally opposite sides of the spectrum. Also, I swear that Dhani only uses me for the GoFood app on my phone, but it’s okay. Delivery food is always good bonding :”)
And of course, there are two more members of the family. Uput, the white cat is probably the most stereotypically mischievous cat. She doesn’t like being held or pet too much, and I am always greeted by her knocking things over in my room in the middle of the night. Not too sure how she gets past the closed door though. And then there’s the cat arbitrarily named Momma Cat, since she’s pregnant and will have her babies any day now. She loves cuddles and being rubbed right above the nose. The family is constantly growing, and when the newborn kittens arrive, they will be named semangka (watermelon), melon (cantaloupe), jeruk (orange), jambu (guava), nanas (pineapple), and lemon. (If you couldn’t tell, there’s an obvious cat/food motif going on in the house.)
The house itself is fit to the artistic needs of my family, fit with workspace for an at-home tailor, an outdoor space filled with in-the-works sculptures, and is in itself a gallery, covered in every wall with my sister’s paintings and brother’s graffiti tagging. And of course the house also doubles as a canvas. So far, Mala and I have painted the well with a whale (yes, that’s a watermelon sky) and the bathroom walls with cats and avocados. And what’s next? A mushroom forest in my room! Will keep everyone updated (: