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Department of PARIRIMBON INVESTASI
超自然投資部門(白皮書)
April 18th, 2019Type: Art Production
Author: Ismal Muntaha, 鄭文琦 (translator) Editor: Rikey Tenn
Quote From: 群島資料庫Nusantara Archive
Note: “Paririmbon Investasi” project speculates the supernatural dimension of Taiwanese investment behavior through varied approaches, which is an important part in the daily lives of the people. In the 2nd of Nusantara Archive, Ismal Muntaha is interested in adding a supernatural burden to the investors; extending the investment process with a variety of ethical practices, linking various cultural aspects that exist around the area of investment as a consideration of the investment perspective. This guidebook for those who invest in Jatiwangi, will be compiled in a collective manner through a series of workshops in Taiwan / Indonesia involving various kinds of participants: artists, curators, researchers, businessmen, farmers and of course fengshui masters and astrologers. It is designed as a companion to the official investment guidebook, collaborating with Indonesia Economic And Trade Office in Taipei to distribute this Paririmbon.

In the foreword of Frequently Asked Questions On Investment, the chairman of Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (Badan Koordinasi Penanaman Modal or BKPM) claimed that the Indonesian economy continues to offer vast potential, thanks to the country’s sustainable economic growth, its political stability, large youth population, and the growing middle class, as well as abundant natural resources. He also stated that investment has a large multiplier effect in boosting economic growth, it creates jobs and transforms the current consumption-based economy to an economy driven by production.

Thomas Lembong, Chairman of BKPM (Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board); 2019

On a humid afternoon, in a flat land called Jatiwangi, I gave these remark some thoughts while observing a group of men sitting on their motorbikes, waiting for the workers to get off work from the Taiwanese shoe factory. In another case, on an overcast morning last January, while I was on a high speed train enroute from Taipei to Taichung city, I was reminded by the same statement as I saw a pair of Indonesian workers shared a set of earphones and listened to songs while holding hands. To reflect on the investment impact on Jatiwangi’s economy,  I’m haqul yaqin that the growth is inevitable. At least, I can feel it through several changes in our everyday life. During paydays, the queues at the ATM can be several meters long, it takes almost an hour to deposit fifty thousand rupiah. There’s also an increasing number of food stalls of cuisines from around the region where the new factories are located, not to mention the rise in house rents that can earn three million rupiah by ten rooms each month, followed by the growth in the number of laundries, motorcycle loans, smartphone shops, and even love hotels.

If the economic growth is a transformation process of abandoning the old to celebrate the new, then believe me the Jatiwangi economy is on the rise, because the tile factories as old industries that have existed since the colonial era are gradually abandoned and the people are embracing the imminent new investments. If the rate of economic growth can be measured by the rise in land prices yet still in short supply, I have to stop my daydreaming about the the chairman’s remark, because what was said has now been realized; both large and small scale investments have now became parts of our everyday life in Jatiwangi.

 

Let Me Tell You The History

Ismal Muntaha, Chariman of Paririmbon Investasi, 2019

Foreign investment is not uncommon in Jatiwangi whether it is realized or not. It has long been embedded within Jatiwangi’s socio-economic structure. When the Dutch East Indies launched its first investment of private sugar companies during in the late 19th century, a large sugar-related market was formed in Jatiwangi. Paddy fields were transformed into sugar cane plantations and workers were mobilized from different parts of the Indonesian archipelago, which made Jatiwangi part of the first liberalization period in Indonesia and directly connected with the global sugar market.

In the early 20th century, in the strong presence of sugar industry, a different industry was introduced through local initiative – the roof tile factories. They have been making tiles by using the very soils that were used to grow sugarcane and rice. I suppose this is the Jatiwangi residents’ response to the sugar imperialism. Historically, the colonial sugar industry during the liberalization period gave birth to a rather lopsided investor/worker relationship. I was worse than in the forced cultivation period, during which the colonial government applied a double-standard economic system. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz stated in the Agricultural Involution that this system allows local farmers to produce the best export quality products, while the domestic sector such as family unit agriculture, home industry, and small domestic industries were suppressed and became difficult to expand. When the export sector grew due to the increased prices of world commodity marjet, the domestic sector gradually weakened. Land and labor are no longer used to cultivate rice and other produce, but to cultivate sugarcane, coffee, and other trade crops. This is an effort to subdue the locals’ economic condition while producing world-class sugar products for the benefit of the investors. Geertz also noted that this export sector was governed by administrative capitalism, a system in which the capital holders – the Dutch investors – regulated sales prices and wages, controlled expenses, and even dominated the production process.

These large scale plantations were usually owned by families who lived in small cluster, in lavish tropical bungalows close to the sugarcane factories. The operation of these factories are usually manned by the local farmers who did not only provide the lands, but also doubled as manual labors to clear the lands, dig holes, sow the seeds, cultivate and transport the crops. The sugar factories in Jatiwangi occupied area measuring thousands of hectares which was originally paddy fields. It was run by a family known as the Juragan Besar (The Big Boss), made up of G.M.W Zuur himself and his 11 children, mostly born in Jatiwangi.

The introduction of the high-tech sugar companies in the middle of the paddy fields did guarantee the welfare of the locals. But the force of capitalism increasingly devoured into the heart of the village life. As a result, this colonial political economy, even though it was colored by ethical policy of the Dutch government, laid the foundation for land privatization in Indonesia which directly influenced the history of wage laborers. This agrarian tension is still palpable today.

Planting Sugar Cane in Jatiwangi, circa 1940

However, this success didn’t last long. The Great Depression in 1930 caused a dramatic global decline due to the fall of the international monetary system. The volume of international trades plummeted, followed by the cessation of investment and the drop in the Wall Street stock market, which subsequently wrecked the economies of industrialized and developing nations. After four years, the Dutch East Indies export revenue dropped by 70%.

The Zuur Family had to pack their suitcases and move back to their home country. In 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, and the Dutch East Indies became a colonial administration without its mother country. However the roof tile factories managed to keep growing in in Jatiwangi and slowly became a promising local industry, especially after the independence. By then, Indonesia entered into a new chapter, a period when the pursuit of an independent nation was in place, alongside with other Southeast Asian countries.

After World War II, the nationalization of foreign companies became part of the decolonization process. During this process, the Indonesians were busy taking over the administration, bureaucracy and political power sectors. However, the modern roles in the economic sector were filled by the Overseas Chinese who were regarded as a separate class with the know-how in the economy due to the three-tier racial segregation imposed by the Dutch administration. As the New Order regime came, it opened its doors to foreign investments. Due to the policy introduced by the Dutch, the overseas Chinese became the most involved community in economic sector, henceforth they also benefited the most from it. In 1970, a Taiwanese construction company obtained a toll road construction project in Surabaya and Sumatra, followed by a industrial park development as a result of cooperation between the Indonesian overseas Chinese and Taiwanese investors. When the New Order government founded the first Indonesian office of commerce in Taipei in 1970s, the economic relationship between Indonesia and Taiwan grew stronger.

 

New Era of Jatiwangi

The developmental ideology of the New Order had a major impact on Jatiwangi’s socio-economic structure. The Public Housing Policy during the REPELITA II period initiated from the New Order boosted the demand for Jatiwangi roof tiles. The landscapes of roof tile industry has become a widespread phenomenon, which later gave birth to a new class of wealthy businessmen. The tile businessmen did not earn their successes from the feudal class who ruled the land during the colonial period; like Pak Haji Aspin, the founder of the modernest and biggest roof tile factory in Jatiwangi, and Abadi Genteng, previously a tofu seller. The wealthy businessmen of this new class came from a background of working class, or used to be domestic traders.

The roof tile industry reached a golden age from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. Externally this period was marked by the expansion of the Jatiwangi roof tile market, even to an export level. One of the export destination countries was Brunei Darussalam, where the Abadi Genteng Factory was the main supplier for the entire Brunei’s development plan led by Sultan Hassanah Bolqiah. Whereby domestically, this period opened up new social landscape in Jatiwangi; brokering ‘dynasty’, thuggery, gambling on cockfighting game with prize money sometimes worth of hundreds of millions of rupiah and spending on newest luxury cars and various local hedonism. But interestingly, during the golden age of the roof tile industry, there was almost no investment from outside of Jatiwangi, except the Abadi Genteng factory that made a merger with Terreal, a multinational tile company from France. The bustling soci0-economic phenomenon brought forth by the roof tile industry was nothing compared to colonial sugar industry.

The golden age of roof tile industry by the 1997 financial crisis in Southeast Asia. Only 120 out of the 600 roof tile factories which had established from 1980s to 1990s survived. Currently, the ASEAN Economic Community introduces various types of new investments that allows the roof tile industry to be replaced with for instance textiles, garments, and other manufacturing industries. However, the influx of large capitals speeds up the land privatization process. Once again the global investment subsumes the economic of Jatiwangi. The state tries to take advantage of the inflowing foreign capital by introducing an investment reform that allows investors to get one-stop-services on the investment licensing process as well as various tax incentives for investors.

 

Why Does It Matter And Why This Form?

History has shown us that investment is a form of structural operation controlled by the regime and people in power. This investment process is often deprived of socio-cultural contexts. Apart from citizenship matters, the involvement is always hierarchical and the residents are often exploited. From this investment enclave, is there any schism that we can intervene through a different narrative? And in what way?

Through experimenting with the spirit of intervention and artistic means, The Paririmbon Investasi Department surveys the alternative investment models prompted by these questions. At least until now, I envision two forms to respond the investment trend in Jatiwangi, especially those from Taiwan. The first form is to create an investment guidebook as a supplementary reference to the official investment guidebook. This guidebook tries to speculate the spiritual dimensions of Taiwanese and Indonesian people by appropriating approaches for investment methodology, such as feng shui(風水), astrology, klenik, rituals, prayers, etc.. The second form is to propose an alternative investment order similar to the (governmental) official manner. For this purpose, I propose the Indonesian Economic Trade Office (KDEI) in Taipei to facilitate the process of alternative investments. Please let me elaborate the two ways.

 

Paririmbon Investasi Guidebook

Wirid-Panen, A Harvest Ritual in Supranatural Farming; 2019

This investment guidebook will experiment with various cultural-spiritual approaches to affix a supernatural dimension to potential future investor. While engaging investment practices with ethical concerns, it also attempts to connect various cultural aspects surrounding the investment site to form a more comprehensive investment position. It targets major investors who invest directly through governmental channels. For that, we will work with IETO to distribute this book as supplementary reference to the existing governmental investment guidebook. It will be compiled collectively through a series of workshops in Taiwan and Indonesia by practitioners from various fields: artists, curators, researchers, businessmen, startupper, farmers, community leaders and of course feng shui masters and astrologists. The first draft content of this manual is as follows:

I. Foreword

Chairman of Paririmbon Investasi Department, Mr. Ismal Muntaha

Chief of Investment Department KDEI, Mr. Mohammad Firdaus

 

II. About Jatiwangi

This chapter features astrological chart reading of Jatiwangi, calculated based on the latitude and longitude. This astrological reading works as a guide for future investors. In addition, we will also discuss the socio-cultural contexts of Jatiwangi, and the active role Jatiwangi art Factory plays since the last decade. We also provide spiritual context or local myths about Jatiwangi as a reinforcement of cultural aspects when it comes to designing Jatiwangi socio-cultural landscape. For us, the local myths are part of intangible heritage, especially the existence of ancestral spirits, is one of the important contextual considerations in designing Jatiwangi.

 

III. How To Invest in Jatiwangi (FAQ)

This section contains guidelines on ethical concerns in Jatiwangi, particularly on how to form a sustainable relationships with local residents, by synergising the local and the Taiwanese’ spiritual practices. It will be composed as Q&A as follow:

a. How to build a factory in Jatiwangi?

To build a factory in Jatiwangi, investors are advised follow these several propositions. One of which is to produce shadow puppet show close to the future factory site, as an effort to establish dialogue with the your future neighbor. Secondly, the factory should be built according to feng shui readings which focuses on the the equilibrium between human and nature. Thirdly, the future investors are also advised to perform the “Ngajimatan Taneuh” ritual to seek blessings from the local ancestors who long inhabited this land. This is gesture to pay respect to the earliest inhabitants to avoid unforeseeable incident such as the mass spirit possession happened to workers from PT. Shinwo Mulia (Garment Factory) in Jatiwangi. [Video link: Kesurupan Massal di PT.Shinwoo Mulia – Jatiwangi (Majalengka)]

b. How to officiate your factory?

Once the proposed rituals have been carried out, there are several other procedures to follow before officiating the newly built factory. One of which is to offer “Nasi Tumpeng” (rice cooked with turmeric) to the local residents, followed by a praying ritual and traditional dances for the ancestors.

c. Other ritual involved

This section contains information on other rituals required to ensure a smooth business operation; for instance, to plant 15 Jati trees on every lunar cycle or the 15th day of the lunar calendar.

 

IV. Investment sector based on the principle of Wu Xing

Wu Xing or the Five Elements one of the underlying fundamental philosophies practiced by the Chinese as a way to understand the relationship between human, nature and the cosmos. Based on these concepts, we will organise a focus workshop with experts in Taiwan to draft an investment practice.

V. The Do and Don’t when it comes to investing in Jatiwangi

In this chapter we will cover what we should and should not do when it comes to investing in Jatiwangi based on two approaches; zodiac reading of prospective investors and the traditional local belief systems. For instance, the local Jatiwangi tradition, including Sundanese and Javanese, we are accustomed with the concept of “Pamali” – which means once a taboo is committed, it will bring mishap to the person. One of the examples is not to cut an old tree when you are building factory, unless you make a vow to plant new tree; or not to build factory near graveyard, and etc.

VI. Tips on avoiding misfortune

Bad thing sometimes could happen beyond rational reasoning. This section will provide tips on how to minimize these mishaps. For instance, do not mobilize employees to another city without staging a shadow puppet show ritual, etc.

 

Investment Package

Paririmbon Investasi works as an investment agency to help conceptualize and facilitate alternative investment plan. This department will invite Taiwanese contemporary art community stakeholders including collectors, museums, galleries, art organizations/ institutions, art collectives, curators and artists to invest in Jatiwangi. Unlike conventional business model experienced by the local residents in Jatiwangi, their position will shift from being laborers to business partners. This is a profit-sharing alternative investment plan, depending on the investment package and based the amount of investment.

Capital-intensive government related foreign investment often involve high-tech hardware. However, our investment package focuses on striking a balance between business investment and local socio-historical concerns, as a way to create a larger sense of ownership within the local community. Another form of investment is without capital investment, or more accurately, a form of knowledge exchange. For instance, artist can participate in the investment plan by giving his/her time, labour, expertise or ideas in developing a more imaginative business model. This arrangement is akin to an artist residency program; the difference here is that the artists will get a portion of profit from the investment.

The following are some of the investment packages we offer:

Wirid Panen, A Harvest Ritual in Supranatural Farming; 2019

1. Supranatural Farming

This is an agribusiness system based on kinship and organic-supernatural ideology, in which each process involves rituals and fueled by compassion. Despite the ongoing land ownership dispute with the Indonesian Air Force, this 1400 square meter land area is managed collectively for the local residents to perform rituals. To be involved in this agribusiness model, you will also be supporting the claim of the people of Kampung Wates to the land of Wates.

2. Soil Modular

This environmentally friendly brick is made from soil and a mixture of rice waste without being fired. This can be produced by home makers in villages during breaks between farming activities.

3. Jatiwangi Roof Tiles Museum

Jatiwangi Roof Tiles Museum is a site to learn about the struggle of Jatiwangi soil. This museum collaborates with roof tiles workers and factory owners to collect and record data and facts related to roof tiles culture to ultimately establish a more humane approach with the use of land in Jatiwangi.

4. Saung Ciranggon

Saung Ciranggon is a community restaurant run by the residents from Kampung Wates. Its menu are based on local recipe and prepared with locally-grown ingredients. In a sense, it is a community restaurant where every family contribute to the menu design and share the profit generated from the restaurant operation.

5. Earth Housing Project

This is a residential housing project managed collectively by a village and supervised by the soil architect bureau. This business handles the construction of environmentally friendly homes with rammed earth technique, in which the house is built solely by using soil and only 1% of cement.

6. Choose your way to invest and to engage Jatiwangi residents as partners rather than employers

We hope that this guidebook will provide you with an insight on investing in Jatiwangi. We are aware that some area in this guide needs fine tuning, it will be updated through a series of ongoing discussions and workshops. We sincerely hope that you would consider our proposition and to become our investment partner as an art practitioner. Paririmbon Investasi Department looks forward to working with you in the near future.

Jatiwangi, March 2019

Chairman of Paririmbon Investasi

Ismal Muntaha

Footnote
[1] We have conducted two sessions of black rice planting workshop. Black rice is believed to have medicinal value for heart disease and cancer.