With a shared history of Dutch colonial rule and cultural overlaps due to the legacy of slavery, the societal fabric of Indonesia and South Africa, separated by vast swathes of ocean, have more in common than you might think. The historical links between the two countries go back to 1693 when Sheikh Yusuf was exiled to Cape Town due to his involvement in a rebellion against the Dutch colonisers in Indonesia.
A recent fashion film titled ‘Stories of Hope’, which premiered on Wednesday, 29 June 2022, explores these connections in history, heritage, and culture using a common language of expression – fashion.
The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia Pretoria, with support from the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, partnered with The Foschini Group (TFG) and the Indonesian Fashion Chamber, facilitated by Imprint Luxury, to create this collaborative fashion film.
The participating designers – Irmasari Joedawinata, Raegita Oktora, and Weda Githa from the Indonesian Fashion Chamber, as well as Bianca Malan, Nabeela Francis, and Lisakhanya Matya from The Foschini Group (TFG) – were challenged to create six collaborative garments (one per designer) using both Batik and Shweshwe fabrics. Additionally, each designer created four individual garments for formal wear, semi-formal wear, and casual wear. They have been working on these collaborative garments and individual collections since November 2021.
“It was a really good experience to get creative and learn more about Indonesian culture,” says Lisakhanya Matya.
The collaborative visual project was the brainchild of H.E. Salman Al Farisi, the former Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa, who wanted strengthen the people-to-people interactions and promote the creative economy and cultural richness of Indonesia and South Africa. Through the fashion sector, he wanted to highlight the historical overlaps between both countries.
Shot at Melasti Beach in Bali, Indonesia, and Scarborough Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, the film makes a powerful statement about the history of slavery, across ocean passageways, that link the two countries.
Specifically, the film highlights two types of fabrics that represent South Africa and Indonesia in the film – Indonesian Batik and South African Shweshwe – as a medium to tell this fashion story. The patterns and vibrant colours the fabrics, artfully juxtaposed, create a visual likeness between the Batik and Shweshwe.
“At the heart of this project was the harmony of relationships between Indonesia and South Africa. We told this through fashion specifically through two fabrics that are characteristic to both countries, Batik from Indonesia and Shweshwe from South Africa. It was equally important to work with sustainable manufacturers and local designers from each country and we are pleased that we were able to achieve this together,” says Cyril Naicker, the Chief Executive at Imprint Luxury and Country Coordinator at Fashion Revolution South Africa.
The use of these distinctive fabrics speaks to the ability of fashion to promote cultural sustainability and allow for a dialogue of cross-cultural exchange. “This activity is very positive in the effort of preserving culture, especially the traditional fabrics of the two countries, through contemporary fashion works,” says participating Indonesian designer Weda Githa.
The fashion film acts as a visual display of the overlapping material geographies of Indonesia and South Africa. It reaffirms the importance of fashion as a medium for culture, tradition, and religion to converge. It tells a story of hope as young designers use fashion connect us through clothing and stories that draw on our shared histories. Stories of hope and radical reconnection form the basis of any meaningful change – in fashion and beyond.
Designed by Weda Githa (IFC) and photographed by Agung Parawira
Designed by Lisakhanya Matya (TFG) and photographed by Kim van Zyl
Designed by Raegita Zoro (IFC) and photographed by Agung Parawira
Designed by Bianca Malan (TFG) and photographed by Kim van Zyl
Designed by Irmasari Joedawinata (IFC) and photographed by Agung Parawira
Designed by Nabeela Francis (TFG) and photographed by Kim van Zyl
Watch the fashion film here: