Celebrating talented Indonesian Street Photographer – Vina Alhadath

People of Indonesia
Vina with a little Papuan girl who she found irresistibly cute – so much so that Vina had to take a photo with her 🙂

By now you may have guessed that February has been a month of celebrating people on A Journey Bespoke. We began with a One month diary entry documented by Bec Elworthy – a newly arrived expatriate in Jakarta , then introduced you to Jakarta-based photographer and all-round adventure lady Libby Owen-Edmunds. Just last week Liz profiled talented Semarang-based leather craftsperson Henny Augustien of The Koelit and today we celebrate Indonesian photographer Vina Alhadath.

Our relationship with Vina started maybe two or three years ago when, as a Follower of ajb’s Instagram account, Vina regularly liked our Instagram posts. Along with her likes, Vina would often add an encouraging comment. Now, if you follow us on Instagram (if you don’t, you should!), you’ll know that we really enjoy chatting with our Followers. Hence, our reciprocal comments with Vina turned into conversations and then one day we pressed, ‘Follow’ on Vina’s public Instagram account. Wow! Suddenly a whole new world of breath-taking photography was before our eyes.

Lampulo Banda Aceh by Vina Alhadath
Lampulo Baru, Kuta Alam Banda Aceh 2016
School in Seulimum by Vina Alhadath
Returning to the classroom. Seulimum, Aceh Besar 2016
Kalibata City by Vina Alhadath
A view from the 18th floor of Vina’s apartment in Kalibata City 2016

This gorgeously encouraging woman who regularly bestowed praise on our humble Instagram feed was in fact a very talented photographer whose images indicated was living a dynamic and colourful life in various parts of the Indonesian archipelago. And as with most of our ajb People stories, once we had a little peep into Vina’s life, we just had to find out more! So it is with great pleasure that we introduce you to Vina Alhadath.

Footnote: Curiously, it wasn’t deliberate that all of our posts for February have been about women.. however on reflection it appears that each of the ladies we have profiled share many things in common. Each is inspiring in their own right. Each is strong yet compassionate; courageous and determined yet caring and respectful. Each is prepared to tread their own path forged by their unrelenting sense of inquiry. Each celebrates humanity and diversity and has an overwhelmingly positive vibe about them. It is for these reasons and more that we have celebrated Bec, Libby, Henny and today we introduce you to Vina.

 

*Kenalkan Vina Alhadath

 

Welcome Vina and Hello to your gorgeous children Kyleesha & Dryandra. Can you tell us a little about yourself including –

Where you’re originally from
I was born in Aceh, a province of Indonesia which is located at the top of the island of Sumatra. I grew up in Aceh until the end of High School.

Where to after High School? After High School I went to Auckland, New Zealand to study Social Sciences for 17 months. At the conclusion of this period, I returned to Aceh and married my husband, Ardian. I began teaching English at high school level and even established an English language course for a short while. My husband then received a scholarship to study Anthropology at the Australian National University in Australia’s capital city Canberra. We moved there for 2 years. During this time, we made lots of new friends from all around the World. We arrived with Kyleesha as a 2 month old baby.

I remember that the winter’s were good but the summer’s were hot!  I studied English three times each week and I also taught Indonesian each Saturday.

lake burley-griffin
Vina and her daughter Kyleesha on the banks of Lake Burley-Griffin, Canberra 2011

What are some of your best memories of your time in Australia Firstly our son Dryandra was born during the latter part of our time in Australia. Our son’s name reflects his link with Australia as dryandra is a species of banksia plant native to Australia.

Another lovely memory of our time in Australia are of the road trips that we made from Canberra to Sydney. Canberra is not a big city and during our time living there, there weren’t so many Indonesians, therefore there was the opportunity to mix and learn the local culture as well as other cultures (eg: Chinese, Korean and Japan). We regularly attended “Kids and Coffee” – a social gathering that was organised by a local church. This was another great way of meeting new people.

Sydney Opera House
Family fun in Sydney, Australia 2011

Another great memory of this time was the fact that I bought my first camera. In fact, a friend picked up the camera for me in Indonesia (a Nikon D90) and brought it to Canberra when they visited. At that point in time, it was my husband Ardian who was into photography, but at the same time he was also very busy with study and work so I picked up the camera. Initially I just used the camera for capturing moments – no more than this. In 2011 we returned to Aceh as my husband had finished his study in Canberra.

How did your interest in Photography develop?
It was during the time when we returned to Aceh that I developed more of an interest in photography, especially as our children really loved playing at the beach. The beaches in Aceh are so beautiful. Photography became my hobby.

children playing at beach in Aceh Barat
Vina’s two children Kyleesha and Dryandra playing at the beach in Aceh Barat, 2014
Enjoying fun times at the beach in Aceh Barat, 2014

Before this interview, we didn’t realise that you also have a passion for coffee, in particular for Aceh Gayo coffee (our absolute favourite Indonesian coffee!). Can you tell us more about this
In 2012 I opened my Instagram account but it remained pretty quiet until we moved to Jakarta. This was for a few reasons, one being that the Internet where we were living in Aceh wasn’t very reliable.

Life in Jakarta was such a contrast to what we were used to. Our kids missed the freedom of the beach, parks and being able to ride bicycles. It really did feel too busy. We were not used to the crowds.  During our time in Indonesia’s capital city, we did however develop an interest and a taste for coffee as the coffee scene in Jakarta is growing at a rapid rate.

We returned to Aceh to further develop this interest, coming up with a business idea based on exporting coffee. We then returned to Jakarta to sell Aceh’s famous coffee bean variety, Aceh Gayo. Meanwhile my interest in photography continued to grow.

K&D's Coffee
Named after Vina’s children, K&D’s is Vina’s coffee business which includes coffee beans as well as Vina’s take away coffee product, Sanger Arabica Gayo

You’re obviously a very adaptable person. In a relatively short amount of time you’ve lived in many different places, most recently moving to Indonesia’s easternmost province, Papua. Please tell us more..
In August 2016, I moved to Papua for my husband Ardian’s work. We live in the city of Timika which is the capital of Mimika Regency of Papua. The population in Timika is about 130,000. Papua is a unique and interesting place. In Timika there are a lot of people not just native to Papua but also from almost every part of Indonesia such as Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Java. People come here to find their own places in this diverse city. Yet they don’t forget where they come from. You can hear children with Javanese accents yet they talk like Papuan. Despite the influence from outside Papua, the Papuan people still maintain their culture close to their hearts.

papuan school children
“Bu guru, fotokah..” School children from Timika who were keen to be photographed. Papua 2017

Based on your own experiences, where are the best places in Indonesia for photography
Hmm, I don’t know! It depends on what you like to photograph. I like to photograph people, especially at traditional markets as you can see many types of people there. I like seeing how people interact with each other. But in Papua doing street photography can be a bit tricky. Sometimes people say ‘Why do you want to take a picture?’ They don’t always accept the process of taking a photo – it makes them uncomfortable. In Papua there are still lots of indigenous people who come from many different places to sell goods. They are not used to seeing people wanting to take photos. Often the adults are shy but the children aren’t so much. To help them open up, I talk to them.

kamoro woman Papua
A woman of the Kamoro tribe in Papua arranging gentiri seed for sale at a festival 2017

Who and/or what inspires your photography?
I am inspired by other photographers that I see through Instagram. In particular, Pakistani photographer, Khaula Jamil. I saw her on Instagram and her work really inspires me. I’m inspired first because she’s a woman. Secondly, she is doing street photography in a Muslim country (a bit like me in Indonesia). I was curious to read in her Instagram feed, that sometimes people ask her if she feels safe being a female photographer. Whilst living in Aceh, I could relate to her as I would also get stopped sometimes and asked why I was taking pictures.

Khaula Jamil instagram
Caption: “One day I was walking in the alleys of Chandni Chowk looking for my grandfather’s old house when a small door opened. I peeped inside and behold! What a sight!” (Photograph kindly supplied by Khaula Jamil from Khaula’s Instagram feed).

 

Please share your 3 favourite photos from your personal collection 

Paotere port Makassar
Photo of Porters at Paotere port, Makassar 2017
Fishermen in West Aceh
Fisherman in Aceh Barat January 2014
Acehnese persons playing with kites
Children in Vina’s hometown in Aceh, playing kite in the rice field 2015

Your current camera of choice? Nikon D750

What are some of your favourite Indonesian dishes?
Everything! Including Sate Padang, Daging Rendang, Nasi Goreng and Mie Aceh.

Mie Aceh vendor
One of Vina’s favourite dishes Mie Aceh being prepared at a local warung on Market day in Aceh

Kyleesha’s favourite food: Strawberry Ice cream
Dryandra’s favourite foods:
Spaghetti and Rainbow Ice cream

– And we all love Durian! Once in June a few years ago, we did a road trip to collect our favourite durians. The best durian come from Aceh (specifically from Plang Pidi).

photo by A Journey Bespoke
Having fun with Mum (Photo by A Journey Bespoke)

Do you like cooking and if so, what is your favourite dish to prepare?
Yes I do! A quick dish like…Spaghetti!  Or a longer one like Rendang.

Tea or coffee? And where do you find your preferred beverage?
Absolutely coffee! At home!!!

3 words to describe ‘Your Indonesia’
Friendly, beautiful, diversity.

How do you relax?
I like to read books and novels. I especially enjoy reading long-form articles from the website: Longform

We know you’re a keen runner! Tell us more – Where do you like to run? Goals with your running? Some good places to run in Indonesia?
I first started running in Jakarta 2 years ago. It began with me walking but as my husband runs, I decided to keep up with him. Back then I used to run around our apartment but it got a bit busy so when we moved to Papua and moved into a complex it was much easier to run more freely. The place is very green with big trees so it is a great place to run.

Any other interests? Diving, especially in Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Vina Alhadath diving at Raja Ampat
Photo of Vina diving at Raja Ampat, West Papua April 2017

Favourite band/musicians –  Kodaline, Peter Pan (Their original music. They have since changed their band name to ‘Noah’).

Favourite book of all time – Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987)

Something people would find surprising about you.. I have two children.

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for 2018? Last year’s resolution was all about my running and I was able to keep it up. I am now training for my first marathon. I’m aiming to run in the Bali Marathon in September  – Please wish me luck!

This year my main resolution is to improve my Photography i.e. learn more about it in every respect.

And finally, what is the best way for our readers to keep up with your fascinating journey and beautiful photography?
Definitely through my Instagram feed and also my blog, Pinoyon Writing.

Meeting Vina and her children in Jakarta, 2018 (Photo taken by Dryandra – another natural Photographer, it seems 🙂 )

*Kenalkan: Let me introduce..

 

Words: Vina Alhadath and Jo Stevens   Photography: Vina Alhadath unless otherwise stated

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