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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Please share your 3 favourite photos from your personal collection
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.
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).
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.
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.
*Kenalkan: Let me introduce..
Words: Vina Alhadath and Jo Stevens Photography: Vina Alhadath unless otherwise stated