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Exploring Social Issues Through Personal Narratives: Aziziah Diah Aprilya

In the bustling city of Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, photographer and researcher named Aziziah Diah Aprilya, affectionately known as Zizi, is using her lens to explore the myriad complexities of life in Eastern Indonesia. In an exclusive interview, Zizi shared her journey into the world of photography and how her work has become a powerful tool for unraveling social and economic issues that often go unnoticed.

Zizi's passion for photography began during her journalism studies, where she quickly realised the art's ability to offer a unique perspective on life. In 2018, she embarked on her first documentary project, "A Pause," which delved into the world of Pete-pete, a local transportation system in Makassar.

When I am photographing “A Pause” in 2018 to 2019, I think that was the era that I realised this medium works within me. It makes me eager to see carefully in anything, speak to people who lived a very different life with me, and allows me to interpret reflectively. And from that experience, I felt lived and empathised with life.

"Pete-pete" is the local term for "Angkot." These colorful and easily identifiable public transportation vehicles number around 4,000, offering extensive coverage across the city. With designated codes on their windows indicating specific routes, they provide a convenient and accessible mode of transport for both locals and tourists, connecting various areas in Makassar, including popular tourist destinations.

In 2018, Zizi embarked on a two-month residency program in Yogyakarta.

The ARISAN: Southeast Asia Art Collective Forum brought together artists from different Southeast Asian countries, fostering a unique exchange of ideas and cultures. Zizi took the opportunity to explore the participants' personal belongings, which they carried from their respective countries, and the spaces they inhabited during the residency. The resulting photographs reflect the shared human experiences and the interconnectedness of diverse cultures.

Love Is An Open Door about my experience when I joined 'ARISAN: Southeast Asia Art Collective Forum'. We stayed separately in each collective that invited us; there are Ace House, Krack! Studio, Lifepatch, Ruang MES 56, Ruang Gulma, dan SURVIVE! Garage. Each of them has a unique space and approaches different mediums of art. I felt the same with us, the residency participants. We also have our own character as well, because we are coming from different countries, but above that, what are similar things about us?
Then I started to ask each of them, “what personal stuff from your country that you bring with you? And where do you put it in your room?” For me, besides that’s a gateway to know the other participants more personally, it’s also my reflection that no matter how far we go, there is something that always lives within us.

This residency that we’ve experienced is more about sharing the power that we had with collective work. But if it’s about the feeling, I guess it’s simmilar with dormitory experience. Sometimes I go to their room, talk, and share everything. Especially with the girls, Bow from Thailand and Aly from Philipine. We cook, we eat dinner, we drink, we party together, and share our very personal stories to each other. They feel like my sisters.

When asked about the project's title, Zizi explained that the song "Love is an Open Door" from the movie Frozen resonated with her vision. The phrase serves as a metaphorical gateway, representing the need to open oneself to love, understanding, and diverse perspectives. The doors in her photographs symbolize the boundary between outsiders and insiders, showcasing the significance of embracing the unknown and inviting others into our lives.

Zizi's own personal room during the residency

Zizi is currently working on an ongoing project about Makassar's coastal area. 'Mariso' is a district in the west coastal area of Makassar. Most of its sea area has been converted into land, with sand mined from the seabed around Makassar. Since the 1970s, this land has been reclaimed and many residents have had to be relocated over the past decasdes.

The reclamation on the coast of Mariso has moved not only humans physically, but also the spaces they were familiar with. Their ecosystem which was originally centered on the sea, is now becoming land, changing their livelihoods, neighbours, and communal spaces.

This situation makes me wonder whether the people and the sea really have to give in the name of modernization, for a city that is running so it doesn't feel left behind?

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