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Khairani Barokka is an Indonesian writer, performer, artist, and advocate/researcher, raised in Jakarta, the US, and Melbourne, with a masters from ITP at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, teaches, performs spoken word and performance art, promotes arts, tech, and disability activism–and EATS–internationally.
What kickstarted you into doing what you do?
I started writing poetry as a toddler, imagining things from birth, calling myself an artist from graduate school, and doing disability and arts activism and research in 2011, during a medical break for my own disability. What I do comes from a fundamental need to create, and to address social exclusion through the arts–and to have fun doing it!
What makes you tick?
Breath and bone and family and friends and art and writing and literature and nature and curiosity and love.
Where do you get inspiration from?
Everything, anywhere! Artist Chuck Close famously said, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” What he means, as I see it, is that “waiting for inspiration to strike” is meaningless–everything we’ve absorbed all our lives is inspiration, it’s hitting us every minute. The hard part is sitting down to translate that into work!
Why do you see the need to change the way things are? Or don’t you?
I absolutely see the need to change the way the disability community and the arts are perceived, to move from being marginalized to seen as vital and a source of real positive change. I see so much potential for technology and grassroots movements to transform how we perceive ability and community, and address human rights in truly egalitarian, creative ways. I have experienced discrimination and heartbreak due to society’s attitudes towards my own and my friends’ disabilities, and see how difficult it is to sustain public, community arts in Southeast Asia–we see injustice every day, but also inspiration from activism around us.
What are you working on and why?
Right now, I’m working on fiction, nonfiction and poetry projects, a performance and new media program between Australia and Indonesia for and by artists with disability, in collaboration with Tutti, Inc., preparing for residencies, performing and teaching at writers’ festivals in Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, writing an academic paper for a conference in Spain, and trying to stay current with developments in my fields of interest–and Game of Thrones, of course!
What’s the bigger picture?
Exciting developments in arts, technology and disability community. At some point, finishing this book on it. Releasing my spoken word album. Writing and performing my ass off. Forging longlasting relationships globally, changing people’s mindsets, and making time for stillness somewhere in there!
One book you can’t live without?
This is an impossible question! I collect poetry like I eat meals, which is a lot, and some of it kind of exists in scraps around me… Am usually reading three books at a time, and the last great one becomes my new favorite for awhile! “Comfort books” are important… one example is an illustrated book from when I was little that I still have and always will, “The Streets Are Free”, about children organizing to build a playground. Having that around makes me happy. Kids’ lit is underestimated. I guess kids are as well!
Photo cover credit: danielavladimirova