Manual Jakarta began life as an online guide to the eponymous city in 2013, focusing on food, fashion, arts and culture. In 2017 the editorial team added a print magazine that serves as an ‘offline supplement’ to the website.
Take a moment to really appreciate that phrasing – offline supplement – it perfectly encapsulates the ability to curate a reading experience that is impossible online, no matter how successful your website. Editor-in-chief Julius Kensan told me:
‘While being an online magazine has afforded us greater pace in delivering articles and relevancy in the digital age, we are also aware of its limitations. The nature of an online magazine is, to a certain extent, inflexible compared to a printed magazine. Our approach for the offline counterpart is rooted in making sense or decoding how the local culture has, consciously and subconsciously, shaped the lifestyle in Jakarta. Hence we present our printed magazine as an offline supplement, where each issue is based on a theme.’
That theme, for the third issue, is a critical look at humour, and how it can be used by artists, lifestyle establishments, instagram celebrities, and even politicians in a bid for attention. On the cover is a doctored photograph by artist Agan Harahap, of the incumbent president Joko Widodo in his teens (above).
So convincing was Harahap’s addition of a Sex Pistols t-shirt and leather jacket that the image went viral, and led to the president having to release a statement through his own Instagram page joking that it looked too cool to be him. The interview with Harahap (below) looks into the life and work of the witty and politically-engaged artist, who is likely to be unfamiliar to most of us here.
Even as Harahap has built a career on altering images, Manual Jakarta contains some great original photography. Images by Liandro N.I. Sringoringo & Muliadi Utomo are witty one-liners in photograph form or exactly the kind of thing you might see walking home half-cut and not quite believe you didn’t make up (above).
Fashion feature ‘The Spectacle of Upcycle’ casts a light-hearted look at some unlikely materials that one could wear, making a serious point about sustainability whilst still playing into the humorous theme without being gimmicky. In fact, the technical knowledge that must have gone into some of the tailoring is serious stuff; a geometrically-folded cardboard shirt stands out (above).
The issue also contains interviews with ‘slebgrams’ (a local term for celebrity instagram), alongside a nine-photo grid of them pulling the kind of faces you would only pull in the privacy of a photo booth (above). It’s an engaging and informal way to get the goss on what goes on behind the polished instagram output.
The attention to detail across the pocket-sized magazine is lovely. The concise cover is made of a weighty textured paper, and the yellow used for highlights and title pages also crops up in three half-page dividers marking each of the three sections.
The publication is in English, which seems like an obvious thing to say, but it’s not a given, and shows that the magazine considers itself a global publication. Nevertheless the voice is consistent and presents itself as a source of local intel without falling prey to the hyperbolic tone of someone trying to sell their town as a tourist destination.
We’ve picked Manual Jakarta as Magazine of the Week as it’s a treat to discover such a strong voice from Indonesia, a part of the world we don’t hear much about, at least in magazine form. We also love the term ‘offline supplement’ and think it does what it sets out to do, and does it really well.
Director: Hadi Ismanto
Editor-in-chief: Julius Kenson
Creative director: Leonardo Laurensius
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