Ubud, Bali/Jakarta. Kopernik is a Bali-based non-profit organization that promotes the use of low-cost technology to solve social and environmental problems. To engage a broader audience, Kopernik is currently trying to form new partnerships with musicians, filmmakers and other creative artists.
Kopernik started its creative collaborations last year, partnering with Bali-based rock band Navicula, already locally famous as advocates of environmental conservation, earning the nickname "Green Grunge Gentlemen" for their troubles.
Ewa Wojkowska, chief operating officer and co-founder of Kopernik, said the non-profit chose Navicula as its first creative partner because of the band's already significant fanbase.
"I'm also a big fan of Navicula's music. It touches people and motivates them to do things. The band has certainly helped us spread information about social and environmental challenges that we face here," she told The Jakarta Globe last week at Kopernik’s office in Ubud, Bali.
Navicula's singer Gede Robi said the band was already aware of Kopernik’s work even before the non-profit came calling.
He said both Kopernik and Navicula use art as a medium to make changes in society.
"What we do is deliver serious messages, including technical issues and statistics, in a pop-friendly package," Robi said.
Both Wojkowska and Robi are alumni of the annual Asia 21 Summit. Wojkowska was one of Asia 21's Young Leaders in 2013. Robi earned the same accolade in 2016.
With filmmaker Erick EST, Navicula made a music video for "Terus Berjuang" ("Keep Fighting"), a song from Navicula’s 2007 album, "Beautiful Rebel," and a rallying cry for environmental activists.
The video was made after the band was introduced to Kopernik’s "Ibu Inspirasi" ("Wonder Women") project in Sumba and Lembata in East Nusa Tenggara.
The project was set up to deliver electricity to households in the remote regions, especially to help women take care of their family.
The project is a manifestation of one of Kopernik’s objectives: to distribute simple technologies to communities in remote areas.
Women signed up to Ibu Inspirasi help promote the use of low-cost, clean technologies, such solar lanterns, water filters and biomass cookstoves.
The women earned money from selling the eco-friendly household appliances and helped improve energy technologies in their villages.
"The music video is a tribute to these strong, enthusiastic women," Robi said.
It took six months to make the video, which was launched in March. During its production, Kopernik and Navicula also did a short tour of Australia from Nov. 24 to Dec. 10 to raise awareness on environmental problems in Indonesia.
Their latest partnership produced a travel video series called "Pulau Plastik" ("Plastic Island"), which exposes Bali’s severe plastic waste problem and encourages Balinese to find a solution for it.
Pulau Plastik involved two documentary filmmakers, Dandhy Laksono from Watchdoc and Shinta Retnani from Asa Film.
Wojkowska said the project is a good example of artists getting involved in finding solutions for environmental problems rather than just amplifying activists' messages.
"The artists are much more engaged in Pulau Plastic. It's a real collaboration. The concept, the script, the research – they're all done as a collaborative effort," she said.
Creative Learning Hub
NGOs harnessing the power of art isn’t anything new, but Kopernik and Navicula hope they can make it easier for other organizations to make their own creative collaborations.
"After Pulau Plastik, we will collaborate with more artists and filmmakers to bring local environmental and human rights issues to the world's attention and get more national, maybe international support," Wojkowska said.
Robi said ideally they would like to create "a hub for projects pairing data from research agencies, NGOs and academics with art as the medium."
He said historically Indonesians have always been open to learn new things through art. Islamic teachings, for example, were initially spread through wayang (shadow puppet) shows, and Hindu teachings through live performances of kidung (songs).
"We want to involve other people who have the same passion. To do that we have to practice what we preach, do it ourselves first," Robi said.