I first met Hana Madness at the discussion “Art Has Saved My Life”, led by two Indonesian art activists at the Rumah Sanur Creative Hub, Bali, in June 2019. The discussion was one of the forums of Ayo Ketemu! (Let’s Meet!), an innovative entrepreneurial, creative program for Indonesians with mental and physical disabilities. Hana spoke of utilising art as an alternative therapy to positively impact her healing processes concerning mental health issues.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffering from psychotic symptoms, Hana began investigating art in high school to help with stress and feelings of isolation caused by the ill-treatment and deteriorating family and school relationships. “I poured my energy into my journal, sketching, painting and writing my thoughts,” said the Jakarta-born activist named one of the “Top 10 Most Shining Young Indonesian Artists” in 2017.
In 2012, Hana began working as a professional artist and also took initial steps in voicing her experiences as someone challenged with mental health issues by using art to increase public awareness of mental health issues within various Indonesian media platforms. Participating in her first speech during a seminar, ‘Disability, Art Therapies, and the Street Art Connection,’ a prominent Indonesian newspaper interviewed her, with the story receiving national exposure. While this experience introduced a world of new opportunities, the consensus among the community and Hana’s family considered publicly discussing mental health issues as taboo.
“Slowly, my family and I realised that sharing my struggles and experience was positive as it made a huge impact on other people who were struggling with their mental health conditions, not only for the survivors but also their families and caregivers. This positivity inspired me to continue my activism,” Hana told me in an interview I conducted in 2020 during the pandemic when her activism became especially valuable for many city dwellers confined to home during the lockdown.
Hana’s vibrant paintings symbolise her mental health disabilities in playful simplified cartoon-inspired compositions that present distinct aspects and viewpoints of her experience that are accessible to children and adults. The images evolved from her doodles into a range of light-hearted individuals that speak directly to the audience. “My characters are spontaneous interpretations of all my feelings and the different emotional waves within me,” said Hana, born in 1992 in an economically marginalised area of the Jakarta metropolis.
Since 2012, Hana has participated in numerous discussions as a speaker and panellist, workshops, seminars, media events and exhibitions, raising her profile while also penetrating international boundaries. She has been working and collaborating with various people and organisations from diverse backgrounds, both in disability and non-disability, nationally and internationally. Hana also interacts with health professionals, youth, and adults suffering from mental health issues.
Hana has worked with famous brands and big companies such as Canon, ABC White Coffee and Marie Regal Biscuits. She has exhibited in Japan, South Korea, Australia, England and Indonesia. Hana’s second mini solo exhibition, ‘Embracing Vulnerability,’ was held at America Pacific Place, Jakarta April 2023 and presented a work exploring her experience with eating disorders, which she has battled for over a decade.
Some notable appearances have been an artist talk and performance representing “In Chains” film at “Tender Provocations, The Art of a Culture of Hope” at Kammerspiele Theater, Munich, Germany, in November 2018. A speaker on BBC World Service English about “How My Creative Practice Engages With Mental Health, February 2019 and as a delegate for IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program) supported by the USA Department of State, themed “Strengthening Mental Health Social Policies in the Post-pandemic Era” in Washington DC, Ohio, Texas, California-USA, February-March 2023.
“Seek professional help from either a psychologist or psychiatrist. Many counselling platforms can be done online as a first step in handling mental health. Join the mental health community forum where you can find support to share experiences with caregivers and people with lived experiences. BPJS services currently cover treatment for mental health, including counselling and hospitalisation.”
Hana offers her advice to those wishing to begin a regular art practice for the first time:
“It’s not about a person’s skills, talents, or results but rather about processes, emotions, states of mind, and our ability to communicate them. Dealing with the process will eventually shape and forge our abilities. It takes a consistent and persistent attitude, working until we achieve a target. Don’t be ashamed to publish your work and believe in yourself.”
“Just do it! If we don’t start, no standard can be exceeded when we want to do better work. Attend art exhibitions; often, they provide fresh ideas for our creative process.”
Follow Hana at @hanamadness on Instagram