Minggu, 12 Oktober 2014

The Harry Darsono Museum: Transforming ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) into Creation

The costumes (art to wear) for  Operas performance in London, 1973

This Museum tells a story about humanity, about a journey of a person who was almost aborted and prematurely born, diagnosed with ADHD that made him expelled from 6 different schools at age 9 and finally enrolled at a school for mute and deaf, but turned out to be a super-talented adult. He is known as a world class Haute Couture designer. He designed some of the late Princess Diana (Lady Di) of England dresses. He also designed most of the Princesses and the Queens in Europe and Asia. He earned Ph.D. in Humanistic Philosophy from Oxford, plays 6 musical instruments and composed number for piano and harp. 
He is overwhelmingly genius!

This museum tells about the journey of frustrations that turned into creations. All of this grandeur designs and extravagant collections are meant to show his humbleness in praising his Creator. And that the Creator has its own way to prove that everyone is precious, unique, doesn't need to be similar with others, and that ADHD and Autism are not a disease, but they are part of human development process for some.

For those who have a family member diagnosed with Autism and ADHD, I suggest you to visit this place. You may see that those with "special needs" probably need to be catered as a genius-to-be.

Harry's sketch for the late Princess Diana in 70's,
the dress that inspired by Marilyn Monroe's

Personally, as a fan of Baroque arts and music, I found this place as a heaven in Jakarta. I met Harry Darsono at a friend's birthday party and I was wearing black. When I visited the museum two days later, Harry Darsono said, "that (red) is the right color for you. Don't wear black too much in your age."

Enjoy the parade of pictures. *NH*

With ADHD, he had difficulties to transmit what he felt into his brains then to his speech. But once it's all transmitted, it transmits at the same time that caused implosion inside his brains that made him tend to hurt himself, frustrated for his inability to deliver them in speech.
He found his therapy in thread. He played with threads and did some experiments with them.
This picture was made of 87 needles with different color in each needle, to channel his frustrations when he was 14 years old. 
this dress is made of 2 millions thread knots
with different color of threads

Some of the collections in the museum. It's a display of gifts from the world leaders, namely Emperor Akihito of Japan, Margaret Thatcher of England, etc.

Harry Darsono and I with piano that once belongs to Chopin

One of Diana's dress, before she married to Prince Charles

This tiara was once belong to Princess Diana. Harry bought three of Diana's tiaras at Christie's and he allowed me to try one of them 

Minggu, 16 Maret 2014

On Breastfeeding: Is it Supposed to be a Private Act?

I started my Sunday morning by checking the news online while my daughters were still sleeping. This morning I stumbled upon this news and couldn't help but pump my fist and shout "YES!"
I was glad that finally thousand of moms and supporters went to the street in the U.K. and protested against those who are against nursing in public places. The mission of the protest was "about making mums feel comfortable and not ashamed of doing it", said Emily Slough, who was called a 'tramp' when her recent breastfeeding photo, which was taken and posted anonymously, spread online. 

I have always been annoyed by the opinion that breastfeeding should be a private act. Back in 2011 I was furious when I read an article from a local Buffalo (New York) newspaper written from a misogynistic and narrow-minded viewpoint by a male columnist. He was bothered by a mom who was breastfeeding in a cashiers line in a superstore when her baby cried and suggested that this woman should go to a nearby toilet and breastfeed there.

I have three points to make about this article. First, if someone like the the man above was bothered, why did he look? Second, do you want to eat your lunch in the toilet, mister? Third, as a (supposed) intellectual, who has a permanent column in the biggest paper in town, at least he should be able to see the problem from the bigger picture; that is, instead of blaming the mom, blame the policy that does not encourage public buildings to provide nursing rooms.  That was my comment to him in a public forum. In private, I mumbled to myself and thought that this man either had no idea of his mom's struggle while nursing him or he probably never had this privilege and was fed by formula. We'll never know. 

If you are a mother who breastfeeds your children according to the baby's biological clock, not yours, you understand that the baby cannot wait. If we, as adults, resist eating our meals in rest rooms, so should a baby. It is about basic hygiene. 

Yes, I can be very harsh to those who feel "disgust" about breastfeeding in public. 

I breastfed my three daughters until they were 2 years old starting in year 2000. The first message I heard from our first visit to a pediatrician in one of the prestigious private hospitals in Jakarta was, "do what the kampong (village) moms do, nurse the baby whenever they need to".

In order to make that kind of commitment, my husband and I were agreed to exclusively breastfeed our newborn until they were 3 months old and continue, if possible, until they were two years old, even though I had to quit the job I loved. I brought my children wherever I went: to meetings, to the classroom when I was working on a Masters degree, to social events, etc., and, of course, I still breastfed my children whenever they were hungry. Having to breastfeed in public (restaurants, cafes, an international airport and even at a Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant) was part of it.

Thank God, no one cared and asked me to go to the toilet!

And thankfully, in 2003, our favorite mall in Jakarta provided a nursing room like the one in this picture. Moreover, nursing rooms are now available in most of malls, shopping centers,  hypermarkets, and in some bus stations in Indonesia. 

sink is out of picture on the left side
Beautiful images and paintings celebrating life and breastfeeding

So, you know why I supported breastfeeding in public. I have been there and done that from 2000 to 2006. The reasons for breastfeeding using the kampong style (breastfeed whenever and wherever the baby needs) is to provide the best nutrition the baby can get, to build the mom-baby bond, to help heal the post-partum wound quickly, to help lessen the pain from breast-swelling and most importantly, breastfeeding is a celebration of life (men....you have no idea what a mom and baby go through for  9 months). 

But then, how and why has breastfeeding become a shameful act in public? 

Shifting Discourse on Breastfeeding

In an article on shifting discourses of motherhood, it is said that in the mid-1800s, breastfeeding the baby became a central measure of your worth as a mother in the Caucasian tradition.  Cultural constructions of femininity became highly centered on motherhood and the special bond between a mother and her children in the Victorian era.

Yet, within decades, American women suddenly seemed to lose the ability to adequately feed their babies, ironically just as infant formula hit the market. Doctors continued to push breastfeeding but cultural perceptions changed, and with them the social construction of femininity. Rather than being a symbol of maternalism, breastfeeding seemed incompatible with femininity or, specifically, with white upper-class femininity. Breastfeeding didn’t mesh well with the idea of a delicate, refined white woman; it was too animal-like, too uncivilized. As Lepore relates, by the early 1900s, a study in Boston found that 9 out of 10 poor mothers breastfed, but only 17% of wealthy mothers did.
By the 1950s, only 20% of mothers nursed their children. Then, ideas about motherhood changed once again. Suddenly, comparatively privileged, white women were drawn to movements that advocated breastfeeding.  And so continued the ongoing cultural debate over breastfeeding, motherhood, and proper femininity. During this time, when formula came under scrutiny, mothers reclaimed their rights to breastfeed regardless of the space and place.

Even though nursing in public is legal in forty five states in the U.S., it seems that society still has a hard time accepting this as a normal act. The Huffington Post has reported over a dozen incidents of moms who were shamed for breastfeeding in public places such as Target, Applebees Hollister, in the vitual place Facebook, etc. Even a Pastor compared a mother to a stripper when she nursed in a church in Atlanta.  In New York, a couple was removed by police from a country club when the wife breastfed their child. This one is went too far. As if asking a nursing mom to leave or to nurse the baby in the restroom was not enough, this case involved law enforcers and guns! 

In the midst of the struggle for rights, a breath of fresh air comes from Pope Francis who now allows breastfeeding in his Sistine chapel. Pope Francis is an advocate of breastfeeding (in public places)  by saying "If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice...because they are the most important people here."

Breastfeeding is also widely accepted socially and legally protected in many countries. In Indonesia, India, France, the Netherlands, and Norway breastfeeding in public is not protected by law but widely accepted. In Australia, breastfeeding in public is a right for Australian women, protected by the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984. Taiwan is probably the most progressive country on this issue. Through The Public Breastfeeding Act, since November 2010 the country safeguards the right to breastfeed in public and has consistently set up nursing rooms in public areas for access to hot water and power, in addition to those who needs privacy. The Taiwanese government fines those who interfere with the right to breastfeed. 

And for those who feel gross or disgusted or feel that breastfeeding in public entails indecent exposure, I cite the lyrics of Anggun C. Sasmi in her song In Your Mind, "There's nothing wrong with this.....It's all in your mind". 

Jumat, 20 September 2013

What I Learned From My 8-year Old Daughter: Dealing with an Out-of-place Body

My daughter loves school. She wakes up in the morning and takes a shower before going to school because she believes in cleanliness. She read somewhere (or maybe I told her) that a wet head from showering gives her brain 40% more capacity than a dry head. Right at 8:15 a.m., she leaves for school with her sister and comes back at 3:05 p.m. She does homework every night and, if she is asked to write sentence, she will write a paragraph.

However, she recently came home disappointed. She became easily angry and frustrated, resisted doing homework, and said she would be very happy if she could take a day off from school. As the semester went last spring, everyone was too busy to ask what changed her.

When the summer break began, I had a chance to take a walk with her alone during a beautiful, warm evening. While we were enjoying the misty air from watered grass and sprinklers around the neighborhood, Brenna said, “Some people are so lucky to have a skinny body, blonde hair, and easily make friends. Life is easy for them.” I asked her why she thought that way. Then she said, “People just don’t like me. I never get invited to a birthday party while everyone in my class is invited. If I asked the about that, they would say…’Oh Brenna, my home is small so we cannot invite other people’. Or, ‘Oh Brenna, I am out of invitation cards. I know they lied’.”

I stopped walking, bent down on my knees so I could be the same height as her to look into her eyes. I could see accumulated disappointment but no emotions, as if she tried her best to appear tough and strong. I felt bad because I may have contributed to that horror too.

After a while, we sat down at the front steps to our house and continued the conversation. I never had given myself time to visit her feelings and emotions. I took everyday life for granted, while now I was shocked to find out how my little girl had been struggling with her being for so long, and she had been so strong.

Brenna is tall for her age. She is 4’7” and weighs 140 lbs., while what is considered “normal” height and weight for an 8-year old girl, according to standard health charts, is 3’8” and 55 lbs. Yes, she is tall and heavy compared to her classmates, so she appears to be “not normal”. Some of her classmates deliberately said that she does not belong there, while their fingers sometimes touch and try to flatten Brenna’s tummy. Paradoxically, being big does not make her more visible but it causes her to feel more invisible and disrespected, as if such an invisible big body is available to be abused, mocked or bullied.

Brenna, my 8-year old dear daughter, is living in what Puwar (2004) calls an “out-of-place body”, a body that does not belong to an 8-year old girl, a body that does not belong to a classroom filled with “normal” bodies.

The body and the classroom, both have never been neutral spaces, but constructed. The body has always been constructed through social and political practices as gendered (being male/female), racialized (white/black/Asian/Hispanic, etc.), able/disabled, normal/abnormal, and so on; while space itself (like the classroom) is imbued with history and meaning, where certain bodies are naturally entitled to certain spaces and others are not. The clear example is community segregation in city of Buffalo where East Side seems "naturally" to be inhabited by Black and/or lower class communities, while West Side seems belong to the White or middle-upper class. The white middle class will be perceived as out-of-place if living in East side of the city. So does a classroom under the school health regime, a second grade classroom is entitled to students with “normal size” bodies for 8-year olds but not for the tall and overweight student.

Of course, we understand that the discourse of the body cannot be separated from the discourse of power. Power here does not necessarily refer to a ruler but also to the dominant regime and social/peer control (biopower) in the classroom. In the Victorian era rules about the distribution of fat were strictly defined for aesthetic reasons; while in the present time fat has become an enemy that does not belong to the body (in other words, fat is an out-of-place entity in the body) and is defined under the health regime through the standard of the body mass index. The latter is still a little bit arbitrary because weight which falls below the BMI standard is more acceptable than for those whose weight falls above the BMI standard. In other words, being skinny or underweight is acceptable, or even celebrated, in juxtaposition to the overweight.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that we have to maintain a proper distribution and quantity of fat in the body (our body needs fat at some level) but it is not necessary to define health solely based on weight. What I don’t understand is—why is it difficult to understand that some people may have different body functions and genetic makeup that makes them bigger than others? In Brenna’s case, she is a healthy child with no history of allergies or serious medical problems. Her body may be “abnormal” according to the BMI but she is among the few American kids who are free from medications.

Unfortunately, her body has become the center of attention not only among her peers but also for the school nurse who called me asking questions about the food I provided at home and the fact that Brenna has become the object of NIH-funded medical behavioral research. Of course, I felt offended when considering that I am one of few mothers in the United States who still cooks from scratch and uses natural herbs and ingredients for food which fulfills the need for protein, carbs, and vitamins. Easy-to-fix food or canned vegetables, or ready to use ginger or garlic in a jar is a big NO and microwaveable food is only for emergency consumption. Because of that, the weight of my other two daughters is normal.

If I feel annoyed by the accusation that I am “ignorant” of the children’s diet, how does Brenna feel when people think that her body is a result of her ignorance and that she deserves to be mocked and bullied? I am glad that she expressed her curiosity about being excluded from birthday parties. I am glad that she addressed her concerns with me. I am also glad that she is not just being quiet and accepting the bullying. I write this because adults, especially educators in the school system, have a lot to learn from her experiences too. 

P.S: I posted the link to this article, and here are the responses I received: 

2Like ·  · Promote · 
  • Nizar Faddiliah Ugh, that is why maybe I love school back home; those mean kids are everywhere, but you know, the kids back home aren't that mean - I don't know now tho.
  • Dave Krismartanto Pam Sari Thank you so much for sharing this mba Nuning.
  • Stacy Cano I'm so sorry Brenna is having to go through something like this. Thankfully she has a mom like you to help her along the way. She also has a family that loves her very much. Please give Brenna a big hug from us here in CA.
  • Dadang Rahmat very cute,..
  • Ambar Mbakyu Jinem Briastuti mbak nuning. recently we (me and hubby) had conversation about child obesity. we tried to not look at life style that contribute the overweight children. we related with many factors including genetics. i do believe if our children already has health problem related with wieght, her genetic will alter and she may suffer for the rest of her life. again the BMI indicator is not the only one way to see if our children off the chart already. but body fat and daily activities are the main things.
  • Jaeny Desjardin well, Brenna is a smart girl and she's lucky to have you as a Mom, she'll be grow to be a strong and a smart girl like her mom, I'm sorry that she has to go through those bullying situation, but like I said she's a smart girl and she will be OK because you're always be there for her.
  • Wei Zhao people should not judge a girl based on her body. Brenna is a very smart and nice girl. She distinguished from herself on others, such as school (especially being accepted by GT class). the ones ,who judge her and her parents are truly ignorant.
  • Brenna Hallett thanks guys that's very touching to me
  • Jaleel Thottoli fantastic and good experience
  • Keely Hallett Morales I'm proud of you for writing this an addressing the negative behavior brenna has experienced. So many children out there experience bullying but don't have to guidance to get through it. I blame parents....not social media or magazines...parents! Children only learn what they know from parents. Sure there are kids who are easily influenced by society, but if parents would just pay more attention to their children, like you do, they wouldn't fall prey to the negative influences of society. Maybe I am really naive about this, but in theory it makes sense. I was raised to respect all people and to treat others how I want to be treated....simple!!! Brenna, you are smart, BEAUTIFUL, fun, and kind. You have so many people that love you. It's a cruel world sometimes, even when you're older, but knowing who you are is what really matters. We love you bunches kiddo!!
  • Yuanita Amarien Brenna, stay strong and be true to yourself. At least, you'll learn who your friends are.. The ones who accept you just the way you are, not the way you look.. Hugs..
  • Nuning Hallett Thanks everyone for your support against bullying. As Nizar Faddiliah said, I didn't remember I grew up knowing that people can be that rude (bully). This situation is totally unfamiliar for me until I learned from Brenna. 
    I wrote this a couple month ago, but decided to publish after Brenna wrote this to school Principal: 

    "Dear Mrs. Kosis,
    I had trouble in this school for 1,5 years. On 9/20/2013 I had two boys in my class. 1st at gym, the two boys try to trip me and my whole class on the track, then after gym it was snack time and the boy, Yousif, in my class spit in my Cheeze-It bag so I had nothing to eat and when I was walking down the stairs the 2nd boy, Hassan, let everybody walk down the stairs except me. He just pushed me and hit me on my thigh. 

    P.S.: Your school student, Brenna Halett."
  • Endang Utari Oh No, Brenna fellow students already go too far. Brenna is a strong and smart girl. Hope the School Principal would do something to stop this kind of bullying. Please give sweet Brenna my big hugs and kiss.
  • Lingga Kartika Suyud What a smart girl, Brenna for standing up to those who give you trouble by taking it to the principle. Hope things will be better for you and anyone else. You've got character sweetie and that is what those boys don't have. Looks will fade and one day you will meet true friends who love you because you are who you are. Your character will live on. You are awesome kiddo! ^.^
  • Renny Damayanti Mallon When I was a kid, I witnessed this myself, it happened to me and my friends. I decided to stand up for myself, I won't let them do that to me. Just like a brave Brenna, I talked to the teachers and I faced them. One example, I hate Lizard, some of my classmates gather around and brought Lizard and one of them was holding it very close to my face and he intended to put the lizard on my face, instead of crying, out of nowhere my gut told me to be brave and face them and the lizard. I took the lizard from his hand throw the lizard back to him, I even had fist fights with the boys on some occasions and still many other things. But then, when they failed to bully me repeatedly, It turned around 180 degree and I became the leader of the class. Brenna, many people love you and support you. Proud of you to be brave and stand up for yourself. Indeed, You are an an awesome kid! 
  • Jaleel Thottoli Really good experience
  • Lily Wagner I am so sorry to hear about the bullying experiences that Brenna had to go through or still going through in school. That is really sad to hear. It must be hard for you Mbak Nuning to hear that from your own child. I know we heard cases of bullying fro...See More
  • Robert Lewis She is a very brave and beautiful young lady. My daughter also experienced similar issues in school in northern Virginia. She used it to strengthen her self and is on a path to mentoring other young ladies. You go girl!
  • Donna Morse-Johnson It is tough to come up against a bully. I no longer keep it in my memory bank. I got rid of it a few years back. It took a long time. Karma . . . trust me.