• studied Architecture.

Veby Surya Wibawa (a.k.k. Vbi Djenggotten)

Every stroke and splash of ink is accounted.

While most artists started their love from a very young age, Veby’s experience was different. It was his wife (when they were still dating) who inspired and encouraged him to start making comics seriously. While most people back then were trying to imitate manga-style, Veby felt more comfortable with his own cartoon-style. Huge rounded head, using round shapes as hair, were Veby trademarks since this very first published work, Aku Ber-Facebook Maka Aku Ada. “I practiced every day, even for only one-two hours, to improve my techniques and in the search of my own style”, later he admitted.

Raised to adulthood in his home town made him close and intimate with local cultures. He was sensitive with local issues, such as education, social environment, urbanization, commercial trades, traditional market, and even local customs, and he took his observation to life in his work. Not just on his art, but also in the soul of each story he wrote. This was unique considering Veby had a degree as an architect, and have no formal background in cartoon art.

Aku Ber-Facebook Maka Aku Ada (I Existed Because I Do Facebook) in 2009 was an example. The title itself was inspired by “Cogito ergo sum”, a famous phrase by Descartes, the French philosopher. Social networking has become a phenomenon everywhere, including in Indonesia. It changed they way people communicate, and how people expressed their self actualization. Today everyone can promote themselves. We become the marketing people, and the product is ourselves. “Facebook is one of the many tools to fulfill the process in life. Not the life itself”, Veby commented when asked about his first title.

These were among the issues Veby made in his first published work. His observation wasn’t the first in the industry, but this book marked his first and already established signature. Starting from this title, readers will easily recognized that the art belonged to Veby.

If his first work was the observation on his environment, Married With Brondong (2010) could be considered his autobiography. Co-written with Mira Rahman, his wife, it looked back to the days when they first met. Some might think that this was just an ordinary memoir, but soon after finished reading it people would realized that the writers’ history could have happened to anyone. Veby took his point of view as being a younger husband than his wife (‘brondong’ is a slang term for much younger boyfriend or husband). It wasn’t an easy relationship as the tradition wouldn’t accept couples with a much younger husband.

“The situation (wife much older than the husband) is not the issue. It is the sacred will in marriage that matters, and how to meet the objective. This issue has been resolved in Islam some fourteen centuries ago, when The Prophet Muhammad married the much older Khadijjah”, Veby said.

It was clear that in the first two books Veby wanted to spread the meaning of Islam in a unique approach. He critized people who made social networking as their life and their media for self actualization. He shared his personal experience when the custom couldn’t accept life against their values. Veby wanted to open people’s mindset that Islam teachings were universal, and he believed comic art was the efficient and acceptable art to deliever the message. “Some non-Muslim readers really liked it and said the content was so up to date, and didn’t even see it exclusivity with Islam”, Veby shared the thoughts from some readers.

However it was his third book, The Prophet’s 33 Hadiths (2011), explicitly spread the teachings of Islam. He took the thousands of hadith notes by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim, chose 33 hadiths most relevant in daily activities, and adapted them into every day-familiar stories. Using his talents to make the hadiths more down to earth, he wrote fictions, based on experiences that could have happened to anyone, so people could understand them easier. Touching and well-narrated stories, funny dialogues, and cartoon art made this book his masterpiece.

It was also in The Prophet’s 33 Hadiths we could see that Veby have mastered his techniques and art. He completed his art with landscapes and settings, and still you recognized his works were so-Indonesia: the clothes, daily activities, slippers, transportation mode, house interior, buildings architecture, furnitures and households, batik and handicrafts, even traditional professions such as satay seller, pedicab driver, and pedestrian merchants. In short Indonesian ingredients could be seen in almost every page!

Can be this spread-the-Islamic-words Veby’s new epic adventure? Some parts of the world labelled Islam as anarchy and violence, and Veby wanted to share his thoughts for this misperception. He replied, “I hope I can transform Islamic values in a light and contextual way. I hope I can produce works that ‘clear all problems’, not making them more complicated, burn our emotions, and sharpen our hatred ...”

Surjorimba Suroto
Head of Curator, Comiconnexions
is the founder of www.komikindonesia.com, occasionally hosts Progressive Rock Radio, and he is a freelance writer of articles on music and comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Indonesien
September 2011

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