Balada Romi dan Basuki

This work is acquired by The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and has been part of the STEDELIJK BASE Collection.

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Artwork by

Agung Kurniawan


charcoal & soft pastel on paper

drawing collage, a total of 280 x 245 cm (15 pieces):
50 x 65 cm (14 pcs)
25 x 33 cm (1 pc)


Balada Romi and Basuki is not only a story of impossible love between two men from different religious background and cultures, but also illustrates the life aspects of  Indonesian society where the social tense strongly felt in their struggle to find a new balance in democracy, individual freedom and human rights issue. The work condemns the corrupt moral attitude and highlights not only existing discrimination, but moreover the desire to overcome religious and political and societal differences.


Once upon a time in Indonesia, there was a young but conservative muslim, named Basuki. Most of the time he felt lonely and frustrated, as his wife went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help earn some money for the young family. One day he met a sympathetic young man from West Timor, called Romi Fernandes Roi Timu, who worked as a motor cycles parking attendant. Although Romi too was poor and had difficult time to make the ends meet, he never complained and always looked happy. Romi’s positive attitude caught Basuki’s attention and soon he befriended him. Despite their different religious background (Romi was Christian, while Basuki was Muslim) they felt strongly for each other. Before long, they realised they were actually more in love with each other as their friendship not only emotionally deepened but also became carnal. Unfortunately, the young couple were caught by the conservative and religious villagers, who went on beating the men. Romi managed to escape the assault, but was convinced that Basuki was beaten to death by the violent mob. At night, sad and revengeful, he sneaked back to the village and set the houses ablaze. Big fire broke and burnt down many houses, including Basuki’s house. Little that he knew that Basuki was still inside his house, severely wounded but still alive. That night Basuki died tragically in the fire, as Romi watched from afar while the village reduced to ashes.