Indonesia's Technicolour Dream Town Holds the Secret of Happiness
"If a space makes us feel happy, we will be able to do more productive and positive things" - how having a space you enjoy can increase your happiness
I want you to think about the space you live in. In your mind, picture your bedroom—the different textures, shapes, and colours. Is the floor carpeted, keeping your toes cosy, or do the cool wooden floorboards creek as you traverse the room? Maybe there are clothes strewn all over the floor, and you fall over them every time you drag your tired feet towards your bed.
Do you enjoy the space you've created? Does it give you what you need it to? Be that relaxation, solitude from the outside world, or simply a room with a bed you can fall into at the end of a long day.
Now I want you to think about how you interact with the space. How often do you maintain it? Do you value the space enough to pick up yesterday's socks and keep your books arranged in their place on the shelf? When was the last time you hoovered, or painted the walls?
If you enjoy a space, are you more likely to want to preserve it. We take pride in that which we enjoy, making maintenance that little bit easier, and excited to invite our friends.
The Village at the End of the Rainbow
Until a few years ago, the village of Jodipan was a slum, located on the riverbank in the city of Malang, Indonesia. With buildings collapsing in on themselves, narrow alleyways, and litter everywhere, the village was in a state of disrepair.
Following an assignment brief, a group of eight students from the Muhammadiyah University of Malang decided to take action, and began an unusual social outreach project. Instead of the traditional fundraising and humanitarian aid provided to people living in poverty, the students decided to use art to combat the issue. The students wanted to clean up the slum and change the residents attitude to sanitation, who often dumped their garbage into the murky river, which traces a line through the middle of the village. Drawing inspiration from the colourful houses of the Favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the students decided to paint the village houses in vibrant rainbow colours.
As well as the new, positive attitude to maintenance the villagers would gain, the new colourful houses would turn what was a run-down ramshackle of hillside shacks, into a haphazard maze of rainbow houses, that would hopefully generate tourist interest.
Follow the Rainbow Brick Road
Over 30 tonnes of paint was donated to the clean-up effort, and from June 2016 onwards the village's residents, artists and military volunteers all participated in transforming the village's narrow streets into a rainbow fantasy world, plucked straight from a Dr. Seuss book. Over 100 houses were painted, along with the paving stones, staircases and the bridge connecting the two sides of the village.
The Colours Increased Happiness
According to Anies Baswedan, a governor for the Indonesian city of Jakarta, when these colourful villages succeed in creating happiness, people's productivity also increases. Campaigning for more villages and towns to be painted in a similar way, Basdewan says:
"If the village makes us feel happy, we will be able to do more productive and positive things".
The simple act of cleaning up and painting the walls gave the people of Jodipan a sense of pride in their hometown, and that gave them the motivation to maintain the village, as well as making them more productive in their daily lives.
The transformed village now attracts many thousands of visitors and locals often subsidise their income by selling food and drink to visitors to the village. Visitors to these vivid streets are often seen taking photographs on the colourful stairways and against the pastel pink and blue walls. The hashtag #jodipan has almost 60k posts on Instagram.
Following the success of this project, ten more colourful villages have been commissioned all over Indonesia, in hope of achieving a similar economic outcome and positive effect on residents.
The story of this tiny town shows that if we value the space we've been given, we're more likely to want to maintain it and welcome people in, inviting them to enjoy the space too.
If you don't have a space you enjoy, then get creative. Buy a can or six of paint, and watch your productivity and happiness increase, much like the residents of Jodipan.
L O O K C L O S E R—Want To Go?
If you're drawn to these technicolour dream towns but can't make it as far as Indonesia or Brazil, visit the marvellous villages on the Almafi Coast of Italy, or Morocco's turquoise blue village of Chefchaouen.
Even here in the UK, head to Bristol to see the Banksy street art and hundreds of other murals dotted around the city, or even just the colourful houses that line the hills surrounding the harbour.
Portmeirion is another fantastical dream town. This surrealist Italian style village in North Wales, overlooking the dramatic Welsh coastline is just as impressive. Featured in
Even in the the often grey London, seek out Neal's Yard, near Covent Garden, and stop in one of the coffee shops and watch the chefs emerge for a cigarette just before dinner service begins.