The Siren Sea
Gevi Noviyanti (Indonesia)

Indonesia, as an archipelagic nation, should be intimately familiar with the sea; in fact, the ocean serves as a connector between the surrounding islands. However, people have turned their backs on the sea for too long. The sea is no longer seen as the center of life.

In some areas, the ocean is even treated as the final dumping ground for the remnants of life on land. The younger generation is becoming increasingly unfamiliar with life at sea. Yet, our ancestors have long reminded us of how they lived harmoniously with the sea, as sung in a song.

There is a popular children's song in Indonesia called "Nenek Moyangku Seorang Pelaut," which means "My ancestor was a sailor." Returning to the narrative of the song, Nova Ruth (a musician from Malang, Indonesia) has a mission to communicate a message to people through her music and her ship (Arka Kinari), underscoring that the sea is a vital component of Indonesia as an archipelagic nation. The sea is a source of life for many and must be preserved and cared for. Through her music performances, she invites people to become more acquainted with the sea and ships. She also delves into her own ancestry, rooted in the Bugis tribe known for their skilled sailors. Moreover, in her performances, she addresses the environmental damage in our surroundings. She hopes to raise awareness about this issue because there can be no music on a dead planet.

In 2020, Nova and her husband sailed their ship from Rotterdam to Indonesia, a journey that took one year. Upon reaching Indonesia, Nova continued her journey to the small islands in eastern Indonesia to carry out her environmental and cultural mission. Two yearsafter sailing in the waters of Indonesia, at the end of 2023, she continued her journey towards Australia with the same mission. "If you are always afraid of the sea, you will never know what issues are happening there and won't know what changes need to be made," she says.

Nova Ruth's journey aboard her ship, Arka Kinari, sailing the seas, not only raised awareness for herself and others about the deteriorating condition of the Earth but also provided her with numerous lessons as someone living at sea. The journey she undertook not only transformed her physically into a more robust individual but was also a transformative experience that changed her perspective on living.

The sea, like a mother, constantly advises her through the waves on every journey. The sea teaches her many things, urging patience, advocating for a slower pace of life while still moving forward to effect change. The sea serves as a medium to trace the footsteps of her ancestors, belonging to the Bugis tribe, who lived close to the sea, even though several generations have passed since then.

As a woman photographer with a background in Ethnomusicology, I want to support her (women supporting women) because the work she does is challenging. Female sailors are rare in Indonesia, and there are also a limited number of women musicians who focus on environmental issues. With this project, I aim to record how the musician's interactions or responses to the environment in which they live or work will influence the songs they create.


Gevi Noviyanti is a photographer from Indonesia based in Cirebon and Yogyakarta. Her work is recognized for delving into the realms of culture, society, and art, with a particular focus on gender-related issues, especially those affecting women and vulnerable groups. Additionally, her academic background includes a degree in ethnomusicology, which reflects her passion for music. In 2023, one of her projects was chosen for exhibition at the Jakarta International Photo Festival.