Kai Mata


Photo: Jussi Virkkumaa

Recently honored as the 2024–2025 Joint Engaged Artivist Award winner for Atrocity Prevention and Human Rights, Kai Mata is an Indonesian LGBTQ+ activist with a commitment to using music as a powerful medium to spotlight queer rights, women’s empowerment, and minority visibility in Indonesia.

Kai Mata’s trajectory as a leading voice in Indonesia’s queer liberation movement solidified with their public protest against a 2020 bill advocating conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ Indonesians. The attention garnered from their public declaration and the resonant song “Her” propelled them to speak and perform on global stages. Renowned for turning hateful commentary into celebratory pride anthems, Kai Mata’s performances intricately weave narratives of Indonesia’s queer past, present discrimination, and a vision for an inclusive future. With a discography of eighteen pride anthems amassing over 4.5 million online streams, they have become a vocal force for change and inclusivity.

As Kai Mata embarks on the Saari Residence, their focus extends beyond the well-established narrative of their biography. This transformative period is an opportunity to find a profound creative flow and engage in a process-based artistic journey. The primary goal is to compose an album that celebrates Indonesian LGBTQ+ identities, with a unique emphasis on Dangdut—the country’s popular music genre. They aim to reach audiences beyond the scope of academia and ethnomusicologists, utilizing celebratory, contemporary musical composition to connect with the public at large with pride as the main vessel for protest.

Anticipating the serene and inspiring environment of Saari, Kai Mata’s expectations for the residency include unlocking new layers of their storytelling. Beyond the conventional artistic endeavor, the residency is viewed as an opportunity for introspection and the cultivation of a creative space conducive to the profound exploration of identity and expression.

Through the Saari Residence, Kai Mata envisions contributing not only to their own artistic evolution but also to the broader conversation around queer history, identity, and celebration. The transformative journey at Saari embodies the spirit of discovery, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of mission-based artistic excellence within a supportive and nurturing environment.