MISKAD KIDD: Blending Cultures
Miskad Kidd has been in the gym industry for almost 23 years and started his career in Indonesia before moving to settle in Tasmania in 2009. Since then Miskad and his wife, Eilish, have established Artgym, a boutique workout space bursting with colour, plant life and good vibes.
Miskad and Eilish have three children and, as Miskad explains, there were some cultural adjustments to be made on his behalf.
THE PIN. Can you tell us about your own childhood and where you grew up?
MISKAD KIDD. I was born in West Java, it’s around three or four hours from Jakarta. I finished my primary school, junior high school and high school there and then moved to Jakarta in 1990 for my Physical Education degree. I thought a Physical Education degree was absolutely right for me at that time. I thought I would be a P.E teacher in a school someday but once I got the degree I realised the salary was not good enough. The salary is probably enough for three weeks (out of four) if you’re very stingy. I’d studied five years for the degree and at the end could not earn enough to cover living costs so I thought ‘what should I do next?’ and turned to gyms.
In Jakarta there is a focus on fitness. Gyms are very popular because the population of Indonesia is very high, for a country that is much smaller than Australia. I have been working in gyms since 1993 and I love it.
When I was a little boy, there wasn’t much to do except for helping my parents and playing sports. I loved to play sports but my father didn’t like me to, he would say ‘Miskad, there are no good jobs in sport, so why you do it?’. But I loved it and after school I would be out playing soccer or volleyball or anything, then come home with dirty clothes. They would be angry and say ‘you didn’t listen’ and smack my butt [laughs]. I just loved sport though so I kept going and sometimes they would say, ‘you’re not going to get any dinner until you wash your own clothes’. So since I was a little child I have washed and ironed my own clothes. I think even now I am better in ironing and sewing than my wife Eilish because of that experience when I was younger in the village.
Was race and culture a topic your family discussed?
M. From what I remember, we never discussed it. It’s a very different culture in Indonesia. Dinner, lunch or breakfast, we would always take our own food and sit anywhere, there was no discussion about race or different cultures. We didn’t realise people came from different races all over the world because I lived in a small village and we only knew each other. I just never had that experience.
Do you recall when you became aware of race and different cultures?
M. I think it was when I started primary school. I had to walk a kilometre to get to school and there were more small towns along the way with different people, so I started to become aware of people of other colours. Chinese people were the first I knew and some of them were my friends so it was nothing to worry about. I think it was then that I started to realise there were different religions too.
When did you move to Australia?
M. December 23rd, 2009. I arrived at night at maybe quarter past nine.
That’s very precise!
M. I was surprised, even from the airplane, I said ‘is this night?’ and they said, ‘yeah, at quarter past nine it’s still bright’. I said ‘woah, 9.15 at night and it’s still bright, I feel like it’s daytime!’. That’s why I still remember.
Were there cultural differences that stood out?
M. I’ve been in the gym industry for a very long time. The gym I worked at in Indonesia was for mid to high financial background earners. Some of the guests were from different countries so I was used to being around different people. I didn’t feel like I was coming into a white country, I didn’t have that idea at all. I just thought ‘yep, this is Australia and most people are white’.
There are some differences in terms of the way of life, self-expression, particularly in politics, and the way children talk to adults and adults talk to children. In Indonesia if your parents tell you to go to your bedroom you go straight away, no discussion. Here, if I ask my daughter to go to her bedroom she will ask, ‘why daddy?’.
People also speak more freely here and that’s different to Indonesia. Especially if you are talking about politics, you think about who is behind you. That’s a big difference I can see here.
Do you think it’s possible to be completely colourblind in a relationship?
M. On the skin side, I never feel like Eilish is different to me. When I first met Eilish in Indonesia I never thought I would have her as my wife or go out with her. In my mind, and because of my culture, I knew I had to be responsible for my woman, in Indonesia the man is responsible. That was the only thing that made me say no, because I thought I could not afford the relationship.
So the man would have to pay for everything?
M. Yes, exactly. So in my head I thought ‘I’m only a gym instructor, it’s almost impossible to feed you!’. It was very strong in my mind. I thought it would be impossible because from an Indonesian cultural perspective, men should provide for all of the needs of his family.
Is it important to you that your children embrace all of their cultural heritage?
M. Yes, definitely. They come from two different cultures and I want them to know their roots. Both their Australian roots and Indonesian roots.
Is there advice you have given, or will give, to your kids about growing up with biracial and bicultural?
M. Back in Indonesia, most of the actors are mixed-race children, because they look slightly different. They are considered prettier and a lot of Indonesian people think they are the perfect combination. A lot of Indonesian people buy skin whitening creams, it’s crazy, because they think the whiter your skin is the better you are. I want my children to be humble and respect their root cultures. I don’t want them to think they are superior because they are half Australian. I just want them to be humble and accepting.
That idea of lighter skin being more beautiful, where do you think that comes from?
M. Most of our television [in Indonesia] comes from the US. So we’re into US types of beauty. When Western movies came to Indonesia people would say, ‘oh, look at them, they’re so pretty and good looking’. It is the movie standard of beauty.
Do you consider yourself more Indonesian now or more Australian?
M. I came here when I was 39 and I’ve just been in this country for the last seven years. I feel I am mixing. Sometimes I miss my big family back in Indonesia. I feel quite relaxed here and I enjoy living here. Yes, you have to work hard but not as hard as in Indonesia. Work there is just crazy.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about being in the skin you’re in, what would it be?
MISKAD KIDD. Blend with everything. If you go to Australia, try to blend. If you go to China, try to blend. That’s what my father used to say when I was younger. He used to travel from one island to another in Indonesia. He said if you want to get accepted in a community, try to blend with them. So you’re not separate, you’re just blending.
-This interview has been edited and condensed
Photo credit: Lucille Cutting