Sat, 26 Feb 2000

Monuments, statues in Jakarta simply a landmark

By Ida Indawati Khouw

Governor Sutiyoso's recent idea to build monuments to several national heroes on major streets in Jakarta sparks pros and cons. The following is a brief discussion about some of the distinguished Dutch colonial monuments, most of which have been destroyed, and those erected during Sukarno's presidency such as the "Seven-Up Man" in Pancoran and the "Pizza Man" in Senayan. This is the 27th article of a Saturday series about old and protected buildings in Jakarta.

JAKARTA (JP): Unlike many other big cities across the globe, statues and monuments in Jakarta -- after the Dutch colonial era -- are mostly placed at the roundabouts of busy thoroughfares.

Besides Monas (the national monument), the placement of most of the other monuments here prevent the public getting closer to learn who and what they are all about.

Jakartans and some tourists only know the monuments in this capital as landmarks for certain areas. Nothing else.

"For example, people realize that they are close to Pancoran area (South Jakarta) after seeing the giant Dirgantara statue there," said observer on city planning Bambang Eryudhawan from the Indonesian Young Architects.

During the Dutch occupation, Jakarta was once home to many artistic monuments and statues that had been placed in splendid public parks and gardens.

A few of the better known were the monuments of Jan Pieterszoon Coen and a lion at Lapangan Banteng, General Michels on Jl. Perwira and the Acheen monument at the Wilhelmina park, now used by the Istiqlal Grand Mosque.

A few years after Independence Day, the government -- under the order of former president Sukarno -- destroyed the historic properties, most of which were designed and erected to the taste of the Dutch.

"As far as I know, the only remaining statue from the colonial era is the Greek god Hermes in Central Jakarta," says archeologist Candrian Attahiyat, referring to the 95-year-old statue placed above the old Harmoni bridge near the Presidential Palace.

The statue, about two meters high, came to the attention of the media last year after it was found to be missing. The authorities then announced that the statue was not stolen but secured by a public works agency because it was so unstable it was feared it might topple.

According to Candrian, Sukarno's order to destroy all of the Dutch statues was reasonable because statues typically are designed for political purposes.

"I think the Hermes statue was not demolished because (in Sukarno's opinion) it's just an ornament of the city," he said.

He added that all of the precious Dutch historical objects had been totally destroyed. So, artifact hunters do not have to waste their time and money looking for them.

Sukarno's decision to destroy the Dutch statues and monuments in Jakarta confused many people because the first Indonesian president was widely known as a keen art lover.

"On one hand, he's well known as a person with great appreciation for the arts, but on the other hand, it was he who ordered the destruction of all Dutch colonial statues," scholar on old Jakarta Ridwan Saidi said.

Sukarno built at least eight monuments, some controversial, despite the economic hardship faced by the people.

According to sculptor Arsono, the eight monuments are Monas, Selamat Datang (Welcome) at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, Gajah Mada at the now National Police headquarters in South Jakarta, Irian Barat (now Papua) Freedom at Lapangan Banteng, Diponegoro at the Monas Square compound, Pahlawan -- better known as Pak Tani -- in Kwitang, Bahari on Jl. Gunung Sahari, and the Dirgantara at Pancoran.

Soeharto, who ruled the country for 32 years until May 1998, also enjoyed building statues and monuments although they are not as famous as those initiated by his predecessor.

One of the monuments erected during Soeharto's era was the Pemuda Membangun (youth building the nation) monument at the Senayan roundabout in South Jakarta.

Due to lack of information, the monument of a half naked man with a flaming plate raised in his hands, some people, particularly expatriates, refer to the monument as the "Pizza Man". Similarly the Dirgantara monument in Pancoran is called the "Seven-Up Man".

Arsono said that Sukarno's first ambitious monument project was the 132-meter-high Monas, which took the form of a phallus with flame on the top coated with 32 kilograms of pure gold, symbolizing Indonesia's courageous struggle.

Monas, which was inaugurated on Aug. 17, 1961, is located in a public square, called Koningsplein during the Dutch time.

"When Monas construction began, the site already had five soccer fields, a police station, a sports hall, and four parks, namely W.R. Supratman park, Amir Hamzah park, Chairil Anwar park, and Ronggowarsito park," said Arsono, who also was involved in the sculpting of many portrait statues during Sukarno and Soeharto terms.

Another sculptor, Edhie Sunarso, involved in the design of -- among others -- the Selamat Datang and Dirgantara monuments, recalled that Sukarno had to sell his private car, a Plymouth sedan, to finance the work at the Pancoran monument.

Edhi, interviewed by phone from his hometown in Yogyakarta, said the former president actually wanted the statue to depict a herculean Indonesia adventurer who's ready to fly into space.

Before the statue was in place, many proclaimed that the column (later used as footing for the adventurer), which has the shape of the number '7', represented a tool used to gouge out the eyes of Army generals killed in the abortive coup on Sept. 30, 1965, he said.

"Bung Karno then asked me to immediately place the statue on the top, but I told him that there was no money. He then ordered his subordinate to sell his Plymouth sedan to finance the project," he said.

The Pak Tani statue in Kwitang also drew controversy at the time since it was designed by Russian sculptors Matvei Menizer and his son Otto Menizer, who were invited by Sukarno after the latter's visit to Moscow in the 1950s.

Many interpreted the monument as a symbol of the spirit of the communists to arm their farmers.

Edhi admitted that many monuments in Jakarta portray a fierce face and muscular body of a man.

"They're designed to illustrate the struggle of the people," he said.

He also confessed that many of the faces of the monuments depict the face of one person, his.

"I made it by looking at my face in a mirror," he said.