Tag Archives: Conservation

The end of creole in Southeast Asia


The Portuegese-based creole in Southeast Asia took its last breath as the last generation of passive speakers in Kampung Tugu, home-village of a small, local community of Portuegese descent down from 15th century Portuegese settlers in Indonesia called Mardijkers, were gone without passing the specific language ability to the surviving generation.

Considered the degenerate version of the language of origin, most creoles that used to flourish in the newly discovered lands during the European age of discovery have become extincted one another.

Apart from the diminutive status in the now widely independent nations, the shrinking numbers of the community compared to the indigenous peopulation have naturally forced them to utilize localities, as such in the official language of a particular educational system.

Following the extinction of the recorded creole usages in Indonesia, such as in Flores – a chain of islands whose name derived from Portuguese in the Cape of Flower – the descendants of freed VOC slaves or armies in Kampung Tugu, one of the oldest villages in Jakarta, is in an imminent stage to a complete assimilation with Indonesian population.

A foreign report from 1980s even claimed the creoles in Southeast Asia had extincted.

In regard of geography and history, ethnic diversity forms the genesis of Indonesia. Although the goal of a sovereign state around the world is based on the creation of common grounds, such as shared ideology, commitment to human rights, or, the most practical one, lingua franca, the flourishing idea in peace time arguably promotes the value of diversity.

Anthropologist Abdul Rachman Patji lamented that the extinction of Portuguese creole in Indonesia undermines national identity in respect of multi-ethnicity.

However, the unification of national educational system, particularly in the way of practicing Bahasa Indonesia as national language, besides the notable indoctrination of Pancasila as national ideology following the national independence in mid 50s, has defined the national identity among today’s 230 million population and counting up.

On why decreolization does not occur in Indonesia like in Haiti, or English-based creole in Jamaica, to an extent that there is a distinguishing term “bad English” among the lower class people, perhaps the answer is not simply the domination factor in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Politics of language

Creole was a practical solution in bridging communication gap between people of different origins. It might have evolved from pidgin as another tool of communication in trade, used more frequently in daily lives for a century or so out of spontaneity but cut out and withered away because it lacked formal structure.

Nevertheless, the imposed official language by colony master likewise lost almost all of its lexical form in Indonesia.

Perhaps it is too naive to say that politics influences the demise of a language.

Gereja Tugu
Standing at the center of Tugu Village, Gereja Tugu, built in 1676, was and still has been a meeting point for the residents’ activities. The Portuegese ancestors, to which the Dutch imposed Protestantism, had managed to pass on non-tangible tradition Rabo-Rabo or Christmas in English, a religious celebration by a third of world population but with distinction in the way they dance the whole night through playing Keroncong Tugu, blending Western and Malayan band instruments.

Bogor Heritage Run 2015

Bogor Heritage Run 2015

The 6-kilometer Bogor Heritage Run, which saw over 1500 participants on Sunday, 19 April, promotes cultural heritage sites in Bogor, West Java, and raises awareness to preserve such priceless city assets, said the host Panorama Events.

Not only the residents benefited specifically, but also the tourism sector in general, Bima Arya Sugiarto, who despite having admitted some shortcomings in running the first-held running event, planned to increase its prestige to international level.

The run for city conservation

It successfully attracts many national athletes, foreign guest runners, and IDR50 million in public donation for conservation project. But if the mayor walks the talk, the running venue needs better sterilization from the traffic to meet the standard in running events and for the sake of the fun element.

Before taking part in the run, he accompanied the Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, among other governmental figures, in the opening ceremony at the start line in the city center’s top point of interest, the 40-hectare Bogor Botanical Garden.

The run across historic places of Bogor

A large pack of professional runners lead the run, taking the route around the city garden, passing a number of celebrated cultural sites such as Bogor Palace, the 1894 laboratory-turn Zoology Museum of Bogor, Dhanagun Buddhist Temple, the post office, the town hall, Zoologi Museum, and the welcoming symbol near the city entrance, the Kujang Monument, before finishing at the Hotel 1O1 Bogor Suryakancana in the old Chinatown.

Bigger number of runners from all walks of life, and at all age, followed. They had to find the oxygen in the carbon-emission air, and they had to find a way between the crammed traffic along the narrow roads to keep in the race. Nevertheless, the run remained, to some degrees, fun.

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Chinese Chamber of Commerce office George Town

Chinese Chamber of Commerce, George Town
On one hand, preserving old building brings a big return from tourism sector. Yet conservation cost aside, it actually pays a hefty price in the land scarcity needed to make way for economic development of bigger size and population. Is it worth it?

Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s branch office in Penang, Malaysia, dated back in 1928, at the decline of Qing dynasty and the rise of Nationalist movement in China, is one of the examples of Chinese preserved buildings overseas.

More than just protecting the site amid the modernisation—as seen across the block—conservation of such buildings in Penang, is a guarantee for indefinite time.

Penang has also preserved a number of Chinese ancestral temples.

This is an extraordinary commitment considering that keeping old buildings is inefficient as low-density offices cost space. Especially in a town that sits on a small island, separated by a strait from the rest of the country, space is extremely limited.

What the commerce says about conservation

High-rise buildings have in the past few decades slowly scraping the skies of Penang, keeping up with demand for space. But supplying office space within these low-density old buildings deserves a praise.

This is part of the solution to ensure continuous growth for commercial and tourism sector, although economic gains to land value ratio does not look too good.

In Singapore, for instance, the policy favors land reclamation, while the city administration in Jakarta compromises the protection of heritage sites for the sake of supplying new, high-density office spaces. In many ways, however, it is hardly that each cases be compared.

Han Awal’s conservation architecture

Han Awal Han Awal is fascinated by the way architecture conveys local wisdom as to what he discovered on his trip from Ise Shrine in Japan to Wae Rebo village in Flores, Indonesia. Wood material has the least durability, yet the indigeneous civilization rebuilt it, consequently forming a tradition.

Conservation was a principle he ignored until the late 1960s.

No less of an architecture works

In 1963 he laid out a nihilistic plan to rebuild the old town in Jakarta, a project he thanked god it never materialized.

Despite the common perception that conservation is a lesser work of architecture because nothing new is created besides patchworks, the person who had an interest in anthropology as a student rebuked this view by stating that this principle requires background research on social aspects such as history.

It is a process to earn wisdom, the one he valued most throughout his career.

The beginning of Han Awal’s conservation works

Grabbing more attention in national architecture scene ever since he designed the Atma Jaya Catholic University, located at Jakarta’s top central business district, decades ago, the recognition he received went far beyond as he started to focus on conservation architecture.

Some of the most prominent historical buildings in Jakarta, such as Jakarta Cathedral, Museum Bank Indonesia, and the National Archive Building owe the meticulous conservation projects to him, viewed as part of Indonesia’s second batch of architects following the Indonesian-born Dutch architects such as Henri Maclaine Pont who designed the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).

Amid the fading hope in the eyes of many when the talks circles around preserving the persistently decaying old structures in Jakarta, he is adamant on his optimistic view that there is still hope. And he reminds us that there are many than thought who would shed the light.

Penangkapan Diponegoro restoration


The forty grand dollars worth of restoration made way to Raden Saleh’s three paintings. The 1857 realistic painting Penangkapan Diponegoro implies pejorative meaning towards the Dutch colonials.

A masterpiece by the first indigenous professional painter Raden Saleh, the Capture of Diponegoro in its various versions always embody the prestige of Indonesian art.

It is the glorification of “fall from grace” theme.

It is now the most celebrated Indonesian historical artwork, but repairing the damage done after being displayed for several decades in State Palace suggests a mistreatment at the hands of our own.

The patron of Indonesian old masters

The first president of Indonesia Soekarno was an art patron at the time when Indonesian art and aesthetics barely received world recognition.

His pride of Indonesian artisans went to a point that he appointed state palace official painters such as Basuki Abdullah, and later, Chinese-Indonesian painter Lee Man Fong, whose artworks were displayed in the state palace to make it more like Soekarno’s private art gallery.

The succeeding regime changed much of what the walls in state palace looked like. Many paintings were tossed away, like paintings by Henk Ngantung, a painter-turned-governor of Jakarta in 1964-1965, or carelessly kept in the humid storage room.

Half a century later, Lee Man Fong’s paintings are consistently fetched at exorbitant price at international auctions, arguably the most expensive name among Southeast Asia painters.

Currently it is reported that there are over 20 priceless surviving collection there, which are in talks between government agencies to be exhibited in National Gallery.

Hopefully the public gets the lesson beyond the mere exhibition, a lesson that can turn our attention such as to Henk’s scattered paintings, which his widow had to sold to make a living. The ones yet to be sold face a far more severe condition.

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
Pelicans at the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park is one of the most protected natural habitats in Australia classified as Class A Reserves. The status gives protection for the surface and the submerged areas, covering over 6000 hectares, for the sake of biological diversity in the marine park.

But it was not until 1990 that the area was granted such important status. Later, in order to encourage social use, it introduces recreational service to the public.

It is constituted by a chain of islands such as Seal Island where visitors can view a herd of rare Australian sea lion lazing under the sun before hopping to Penguin Island, where the penguin colony there enjoy the highest conservation status of its kind in the country.

Things you can do while visiting the reserves

Some animals in the area are not only available for viewing, fishing and catching crabs are permitted within the park, except in the sanctuary zone and marine life research areas as pinpointed in the visitors map.

Other recreational activities include boating, water skiing, surfing, swimming, and diving in the waters off Cape Peron or in the shipwreck location of the Saxon Ranger which requires permit letter.

Shoalwater Islands Marine Park
Wildlife at Shoalwater Islands Marine Park

For those with milder sense of adventure, strolling around Penguin Island with its extensive walkways has its own charm, but be mindful of the correct timing as the island closes from June to September each year to provide safe breeding period for the animals.

The makeover of an icon

A night view over Ampera Bridge, Palembang
A night view over Ampera Bridge, Palembang

Musi River is indispensable to the history of civilisation in the region, and for hundreds of years developing into what is now called Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra province. It is vital in building trades with Asian traders and voyagers coming from as far as Middle East.

This is the centuries-old economic backbone that give the city shipping access to otherwise a landlocked region. Palembang is surrounded by land, and the closest shores lays miles away east. Ampera Bridge and Kuto Besak Fort were two historic gems of the city located around the river.

Benteng Kuto Besak
Benteng Kuto Besak under light decoration

While Kuto Besak Fort was initiated by the ruling Sultanese in the 18th century, thus removing the palace from the deep woods into the river bank, Ampera Bridge was a national triumph in the early years of independence, politically speaking.

It was a realisation of over 50-year ambition, started by Dutch administration’s idea in 1900s to connect the thriving economic hub split by a river.

The idea was never materialised until the Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, brought the plan back to the table and gave full throttle at the time when the republic was still at its infancy and reserves in short supply.

A political bridge

He secured financing by using up large portion of war compensation from Japan, as well as importing their technical knowledge and engineers. That is why building Ampera Bridge is more of a political triumph rather than a technical one, in domestic point of view.

Most of its time, the bridge only sat there as a reminder of a once overarching vision by the late leader of the nation who arguably had inaugurated more landmarks than his any other successors to this date.

Over three decades ago, the officials decided to stop utilising the center part of Ampera bridge as a retractable section to make Musi River passable for various size of boats, even heavy barges and ships.

Even in the 90s the lifting mechanism had been removed, and so permanently disabling its unique feature.

After many years in silence, some local supervisors who took part in the project confessed that there was an oversight in construction that only years after had everybody seen the impending consequence.

Palembang old city
Dilapidated shophouses found in many parts of the city bear historical account to the creation of foreign settlements, subsequently the formation of trade routes and economic activities that led to the city’s steady growth in the Dutch colonisation period toward the twentieth century.

A spirit revival

Nevertheless, the citizen of Palembang once again witness the revival of spirit in modernity that the makers of the bridge used to envision half a century ago.

A foreign giant lighting company had undertaken a project to embellish the look of the bridge with a stunning show of light.

Street lamps drape the surrounding area into a glittering night experience, and the reflection from the water surface helped create a vigorous night scene at the heart of Palembang.

Street view of Palembang
Palembang enjoyed the status as one of the highlighted western regions in the initiial phase of 5-year national development. Presence of wide roads indicated infrastructure modernisation. It is a pity that sentralistic approach further dominated the country’s modern history.

The city administration now has recreated a new image to showcase its ambition, manifested in the Jakabaring sports complex playing the 26th SEA Games in 2011.

Capable of holding over 20 sports, now it attempts to host another international-level sporting events, the third Islamic Solidarity Games, due open 22 September 2013.

No less than 40 nations have confirmed participation in the event that will cost the host city an estimated USD13.2 million.

George Town

George Town

For all its heritage, George Town depends on its ubiquitous, well-preserved old buildings to present a “Truly Asia” experience, a tourism jargon created by its host country, Malaysia. Some of the epic buildings were inherited from the past British administration, located near the main harbor, but Chinese architecture dominates the greater part of the town.

Malaysia cashes in from their tourism sector through basic steps of optimising what they have best to offer: nature and history. In the case of George Town, no less popularly called Penang, the government could foresee the incoming of foreigners from closer region if they could improve the general quality of infrastructure compared to the neighboring countries.

The sidewalks are narrow and not in their prime conditions like what other major sightseeings are supposed to be, but they are in relatively good shape, providing the basic infrastructure for a tourism city.

The cost for conservation

Colonial buildings are typical to any other places in Southeast Asia, as these countries share similar past of western colonisation. But simply maintaining conservation has paid off. It costs considerable taxpayers money, but the reward for the citizen and the country’s image as a whole outweighs the small sacrifice.