Tag Archives: Indonesia

Ahmad Sadali in retrospective

Galeri Nasional

The  late Ahmad Sadali (1924-1987) was touted as the father of Indonesia’s abstract art. But the artist himself made a unique statement when he shunned people’s reference to him as an abstractionist, although he confided to his son that culturally there is no other way to describe his works besides an abstract.

In light of this puzzling dichotomy, Galeri Nasional from 25 June until 14 July once again showcased the local maestro’s works to bring back to life the arguments about the way this archipelago country perceives the language of visual expression.

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The Sunday orchestra

The article first appeared in the Jakarta Post, 2 June 2014.


There is more to string instruments than just classical pieces. To those who regularly frequent Suropati Park on typical Sundays, Johann Sebastian Bach or Beethoven are just symbols of aspiration on their foreheads.

It is their minds that give inspirations to a variety of compositions which come from the modification of folk songs or those songs from their childhood, short and memorable ones.

Accidental orchestra

On Sunday morning, kids attended an open course at the park. They formed a group of musical ensemble playing some children songs, conducted by their teacher.

A perfect place to share his knowledge after he could tolerate the traffic noise around the park, the teacher presented a unique mixture of public loudness and a well-orchestrated string ensemble that could reach the entire block.

After repeated pauses for corrections, they could finally carry out a short piece correctly into a harmony.

Play it solo  

As the simple tunes from amateur ensemble constituted by young learners still echoed, solo violists across the park staged their own shows for unattentive visitors, and mostly, for themselves only. One of them, sitting under lush trees, showed his skill in playing American-style country song. Although the people around him did not seem to pay attention, his play was a head-turning one.

It showed that the casually-dressed violist has what it takes to play such fast tune, rapid and accurate fingers, excellent memory and improvisation. Apparently he spent his holiday quite seriously.

Across him, another person impressed a visitor who listened with a certain degree of joy a long composition of his. Its melody seemed to be resemble that of Javanese traditional music. At the other corner, a man showed his friend how to make pop songs applicable to violin play.


Lapangan Banteng security post

Meet four security personnel in a post near Lapangan Banteng, one of the biggest and most historical public parks in central Jakarta. Called Waterlooplein, built in 19th century in the newly expanded area of Weltevreden during the Dutch colony era, the name was changed to what now means the Buffalo Plain in the transitional era to independence, and stayed so until the modern times of Jakarta.

But one wonders if a security post is necessary to guard the visitors every day. What danger lies in the park that does not draw not so many visitors compared to the city park icon National Monument, or the recently popular Menteng Park? Perhaps the kinds of public disorder these guards have controlled are merely the presence of homeless people.

Although truthfully there is not much to do to maintain order in a place often seemed empty, serving the duty is a completely different thing. It is about filling the different types of roles in society. The situation they are in resemble a detachment military group stationed in an outpost. Therefore they realise how important it is to keep the spirit up, and to wipe off the look of dullness from their face.

Lapangan Banteng security post 2

See the emptiness in Lapangan Banteng through the pictures below.

The caldera


A passenger boat operates in the serene morning at Toba Lake
A passenger boat operates in the serene morning at Toba Lake

Danau Toba Caldera is the latest entry into the list of 100 Geopark sites around the world.

With so far attributed to 23 countries, the UNESCO-supported natural heritage site conservation program has shorter list than the World Heritage Site, but it lays more emphasis on ecology and its correlation with social condition.

Danau Toba is Indonesia’s second caldera after Mount Batur that join the Global Geoparks Network.

The morning hours of Toba Lake
The morning hours of Toba Lake. Photograph by Sally Condro, courtesy of think archipelago

Noon at Toba Lake
Noon at Toba Lake. Photograph by Jeane Sheimano, courtesy of think archipelago

The quartet who play music, with a caveat

Actis Dato Quartet

Groups of musician insert a few elements of surprise in their shows to entice the increasingly discerning audience. They offer something different, but anticipated. Surely no one can’t blame them for trying.

Playing on the stage with a dark backdrop and under fixated dim lighting in Usmar Ismail Hall, Jakarta, Tuesday night, one would forgo the thought of visual spectacle that night and expect the most in auditory treats from evolving jazz of Italy and Middle East.

And then four of them came out of the main hall entrance instead of the backstage. They love to foray into the aisles and trigger the audience’s participation. As if one time seemed not enough, they reserved the energy for three more mood-rekindling rounds.

Seeing the taciturn audience before them, the band’s bearded front man, Carlo Actis Dato, who have played musical instrument since childhood, a similar case to the rest members, forcibly shouted at anyone seating in front of him to sing from the guts, dragged women to stomp their feet and dance alongside him.

Their choreography involved changing costumes and disassembling saxophone. All of this was done without losing the tempo, and the music never stopped playing.

Dedicated contemporary artists

If dedication is any indication, then Actis Dato Quartet is one of the most professional contemporary musicians of the world.

Their background in music can be stretched back into the very early formative years. Some of them were born into the family who either made a living from concert to concert or took music education seriously.

Their venture into jazz took considerable amount of effort and patience, rather than simply based on binding spontaneity overnight. They carefully thought of how to make a performance that as thrilling as their music.

They present themselves in an amusing way. Song selection fit into this disposition. The result on the stage was not at all an experiment, but a concerted effort to make a lasting impression.

Overshadowed by the comical gestures and laughters, they posed a warning about the commonly neglected notion, that the most important thing in music is to make incomprehensible tone and rhythm of a different part of the world entertaining to people.

As is the case with the term happiness, music is far beyond absolute definition, such as good melody or harmony. On top of that, music should make you feel good.

Actis Dato Quartet in Jakarta
Actis Dato Quartet live in Usmar Ismail Hall, Jakarta


Urban street dance project by United Dance Works

The performance at Erasmus Huis is a testament of perseverance by a struggling group of dancers in Jakarta. Coming from parts of the country to live up to their common dreams, they often hit rock bottom in the capital to survive with their choice.

They want to prove through every part of their bodies and every inch of their movements that they always find bliss in life decision, ever energetic, however bitter it sometimes gets.

For all that they have gone through, happiness is not measured in how much they have earned, but in how much they have achieved through choreography.

Huang Fong’s half century works in retrospective

huang fong

77 paintings of Huang Fong, a 77 year old proclaimed Indonesian master painter (pictured above) from Genteng, Banyuwangi,  is on exhibition in National Gallery, Jakarta, this month.

It is a retrospective of his 50 years dedication as a realist painter. Fong, a non-chalant artist who spent most of his life in Indonesia’snumber one tourism spot, Bali, delivered a speech that had helped the audience to forget it easily, a simple thank you wrapped in a sentence.

Him as a social being is a reflection of his abundant paintings, completed but kept undisclosed in the dusty corners of his room. The septuagenarian shows impeccable health as he is already renowned as a trainer for the morning exercise chores in his community.

Jakarta under construction

Karet - Semanggi

Confidence abounds when it comes to the talk of the recent economic development in Indonesia which entails a boom in foreign investment, property market, and infrastructure. These three are on the spotlight especially in the capital Jakarta.

The newly imposed regulation to limit the number of franchise outlets of a single ownership to 150 suggests how the municipality hastily keeps up with the surge of private investment into the country. Owner of a franchise whose outlets has exceeded the number set in the regulation but nevertheless plan to open more stores must form a partnership with another local company, who will in turn buy 60% of shares in the particular store.

Reports on property are dominated by surging price at a fast rate, and undersupply of office space. With 95% rate of occupancy, it is predicted that rents will jump as demand for office space shows ever increasing trend. Lacking anticipation, it is not until 2014 that supply will slightly catch up with the demand.

Road construction

But the sector that is most lacking is road construction, which also entails transportation. For the latter, the absence of a sound mass rapid transit until, perhaps, five or six years to come, shows just how long the governments have dropped the ball, and the consequence it brings now.

For the former, rapid construction is commonplace across the city. The plans to replace heavy intersections and railroad that crisscross the city’s road network with flyovers and underpasses have drawn mix reactions, from proponents who applaud the visible plan to opponents who insist that the real solution to traffic problem is to bring extensive line of MRT to the city.

think archipelago, Jakarta under constructionOne of the most striking sights of Jakarta in the making is found in Karet district, where a flyover that has stood to reduce traffic congestion since more than two decades ago in the intersection of Satrio Road and the most important road that passes the city’s most vibrant central business district, Sudirman Road, will now see gigantic structures that stand higher than it, built to ensure the traffic flow from west to central part and vice versa.

These massive structures will support the future elevated road called non-toll highway. This new road section lays directly on top of another existing road below and goes on the same direction.

It has become more vivid for Jakartans to envisage two layers of road that directly go in-line for approximately seven kilometers long, especially for those whose companies are located in the office towers, flanking the roads.

Jakarta daily commuters

According to Jabodetabek Urban Transportation Policy Integration (JUTPI) – a result of cooperation between JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and the governments – daily commuters to Jakarta accounted for 1.1 million people in 2010.

Blueprint of toll roads (expressways) and non-toll ones include in-detail drawings, such as designated locations, complete list of intersections, etc. However, there are less mentioned plans to procure new transjakarta buses, trains, or the much awaited MRT project execution than it otherwise should.

Sure, the related agency who made RDTR breaks the public transportation design planning down into three main objectives: to start building MRTs, transjakarta buses procurement and opening new corridors, last is the attempt to revive monorail project, although the last two suit better the term “public” rather than “mass” transportation due to low passanger capacity.

Moreover, RDTR describes about Lebak Bulus-Kampung Bandan MRT line design. But it is deemed far from ideal as a single line will fail to deliver a sound and functioning citywide transportation.


Anthony Ladjar, co-founder of Jakarta Sidewalk Community regretted the governments inability, or ignorace, to provide such basic facility. Solutions presented in RDTR is somewhat dominated by the further addition of roads, expressways, and flyovers.

The newly elected Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo said he is 100% for transportation for the masses. But whether he could pull his weight into accomplishing this tremendous task remained to be seen in the first few months in the office.

After all, Jokowi now leads an administration who held accountable for the past unresolved problems. He has to come to terms with the lawmakers who attain the capability to make or break a deal in this city (if not the whole country).

Road for cars or public transport?

Building a better Jakarta is the reason he takes the helm. It is a bit discouraging (as is often the case) to expect to see Jokowi’s trust index drops because of the lackluster growth. Again, this is the capital of the democratic Indonesia. We chose to do it the hard way from the start.

While still living up to his promise, Jokowi made an insinuation about how he had slightly changed the course in just a week after he made a tough stand regarding his disagreement with the six expressway proposals.

“Providing a facility for cars would encourage more ownership. It runs counter to relieving the traffic. I asked them (the Public Works Ministry) whether the planned expressway will dedicate a lane to serve elevated bus route. I have not heard news from them. But I welcome it,” he told the press.

Jalan non-toll