When you trip to Jakarta‘s Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII), or Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park, the mice are playing rats, ants are playing roaches, and the portions are really tiny. Their old growth forest model becomes more accurate each day, and the weaker tremors are part of the show. The people inside the park should be of average height though, I’d imagine. I’ve only ever fantasized about visiting the country-within-itself, you see; desperate to see the Taman Mini inside of Taman Mini inside of Taman Mini, terus menerus, ad infinitum. For a mini amount of time – just over 3 years – I lived and worked in the full-scale model. With one hundred and thirty million people living on the single island of Java, it was traffic that blocked me from TMII’s congestion ‘mini’. And though I buy into all the hype, I doubt you’d ever see a ‘mini’ family of barefooted, white-robed Orang Badui, mountain tribesmen, renouncing technology and transportation, slogging the hot, rain-wet road behind a bumper on a 600+ km hike to the city center. No, Jakarta was entertaining enough as a theme park unto itself.
The miniature’s creators and I attempt the impossible: a complete picture of an absurdly diverse chain of islands – of which there are more (17,000) at high tide, and less (13,000) when the tide is low and land bridges uncovered. Anyway, perhaps closure is to be found in the illusion – Papuans, Ambonese, Bugis, Minangkabau, and Sundanese people being their archetypal selves, nine-to-five, for Rupiah ‘mini’? Hey, I wonder if religious minorities are well represented, inside?
That the mother country of 234 m. should open up and reveal her mini ‘self’ in the mother city is as fitting as a simile about Russian Matryoshka dolls would be right here. Chinese ‘duplitecture‘ – bang-on imitations of popular landmarks – mastered the White House tens of times, making it its most popular knockoff. So what miniatures or remakes might Tel Aviv and DC comprise? We all hear the words Americanization and Westernization – but Indonesianization? The country’s borders are like a lasso, it’s right to govern some provinces (namely West Papua, Aceh) being as dubious as their miniatures likely are (above which sway cable cars – not budget airliners).
Have you had the pleasure of visiting TMII? What time can we catch the US-backed coup that brought Pak Harto to power, and who plays Suharto mini? Are the Pemuda Pancasila just a bunch of midgets in orange? Have the workers in Timur Leste been ‘let go’; the map updated – perhaps just an outline in chalk? Oh, oh, how true-to-life is Lapindo mini? I’d be interested in visiting Papua mini, providing there aren’t travel restrictions. Wait though, how realistic are these models? Is it safe there? Do mini men with mini koteka play dead and pose for chain-smoking, midget soldiers? Can we pose with them in their trophy photographs? And lastly, do people speak their minds and express long strings of negative thoughts (like this one) on the inside, or are they as jocular as ever?
Arts, culture, that western fantasy of the freedoms we’d enjoy after an apocalypse, the occasional person – I’m actually too fond of this oddball archipelago, and especially the vast and decreasing wilds of Papua, Sumatra, and Kalimantan. Each island gives the illusion of being a microcosm – until you leave and realize it couldn’t be more of an island, apart. Whoever crafted the country (long before Belanda) really focused on some details, leaving others lost in a grey sea – like an artist too shy to look at the subject. As for the miniature park, I hope the model-makers can continue to vaguely represent the full-scale version without having to make it a period piece – or a republik mimpi. Better yet, maybe the outside world could one day be replicated, honestly? Dalam mimpi saja dech – in your dreams!