Indonesia inside of Herself

Fake Papuan holding Indonesian flag

See Sulawesi? Photo from a cable car hanging above a map of Indonesia – made of dirt. The smog – from forest fires – shows a fanatic attention to detail.

Spent the day in Jakarta, Indonesia – inside of Jakarta, Indonesia; somewhere I recommend to Charlie Kaufman for inspiration: A well-developed miniature park of this developing country – inside of itself. Wow…!

Unlike even its wealthiest cities, mini Indo has a working monorail and even gondolas flying across a lake in which manicured islands form a 300-meter wide map of the country – these cable cars teetering across like budget airliners over the actual nation.

I was there on a mission. I had been fantasizing about this moment for years, actually. A mission to discover another miniature park inside of the miniature park – and perhaps another, and more! I expected to spend the day hunched over more than the puppeteer in Being John Malkovich – which describes my posture in a Metro Mini.

With experience of the full-scale model, this miniature park becomes as darkly amusing as Banksy’s Bemusement Park – if not more so, as it is not art. It is propaganda as transparent as rice paper on Vietnamese salad rolls. And as an outsider, I find it amusing. A bit like being a fly on the wall watching someone strike unrealistic poses in the bathroom mirror.

The Jakarta model has a few traditional Betawi buildings, and in the centre a large, true-to-life-ugly modern structure, its function is suitably shrouded, mysterious, corrupted. The whole thing is under construction like Jakarta itself – its corners decorated with Mohammedan cats. Even the ondel-ondel statues are caged in scaffolding.

I am tempted to build a miniature of the miniature park and leave it inside of itself – including some hard truths that this country is not ready to face up to.

Back to the trail that abridges island cultures, I note the mini traffic jam of mini-people on mini-bikes. A miniature of the country’s tallest mountain, Jaya Wijaya, is not quite as tall as the plumes from a pile of smoking garbage, nearby.

Fake Papuan holding Indonesian flag

How do you fill this position?
Cement. Then you let it dry.

Nobody wanted the job of the cement Papuan eternally waving the national flag beneath the swaying gondolas. At the entrance, however, they managed to find a dark-skinned boy to stand around with feathers in his hair and ask for a dollar a photo. How much would they have to pay a First Nations person in North America to stand around a cement-and-rebar recreation of a traditional settlement and slap his mouth with an open palm?

The wildlife was either taxidermy or cement and rebar, built to (out) last.

I took account of the privilege it was to stand there in Papua mini; this was likely the closest a foreigner with a camera and notebooks could get to the actual place. I looked around for Freeport Mini but found only broken cement.

Then I head over to Kalimantan – to start the appropriate fires.


As much as they row, row, row, they will always be made of cement, so at least they aren’t going anywhere.


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