Thursday, December 9, 2010

The start of my journey

To me, culture is something that we learn from our family and our surroundings. Since birth, we are not bound to any culture as there is no biological connection of culture from our parents. Culture defines us and is an essential part of the society.

In the family, I'm born as a Javanese (at least that was what is written on my identification card) since my parents and grandparents are one too. However, since born I wasn't expose to the Javanese culture but instead was taught more of the Malay culture that is more prominent in our society. Having said that, the older generation in my family tree such as my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles kept a certain part of the Javanese culture; communication. At times, during family gathering, the young ones will be appaled with the language that they are speaking and it actually encourages me to find out more about the Java Island of Indonesia.

So for this assignment on hand, I'll be doing an in-depth study of Java to find out the true essence of the culture and traditions of the place. With a case-study of Jakarta, the metropolitan and capital city of Indonesia. Follow me through my blog, as I discover more about my ancestry culture and develop a sense of understanding of the city. In addition, I'll be analysing on the changes that have been brought about by the growth of tourism in Jakarta and as I go along, to be able to spot the elements of modernization, globalisation and also "Disneyfication" in this metropolitan city.

In this blog, I'll be covering on:
1. History of the Java Island
2. The people in the society
3. Culture & traditions
4. Tourism in Jakarta
5. Impacts of tourism

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

History of the Java Island

Facts about Java Island

Also known as Jawa Island

Indonesia's 4th largest island

Contains more than half of the country's population. (A fun fact; As of this year, the island has about 136 million in population! That is almost of 2/3 of Indonesia's population)

The capital of Java and Indonesia's largest city: Jakarta

Java is truly extraordinary. Java actually has one of the longest records of human habitation of any place on the earth! The fossilized remains of Homo erectus, or “Java man,” indicate that the island was occupied some 800,000 years ago. Many archaeologists theorized that Java could have been the location of the biblical "Garden of Eden" but no one truly knows.

Much of Indonesia history happened on Java Island. it was the center of powerful Hindu-Buddhist empires, Islamic sultanates, the core of the colonial Dutch East Indies, and was at the center of Indonesia's campaign for independence.

When one think of Java, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous Javanese massage. Javanese massage is well known especially in the Southeast Asia region. It has gained popularity that even the Europeans and westerns are beginning to the adopt it in their spa treatments. In addition, Java is also well known for its Wayang kulit also known as the Javanese shadow play. It is a form of storytelling medium that relates stories that may be historical, religious, political or didactic in nature.

The different waves of cultural and religious influences from the past has contributed to the ethnic diversity in modern Indonesia. In fact, there are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia! In Java, the 3 major ethnic groups are the Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese along with smaller groups such as Tenggerese, Badui and also the native inhabitants of Jakarta, The Betawi. The island is divided into four provinces: East Java, West Java, Central Java and Banten, together with Jakarta City (the Jakarta metropolitan district) and Yogyakarta.
(Above information are adapted from Java Indonesia, Periplus Adventure Guides)

The pace of modernization on Java is rapidly quickening. Factories, highways and housing estates are growing up all around the major cities slowly replacing the rural charm of the island. The most dramatic change of the last century has been the expansion of Java's cities. Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, was once a tiny port surrounded by coastal swamps but now, the influx of people in the city is becoming a strained to its city's resources.

In my upcoming posts, I will discover more of Jakarta, the society and its culture and traditions. In addtion, I'll take a look at the increasing growth of the tourism industry in Jakarta that is now becoming one of the major economy source of the city.

Next up - The people of Java; Ethnic groups and their languages!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The people of Java; Ethnic Groups & their languages

Java’s inhabitants include three major ethnic groups, the dominant Javanese, the Sundanese, and the Madurese, and by two smaller groups, the Tenggerese and the Badui.

Languages used in Java

The 3 major languages used on Java are Javanese, Sundanese and Madurese. There are also other languages used on Java such as Betawi (a Malay dialect local to the Jakarta region), Osing and Tenggerese (closely related to Javanese), Baduy (closely related to Sundanese), Kangeanese (closely related to Madurese), Balinese, and Banyumasan. However, majority of the population on Java Island also speaks Indonesian, often as their second language.
Click here to listen to the Sundanese Language - Listen!

Lets take a closer look at the 3 major ethnic groups on Java Island.

1. The Javanese

Javanese is the ethnic group native to the island and it constitute approximately 70 percent of Java’s population. The Javanese live primarily in the central and eastern portions of the island. Most of the Javanese people uses the Javanese language to communicate. However a certain percentage of the Javanese uses Indonesian or both Javanese and Indonesian language while communicating.

Most Javanese in the island follow Islam as their religion. Some also follow Christianity (Protestantism aand Catholicism ), which are mostly concentrated in Central Java (particularly Surakarta, Magelang and Yogyakarta for Catholicism). In a much smaller scale, Buddhism and Hinduism are also found in the Javanese community.

Many Javanese follow the ethnic religion Kejawen, which is animistic with strong influences of Hinduism and Buddhism and some rituals in Islam. The Javanese community is also known for syncretism of beliefs. All the outside cultures were absorbed and interpreted according to the Javanese traditional values, creating a new set of religious beliefs unique to local culture.
(Information adopted from the book Indonesia, The Island State, Mark De Fraeye and Pieter ter Keurs)

2. The Sundanese

The Sundanese are the native ethnic group in western Java. Sundanese culture has borrowed much from Javanese culture, however it differs by being more overtly Islamic, and has a much less rigid system of social hierarchy. Although Sundanese religious practices share some of the Hindu-Buddhist beliefs of their Javanese neighbors - for example, the animistic beliefs in spirits and the emphasis on right thinking and self-control as a way of controlling those spirits - Sundanese courtly traditions differ from those of the Javanese.

The Sundanese language possesses an elaborate and sophisticated literature preserved in Indic scripts and in puppet dramas. These dramas use distinctive wooden dolls (wayang golek, as contrasted with the wayang kulit of the Javanese and Balinese), but Sundanese courts have aligned themselves more closely to universalistic tenets of Islam than have the elite classes of Central Java.

Although Sundanese and Javanese possess similar family structures, economic patterns, and political systems, they feel some rivalry toward one another. As interregional migration increased in the 1980s and 1990s, the tendency to stereotype one another's adat (tradition) in highly contrastive terms intensified, even as actual economic and social behavior were becoming increasingly interdependent.

The Madurese, also known as Orang Madura, is the third largest ethnic group in Indonesia. The majority of the Madurese (nine million) live on East Java near the island of Madura, with four million still inhabiting Madura. The Madurese spoke the Madurese language, with some of them also able to speak the Indonesian language. This ethnic group is also known as the "Cowboys of Indonesia" as cattles are regarded as an important element in their culture. In fact, bull-racing is one of the favourite sports among the Madurese. In addition, the Madurese are known for their rough, hot-tempered character and they are usually not well-liked among the other Indonesians as people are usually afraid of their character.

A majority of the Madurese are Muslims with a certain belief in folk Islam which focuses on seeking protection in life through the magic of either appeasing or controlling good and bad spirits. They have a strong belief in spirits, the use of amulets, black and white magic and the worship of ancestors. Nevertheless, Islam is an integral part of the social, political and economic life of the Madurese. (Information adapted from

Next up - Lets get to know Jakarta!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lets get to know Jakarta!

After visiting the countryside of the island of Java, coming to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, might be a shock to one with its hectic life. Once noisy and foul-smelling with over crowded streets and open sewers, Jakarta is now transformed into a rapidly modernizing city. With its bustling city life and diversity of ethnic groups and culture, Jakarta is one of the fascinating place to visit in Indonesia.

Jakarta is the largest city in the Indonesia and metropolis in Southeast Asia with over 17,000 islands and 300 cultural groups, many of which speak their own language as well as the national language, Bahasa Indonesia.

A city rich in history, Jakarta's history and culture has many elements of India, Arabia, other parts of Asia, and the colonial powers of Europe, interwined with its own. Located on the northern coast of West Java, it is the center of government, commerce and industry and has an extensive communications network with the rest of the country and the outside world.
(Information adapted from

Jakarta is best known for its vibrant, friendly, fervent, and lively spirit among visitors taking flights to Jakarta. Let us first find out more about the people in Jakarta!

The people

Not less 9 million people live in Jakarta representing nearly all the ethnic groups in the archipelago. The city’s dominant populations are come from the surrounding areas of Java, many parts of Sumatera, Bali and Sulawesi. The major groups are Sundanese, Javanese, Chinese, and the native, Orang Betawi (people of Betawi). Other large groups that can be found in the city are the Minangkabau people, the Bataks, the Manadonase, and the other people from Sulawesi and the Ambonase.

The majority of the population in Jakarta are Muslims. In fact, Indonesia is the world's largest population of Muslims. However, it does not mean that Indonesia is an Islamic state. It is a Pancasila state. And one of the principles of Pancasila, the state ideology, is "belief in the one Supreme God". This means that the various belief systems must be respected and respect each other. This explains the ubiquitous Muslim prayer houses in the city beside many churches and a few temples.
For example, as part as their motto: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity In Diversity), the landmarks that are located at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park) such as the prince Diponegoro Mosque is juxtaposition with the saint Catherine Church, the Hallelujah Church, the Pura Penataran Agung Kertabumi Temple, the Aria Dwipa Arama Monastery and the Indonesian Mystic Convention Hall, symbolize the motto in matters of religions and belief.

Indonesians are known to the friendliest people in the world towards foreigBulleted Listners and most tolerant towards their manners. But there are few things which are not done among Indonesia. Here's a list of some of the things that are not usually acceptable in the society.
  • They consider the head as something sacred that must be respected.
  • Patting on the head is not done among adults.
  • Calling someone by crooking the index finger is considered impolite and giving or reciving things with the left hand is no - where acceptable.
  • The hand shake accompanied with a smile is common among men and women greeting or welcoming somebody.

    (Above informations are adopted from

Culturally speaking, when one speaks of the population of Jakarta, one means the Betawi, the natives of the city. Orang Betawi emerged in the 19th century from a melting pot of races, ethnic groups and cultures. They have their own culture distinct from other ethnics' cultures. The word “Betawi” is derived from Batavia, the old name of the capital during the Dutch administration.

Since generations have now grown up who were born in the city one may venture to suggest it has its own cultural identity, an urban culture on its own. Nevertheless, there is still a return to urban traditions that have been in existence for some time, such as that of the old Batavia and its local population.

Mode of education in the city

"Just like any other countries, the Ministry of Education in Indonesia administers the education policies in the country. All citizens in the country have to finish 9 years of education, 6 years at elementary level and 3 in middle school. The constitution stated that education in the country is divided into two parts, formal and non-formal. A formal education is divided again into three levels, primary, secondary and tertiary education.
Children with ages 5 to 6 or 7, attend kindergarten. It is not mandatory for Indonesian toddlers but the objective is to train them for primary school. Normally, the kindergarten years are divided into "Class A" and "Class B" pupils spending a year in each class. Indonesian attends elementary school from ages 7-12. Based on the national constitution, this stage of education is mandatory to all Indonesian citizens.

Part of main education in Indonesia is called Middle School. From ages 13-15 students attend Middle School for 3 years after graduating from elementary school. Indonesian citizens are not required to attend high school based on the national constitution, since they only need 9 years of education.

Students may attend to a university after finishing from high school or college.
Higher education method in the country consists of college or academy, polytechnic, institute and university. The objective of professional education is to train the students to master certain knowledge and/or capability and it consists of Diploma Education."

(Information adopted from

However said that, not everyone in the city are given the opportunity for a good education. Young children are often enough not given a good educational platform which is vital to their educational progress.

The National Education Ministry estimates that only 54 percent of children
currently have access to PAUD (an acronym for Indonesia's early childhood
educational program), which is aimed at kids aged three to six. It says the costs of the program, at an average of $64 per pupil per year, has deterred many lower-income families many from taking part. Without a good basis of education, it is difficult for people living in the city to find good jobs to secure their future.

One of the greatest challenge in improving the level of education in Indonesia is the lack of funding (around only 20 percent of the national budget is used for education). With the increasing number of population in the country, Indonesia has to be able to manage its resources well especially investments in its education system. In a recent article, from the Jakarta Post, there has been an increasing investment in PAUD to prioritize the education system in Indonesia.

The efforts put it might be small, but every big thing starts small. In my opinion, government really plays a vital role in ensuring that its people have equal opportunities to education. Investments by the government in its education system will bring benefits to its people and in return eventually contribute to the economy of the country.

In search to understand more about the cultures of Jakarta, lets discover more about the natives of Jakarta, The Orang Betawi!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The indigenous group; Orang Betawi

The Betawi

The Betawi, also known as the People of Batavia, is the original inhabitants of Jakarta. The Betawis are mostly descended from various Southeast Asian ethnic groups, Portuguese and Dutch plus Arab, Chinese and Indian brought to or attracted to Batavia to meet labour needs, including people from various parts of Indonesia.

They have a culture and language distinct from the surrounding Sundanese and Javanese. The Betawis are known for their music, traditions and food as well as their short temper, directness and their openness to others.

Language among Indonesia’s estimated 746 indigenous languages, Betawi is one of the most widely-spoken. Also known as Batavi, Betawi Malay, Jakarta Malay and Melayu Jakarte, this language is listed as one of the country’s active local languages. The Betawi language is a Malay dialect with 2 main forms: kota (city) Batawi, and pinggiran (outskirts) Betawi each of which has several subdialects. Most Betawi people in Indonesia can also speak Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian national language.

The language of the Betawi has been adopted by the fashionable younger generation of Jakartans from all ethnic origins, whereas the more formal Betawi Malay is only spoken by the more conservative older generation Orang Betawi.

Religion and beliefs

A majority of the Betawi people are Muslims just like the majority of the people living in Jakarta. Despite of their strong faith in Islam, many Betawi believed in animistic beliefs such as spirits in the trees, graveyards and many more.

A certain percentage of the Betawi believed in Jesus and practiced Christianity after the spread of this religion by a small number of Jesus followers in the area. Due to their religion differences, it is difficult for them to be a part of the Betawi community. Nevertheless, they still continue to practice the religion and the exact number of followers in the community is unknown.

Pockets of Betawi life are still culturally alive throughout Jakarta with celebrations of wedding the Betawi arts and the rhythms of a distinctive style of music. Betawi culture is a treasure trove of color, tradition, song, dance, clothing, cuisine, language and dialect. However, modernization has caused certain elements of the culture to change. Culture is often evolving and as a result, traditions of the natives will be different from what is know in the past.

Get ready as I reveal the interesting elements of the Orang Betawi culture and traditions and discover if the culture of the Betawi and its people are being affected by modernization.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Traditional costumes

Traditional costumes
Just like the other ethnic groups, the Betawi group has its specific dress for man and woman.

For the man, a traditonal man's costume will include:

•A thight - length coat with normal trousers,
•Slip - on shoes
•Traditional Betawi headgear
•A special belt, called lokcan
•A dagger slipped in the belt
•A watch chain with a tiger claw attached

As for the woman, their traditional costume will include:

•A long Kebaya with buttened cuffs
•A sarong with the lasem motif
•A sarong with the lasem motif
•Pointed sandals with low heels

•A hair - piece of the cepol type
•A veil matching the kebaya
•A heavy gold or silver belt
•A three - teir brooch to fasten the kebaya
(Information adopted from

The tradtional costumes are usually worn during special occasions such as wedding ceremony or traditional performances. It is uncommon to see people of Jakarta wearing the traditional costume as part of their daily life.
In my opinion, modernization has inevitably changed the way people dress themselves. Younger generations usually won't be able to see the true beauty of its traditional costumes. Often enough this costumes are only shown during certain events, and at times younger generations are not exposed to its traditional costumes. In addition, there are often signs of commodifications as one changes the design of the traditional costume in order to meet the changing time of fashion.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Betawi Music and Arts

The Betawi culture is composed of a unique blend of the Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese and Arabs. Thus it can be easily understood that the Betawi culture is very much colorful and unique.

One of its culture influence are the Javanese. The Javanese presence since the 17th century has left its mark on the Betawi music, dance and theatre.

Lenong, is an example of a traditional Betawi theater in Jakarta. This traditional art used to be performed from village to village in the 1940s till the 1960s. With the element of comedy in its play's plot, it used to be an all night long performance accompanied by music of the xylophone music Kromong with musical instruments such as the xylophone, gongs, drums and flute in the past. There are 2 types of Lenong perfomance; Lenong Denes and Lenong Thugs. Lenong Denes is the original type of lenong that plays an empire story, which are taken from the fable stories, with empire costume and uses high level of Malay language. Lenong Thugs on the other hand tells about the daily life of the people or the world champ. Lenong Thugs uses the everyday conversational Betawi language in they play.

However, this traditional art theater is now under crisis as its survival in Jakarta is being questioned.

Quoted from a veteran Lenong Dene performer, Jali Putra, he explained that “Every lenong performance contains specific messages that are very useful for life because the objective of lenong is not only to entertain people but also to give some guidance for both the audience and the actors in their real life."

Due to modernization, a new form of Lenong was introduced in the late 1970s known as Lenong Preman. This new form of Lenong plays a daily story, such as: love story, robbery, authority, and other social issues, using daily Betawi traditional clothes, and Betawi dialect. Lenong Preman was given more recognition on Indonesia national tv channel, TVRI, and as a result people who were oblivious of Lenong, assume that there is only one type of Lenong - The Lenong Preman. Till now Lenong Preman is still prefered among audiences as compared to the other 2 types of Lenong.

Based on Betawi tradition, Lenong used to be performed as part of the wedding ceremonies to entertain the guests. However, it is now rare to see this traditional performance in the wedding ceremonies in Jakarta. The decrease popularity of this particular art in Jakarta may be as a result of modernization and globalisation in the country. Emergence of modern entertainment in 1990s, and the lack of efforts of parents to pass down this tradition and culture to their children may be one of the reasons for the fall of this traditional art. Lenong used to be the only form of entertainment for the people in the past. Now, emergence of other forms of entertainment in Jakarta has caused Lenong to be isolated.

Cultural expert from University of Indonesia, M. Yoesoef, said that it is very
hard now to find local people who appreciate their own traditional arts. He also
commented that “We are losing a cultural wealth because the community is moving
in the era of globalization, who feel no need to bring their heritage,”

It got me wondering then, is globalisation and modernization truly the main culprit for the decreasing survival of Jakarta's culture and traditon, or in fact in other countries in the world too?

Before I get the answer to this question in mind, let's take a look at the other Betawi music and arts!

1. The Gambang Kromong

The Gambang Kromong is a native traditional music of Jakarta. Hearing this traditional music, we could hear the influences from Chinese elements, namely the use of stringed instrument in the form kongahyan, tehyan, and skong. The vocals are a mix of Chinese and Indonesian elements, but the dialect used is pure Betawi, and the lyrics are humorous. Cokek dancers usually perform to gambang kromong music.

2. Ondel-ondel

One of the important icon of the Betawi culture is the ondel-ondel. Ondel-ondel is a form of folk performances which involve large dolls about 2 meters tall that it is trusted as a symbol of their ancestors who guarded the child-grandchildren who are still alive. In other words, ondel-ondel is also believed to drive away evil spirits at every feast. Ondel-ondel depicting men painted their faces red, and a white or yellow-faced depicts women.

Today ondel-ondel is usually used to add vibrant folk festivals or for welcoming guests of honor, and also at the inauguration of the completion of a new building. It is said that no matter how swift currents of modernization, ondel-ondel still survive and become a trimmer face to metropolis Jakarta.

Click on the video below to watch a tradtional ondel-ondel performance accompanied by the traditional music, Gambang Kromong!

3. Betawi Cokek dance

The Betawi Cokek dance shows Balinese influence in the movement of the dancers and the style of playing the gamelan. This style of playing the gamelan can also be observed in the gamelan orchestra accompanying the Wayang Kulit Betawi show. The cokek is usually danced at Betawi wedding parties.

The term cokek originally referred to a female vocalist in a Gambang Kromong group. But, over time, the singers became dancers. Cokek dancers traditionally wear brightly colored shawls. They invite audience members to dance with them by giving them their shawls. It is customary for audience members to tip the dancers at the end of each performance.

4. The Tanjidor orchestra

Another important element of Betawi arts is the Tanjidor orchestra which is quite famous in Jakarta. In addition to the influence of Chinese culture, the Betawi arts are influenced by a variety of cultures from Europe. The Tanjidor orchestra has its origin from the Dutch. In general, each instrument in the orchestra Tanjidor consisting of wind instrument like a piston (cornet a piston), trombone, tenor, clarinet, bass, percussion instruments equipped with a membrane which is usually called a drum or drums.

By supporting community Tanjidor used to enliven a celebration such as weddings, circumcisions, or public parties like celebrating the Independence anniversary. Until the fifties crowds of ordinary Tanjidor performing tour, called "Ngamen". This tour was primarily conducted on New Year's party time, both AD and Lunar. Until now, Tanjidor are still displayed to welcome guests, enliven or accompany the procession of the bride. But the anniversary celebrations in Jakarta usually presented as one of the participants of the festival.

Modernization has also brought about the changing times and tastes of Tanjidor supporting community. As a result, commodification has brought regular Tanjidor to bring about dangdut songs. There is also a special rendition of the Sundanese Pop-song known as "Winingan musician."

5. Wayang Betawi

The wayang Betawi is also known as the puppets of Betawi. It is one of the culture products of the acculturation of the Javanese and Sundanese. Most people are more familiar with wayang kulit, or Javanese leather shadow puppets, then with wayang Betawi. The puppets are almost the same, but the rods of the Betawi puppets are made from rattan, not wood. The story is narrated in Betawi, but the music is usually Sundanese. Betawi puppet musical accompaniment in the same case with the gamelan mask, in the form of Sundanese gamelan music mixed Betawi, with typical tehyan musical instrument (as a characteristic of the Betawi) called gamelan ajeng.

There are in fact many art forms in Betawi's culture with the influences of the other ethnic groups in Jakarta such as Tari Topeng, Topeng Betawi and Kerocong Tugu. These are just some of the common Betawi traditional arts that are dominant in Jakarta.

The Betawi traditional art is developed and accepted well in the city. Not only Betawi people, but also other ethnic groups are fond of this art as it became part of the city culture. As a result certain form of commodification occur as the other ethnic group adopt the culture. In Jakarta you can find well established culture and foreign art centers. These centers help in the promotion of various arts and culture and language by the use of art galleries, learning centers and libraries.

Having said that, globalisation and modernization has brought about the decreasing interest of the Betawi arts since 1970 in Jakarta. As a result non-profits and charitable organizations are making efforts to preserve and conserve the traditional Betawi culture. The culture thrives today due to government policy to enhance the cultural identity of the original inhabitants of the city, and prevent their traditions being buried beneath a tide of modernization and globalisation. There are annual parades and other celebrations in which three-meter tall Betawi mascots (ondel ondel) - are seen delighting the crowds with their large masks and tinsel-sprinkled headdresses. (Information adopted from

In fact, the rise in tourism industry in Jakarta has resulted in a stimulus for these traditional art forms of the Betawi to flourish in the city. Nevertheless, there are often negative outcome to every positive changes to the city such as the issues of authenticity or commodification of its culture.

In my upcoming posts, we will discover Jakarta as a tourist destination and how tourism growth in the city bring about changes to the city and also the culture and traditions of the Betawi.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tourism in Jakarta

Tourism is one of the major economy source of Indonesia after possibility of facing a declining role of oil as part of their economy source. As such, Jakarta is one of the designated tourist destinations in Indonesia. Jakarta has definitely evolved itself from a small port city to a modernized city with tall skyscrapers while constantly keeping up to date with the latest technology and facilities in the city.

Globalisation has definitely affected Jakarta in certain ways. Based on Harvey (2000) one of the shifts of globalisation technological changes and innovation has enabled people from around the world to be connected. With the invention and improvement of aeroplanes and other modes of transportation, people are able to travel to their destination in a shorter period of time as compared to centuries ago. This eventually has brought about the increasing trend of people traveling around the world for different purposes.

So, here comes the question. How has tourism actually impacted Jakarta in terms of its cultural impacts and other significance impacts to the country such as economy? Before looking through into the question, lets find out more about how Jakarta has build itself as a tourism destination.
Here is one of Jakarta's tourism destination commercial!

In recent years, Jakarta has expanded its facilities for visitors with luxury hotels, fine restaurants and many other attractive attractions in order to meet the different needs of its visitors. With the increasing number of visitors coming in to Jakarta, the city has to constantly be updated with the increasing trends among the visitors. Based on the website, Indonesia-holidays some of the must see attractions while in Jakarta are:
  1. National Museum
  2. Sunda Kelapa
  3. Maritime Museum
  4. National Monument
  5. Ragunan Zoo
  6. Chinatown in Jakarta
  7. Puppet museum and
  8. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah

Lets take a closer look at one of its tourist attractions, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah or Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park. It is an extensive culture-based park, the prime showcase of Indonesia’s rich cultural and natural diversity located in East Jakarta.

Also known as the Taman Mini, it has been known to be Indonesia's Disney world, as a result of disneyfication to the attraction. Disneyfication is a term which describes the transformation of something, usually society at large, to resemble The Waltz Disney's Theme Parks. It can be used more broadly to describe the processes of stripping a real place or event of its original character and repackaging it in a sanitized format.

Different from Disney Theme Park which has a theme and elements of fantasy and magical, Taman Mini is a culturally-based theme park. That, to me is one of the unique selling point of the place. Disney theme parks are very much well known for its excellent service and often enough are able to create repetitive visitors in spite of its high price. What makes Disney theme park so succesful is the integrated concept of having recreational elements, accomodation and many more to make it a one stop place for the visitors to visit.

Just like it, Taman Mini has disneyfied itself to be of an integrated attraction just like the Disney Theme Parks for its visitors.

The core of the Park are 26 exclusive replicas of traditional houses of chieftains found throughout the Indonesian archipelago from Aceh to Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Java and Papua. These are pavilions displaying the history, arts and crafts and traditions of each of the provinces. Built for education and family fun, Taman Mini has large areas for family recreation, a number of flora and fauna parks, various museums, performing theatres, an Imax theatre and accommodation facilities. (Information adopted from Visit Indonesia)

Watch the video below to have a look at what Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is all about!

In addition, Disney theme parks has introduced the use of mascots to promote and create a unique experience to the place by making the Disney characters come to life. As such, Taman Mini also has their own mascot. Nitra, their mascot, is a wayang hero taken from the Ramayana epic namely Anjani Putra - shortened to NITRA - another name of Hanoman. The NITRA form has become the icon of TMII as a means of identification with an informative meaning easy to be remembered and close to the heart. Just like when we think of Disney theme parks, we think of Mickey Mouse. Mascots often create an iconic statement of the place.

In my opinion, disneyfication has brought about the increasing trend of attractions tranforming itself to be a part of an integrated business concept and at the same time being able to provide excellent services. From the success of Disney theme parks, one could benefit from the repetitive visitors as it generates more tourism and visitors receipt. As a result, many tourism organisations are introducing standard operating procedures to the different elements that make up the integrated attraction such as the accomodation, food and beverage outlets and the service sectors.

Nevertheless, a part from the economy benefits it will receive, the Park has a chief mission the preservation and development of the various Indonesian cultures as a media to strengthen the nation’s unity and integrity and to instill these values especially in the young generation. For visitors who have little time to explore the Indonesian islands, Taman Mini is a good introduction to what this country has to offer in diversity and culture. During weekends and holidays Taman Mini is an ideal theme park for families to become more acquainted with other regional cultures.

However, what about the issue of the authenticity of the place? The culture and attractions potrayed in the theme park may not be the original form of its culture. As mentioned earlier, disneyfication will result in references to anything negative are removed, and the facts being watered-down with the intent of making the subject more pleasant and easily grasped. In the case of places, this typically means replacing what has grown organically over time with an idealized and tourist-friendly veneer reminiscent of the attractions at Disney theme parks that portrays fantasy and a non-realistic world.

Certainly, a certain form of commodifying may have taken a place in order to meet the needs of the different types of visitors to the attraction especially for the foreigners.

In my next post, lets take a closer look at how tourism could be a culprit in commodifying the culture and traditions of Jakarta.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Changes brought about by tourism in Jakarta

One of the changes that is brought about by tourism in Jakarta is definitely the economic benefits. As mentioned in my previous post, globalisation has enable people to travel more and experience things out of their comfort zone. The growth of foreign visitors was more than 15% per year, contributing to an increase in foreign currency receipts as both foreign tourists’ expenditure and their length of stay increased. The increase in tourist arrivals to Jakarta, has resulted in more attractions being developed to meet the needs and demands of the tourists. A total of 6.45 million foreign nationals visited the country in 2009, an increase of 0.8 percent from 2008, according to preliminary data from the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy. The government is forecasting foreign tourist arrivals to increase by 4.7 percent to 6.75 million this year (Information adopted from

In addition, tourism in Indonesia has contributed 16% of total job creation in 1995, and in 2007 it is estimated that 1 of every 11 new jobs will originate from tourism (Kompas, 06/02/1999). With more jobs created, the locals will be able to benefit from it and hence result in a higher standard of living for them. With a good economic status, Jakarta will also be attractive to more foreign investments to invest in the city.
(Information adopted from an online document: Economic Impact of Tourism and Globalisation in Indonesia)

The combination of the growth of foreign visitors and globalisation only amplifies the positive impacts of globalisation. How about the impacts of globalisation and tourism on Jakarta's native culture?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Commodification of Betawi Culture

It is said that "Jakarta's cultural richness and dynamic growth contribute significantly to its growing importance as one of the world's leading capital cities" from Indonesia Tourism website.

However, I wonder if its the culture and traditions of
the place becoming the main attraction that resulted in the increase in tourist
activities in the city or is it the other way round, whereby the increase in
number of tourists to the city is the stimuli to flourish the culture and
traditions of the place?

In an article written from the Jakarta Post:Betawi culture a mix of many, it mentioned about Betawi culture now being attacked from all sides. With Jakarta undergoing modernization process, the culture and traditions of the native is under threat from the city's more recent resident's tradition and also the increasing trend of western pop culture.

Influences from all over the world have seeped into every pore of Jakarta's identity, that it is easy to forget that you are in Jakarta. There is a strange mix and incredible energy in the city. One can ride down to one of the many shopping malls in Jakarta to enjoy the latest Hollywood movies, have an Hagen-daz ice cream or splurge on a favourite Italian meal. This, to me, is the result of globalisation. So what is to happen to Jakarta's identity?

Betawi's culture and tradition in Jakarta is under a constant threat as Jakarta immerse herself in the benefits of modernization and globalisation. Its inevitable that a country will be affected from modernization be it positive or negative impacts. Today, Jakarta's skyline is covered by modern highrises. The many state-of-the-art shopping centers, recreation complexes and toll-roads have become hallmarks of the city. The quality of life and the general welfare of its inhabitants have improved considerably with the city's fast pace of development. These are just some examples of the benefits of modernization.

What is to become of native Betawi culture?

An expert on local culture, Yasmine Zaky Shahab of the University of Indonesia, said “The Betawi culture now has a new face as it has been adopted by the industry and treated as a commodity." Yasmine said that as a result of the commodification, people of other ethnic groups in Jakarta had adopted it. Betawi culture is being commodified not only due to tourism but also due to the changing local taste and preference. “In spite of modernization, the culture is now being practiced by those who are of differing ethnicity and is being treated as a commodity,” Yasmin said. (Information adopted from Jakarta Post - What to become native of Betawi Culture?)

Part of Betawi culture are being commodified to meet the changing preference of the locals. For example, the spread of pop culture in the city such as dangduts are replacing the traditional betawi culture in terms of entertainment in special events.Somehow, commodification of the betawi culture is becoming more of a need in order to sustain it and not cause the culture to totally be extinct.

An official with the Jakarta Regional Planning Board, I Made Karma Yoga, said the administration had done enough to preserve the culture and he mentioned that they are not able to see the motivation and involvement of the natives themselves in preserving their own culture. On the other hand, tourism also plays a part in the commodification of Betawi culture. Cultural symbols are being commodified into mass-produced handicrafts and souveniers in order to meet the needs of the tourists. Consumerism has resulted in the usage of traditional cultures as a gimmick at times, to lure tourists to pay for the cultural products. Commodification often results in the issue of authenticity. When cultural products are transformed into another simplified form, it loses its meaning and will no longer be significance. For example cultural performances are often shorten to accomodate more to the tourist needs and preference.

So who is responsible for the commodification of the Betawi culture?
It is difficult to solely point fingers as culture is very complex. In fact, traditions can often change due to modernization. It is inevitable, as time changes, the preference and taste of its people also changes. As commodification often result in the loss of meaning of the cultural product, it is difficult to measure the authenticity of the experience and products that a destination could provide.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The end of my learning journey

It has been an interesting and enlightening journey for me in discovering more about Jakarta!

In my opinion, the effects of globalisation and modernization is inevitable in the world that we live in today. The world is connected by an invinsible thread. This thread connects us as to how we are able to share information, travel and many more!

From this journey, I've gained a deeper insight to how globalisation could affect the society and culture of the country. With globalisation, tourism is made possible. People are able to travel around to gain more knowledge, increase their experience and many more. In return, the tourist's destination benefits from the increasing trend of tourism as tourism receipts increase, contributing to the country's economy and also gain more recognition in the world map.

However, one should also not forget the negative outcomes that may arise from globalisation and modernization. The most important being, the loss of its local culture. A country should not be too immersed into the benefits of globalisation that it totally forgets its true identiy. The society should be involved to ensure that the culture of its country is not drowning in the fast pace of modernization.

With that, I thank you reader for following me through my journey this pass few days! I hope that you've enjoyed reading and also gained an insight of Jakarta and a greater understanding of how tourism could affect the society and culture of one place as much as I did!

Thank you!