Selamat Hari Kemerdekaan! Happy Independence Day!
Today is Indonesian Independence Day and a national holiday for us all (though SOUQ remains open and will be barbecuing on the terrace if you feel like popping by!).
This week we’ve handed the microphone over to our Marketing Director, Marisa Faizul, to explain the significance of this day and tell you what it means for Indonesians.
With a little brother named after Turkish revolutionary Kemal Ataturk, and a family library spilling over with the biographies of presidents, prime ministers and freedom-fighters, it is little wonder that Indonesia’s Independence Day was a day of such significance in my home.
My childhood was filled with my grandparents' tales of life under Dutch colonial rule followed by the Japanese occupation during WWII where Indonesians were forced into ‘Romusha’ labor camps. These were the revolution-inspiring stories that I carried with me when I marched with my classmates against the military (following Suharto’s resignation) in 1999. They are the memories Indonesians conjure every year on the 17th of August when we celebrate the day in 1945, as our forebears made the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence to make the country our own. That historic proclamation was made by the dashing architect Sukarno (known admiringly by Marilyn Monroe as 'the Prince’) and the bookish economist Mohammad Hatta - the dynamic duo who would thereafter be known as Indonesia’s founding fathers and 'proclamators'.
Once named ‘The United States of Indonesia’, uniting a country of such diverse cultural backgrounds and with so many different spoken languages was no mean feat (hence the formation of Bahasa Indonesia - a single uniting language). But the melting pot that was Indonesia then is what it still is today; an archipelago of communities of different religions, nationalities, languages and aspirations that we proudly celebrate on Independence Day.
“Through that language, encountered at mother’s knee and parted with only at the grave, pasts are restored, fellowships are imagined, and futures dreamed.” – Benedict Anderson, "Imagined Communities"
So how do we celebrate?
Bali is now awash with red and white - bordering our streets, decorating homes and shopfronts and flying like kites in the sky, the ubiquitous flag fills our banjars with the anticipation of celebrations.
This modern flag of Indonesia was first flown in 1928 and subsequently prohibited by the Dutch. It wasn’t until the day of proclamation in 1945 that it was formerly adopted as the national flag. In the canopy of those flags across Bali, you’ll see us revelling in some of these hilarious games this Thursday:
Krupuk are the deep fried swirly crackers that you would recognise from street carts (or nestled into the side of your nasi goreng). On Independence Day they are made in varying shapes and sizes, tied on a string, with contestants locking their hands behind their backs and racing each other to eat them. Incredibly tricky but hilarious fun.
Men dressed in traditional textiles playing football - unfortunately I can offer no background or explanation for this peculiar ritual!
‘Paku’ is the word for ‘nail’ in Indonesian - for this game a string is tied around the waist with a long tail, at the end of which is a nail. Contestants walk backwards and then stand over a small bottle to lower the swinging nail into the neck of the bottle. This game requires concentration, endurance and a lot of strange posturing.
Everyone’s favourite: a present is perched atop a towering pole - the first to reach the top claims the prize! During this event it's not uncommon to see some prizes as small as keychains and others as large as bicycles.
Let us know in the comments below how you're celebrating Independence Day!