When it comes to “art & culture” activities, Jakarta is the perfect city to explore.
Jakarta’s historic footprint is utterly rich and present in every colonial building that dots the city from its ancient harbor of Sunda Kelapa in the Old Batavia (Kota) district, all the way to the up-market residential area of Menteng and the southern part of the city that stretches all the way to the city of Bogor some 40 kilometers to the south.
Obviously Jakarta’s (and Indonesia’s) history is visible in museums, and of which many highlight events and exhibits artifacts that are related to the Jakarta’s (and Indonesia’s) rich history. The National Museum is the ‘mother of all museums’ in Jakarta. It houses a collection of more than 14,000 items covering two centuries of Indonesia’s historic past. Before you arrive in Jakarta, it’s advised to go to the internet for comprehensive information on opening times of Jakarta’s major museums.
ORANG BETAWI or BETAWI PEOPLE
The indigenous people of Jakarta are the Orang Betawi (people from Betawi, formerly known as Batavia). These people are of mixed descent and their ancestors hail from Indonesia (Java), China, India, Arabia and The Netherlands as welle as other European countries. For many generations they have made Jakarta their home. Orang Betawi are known to be very outspoken and democratic as they have accepted many different cultures in their daily life that include art, music and traditions and words that are part and parcel of all these different cultures.
The original Betawi music is called Tanjidor. It’s influenced by music played by western musicians and it dates back to the Dutch colonial days when “slaves” played this type of music to entertain their Dutch and other western masters. Instruments that are used in Tanjidor music are trumpet, clarinet, trombone, tuba, bass and cymbals that hail from western music styles such as Jazz. Tanjidor music is predominantly played during Betawi weddings.
ONDEL ONDEL – GIANT PUPPETS
Ondel-ondel are giant colorful puppets that are part and parcel of the Betawi culture. They are made out of bamboo frames that are dressed in striking colorful outfits and offer space to a person that carries this giant puppet from the inside.
They always come in pairs. The male wears a red mask, while the female mask is white with red lipstick. The typical hairdo is spiked and is called kembang kelapa.
These ondel-ondel puppets usually lead parades and are mostly used at celebrations such as weddings or circumcisions and are followed by the bridal pair and family members or by the circumcised boy and his relatives. Bands that play Tanjidor or Gambang kromong music are often part of these parades. Most likely ondel-ondel can be seen by tourists at Fatahillah Square in front of Batavia’s former City Hall, as they form a permanent fixture during weekends where they entertain all that come and spend time here.