Jakarta Globe, Sylviana Hamdani, Mar 11, 2014
|This weekend sees Jakarta’s historic Kota Tua play host to Fiesta Fatahillah.|
(AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)
Jakarta. Indonesia’s capital may be one of the liveliest cities of Southeast Asia, yet when it comes to having fun and stepping out of the house for the day, the city has very little to offer other than shopping malls and restaurants. This weekend, however, Jakartans are encouraged to visit the Old Town or Kota Tua to enjoy Fiesta Fatahillah, a vibrant art, culture, and culinary festival running from Thursday through Sunday. The first event of its kind, it will also mark the start of ambitious plans made by Jakarta’s provincial government to revamp the city’s historical Old Town.
“At last, everything falls into place,” said Arie Budhiman, head of Jakarta’s tourism and culture office. “After decades of planning, we’re now going to revitalize the heart of the city, the Kota Tua section.”
Kota Tua, which encompasses about 1.3 square kilometers across parts of North and West Jakarta, was the onset of the sprawling metropolis that Jakarta is now. It was in this area that Jan Pieterszoon Coen, governor general of the Dutch East Indies, established the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the early 1600s.
Thanks to the Sunda Kelapa Harbor, which was the biggest in Southeast Asia at that time, trade and business activities in Batavia (Jakarta’s old name) grew rapidly and this part of the town soon became a very busy. Sailors and traders from many different parts of the world lived in this part of the town.
At the end of the 17th century, malaria, dysentery and cholera plagues hit the area, killing hundreds of people. Survivors evacuated and abandoned all forts, offices, mansions and warehouses in Kota Tua. Thus, the area became dingy, run-down and finally neglected.
In 1972, Jakarta’s visionary governor, Ali Sadikin, established Kota Tua as a cultural and heritage center and started an ambitious plan to renovate and restore its old buildings.
“But somehow, the plan was never executed,” Jakarta’s senior historian, Martono Yuwono said.
All of Ali Sadikin successors expressed intentions to breathe life back into the site, yet their plans also fell through.
“But this is now the era of Jakarta Baru [New Jakarta] under Pak Jokowi [Governor Joko Widodo] and Ahok [Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama],” Arie said. “They both have great concerns about this heritage area and are truly committed to seeing it revitalized.”
Under Jokowi and Ahok’s care, the provincial government founded the Jakarta Endowment for Arts and Heritage (Jeforah) a non-profit consortium, which consists of two government-owned companies, nine private companies, artists, architects, historians and many other experts, in early 2014.
The group’s members came together out of concern for the Old Town, vowing to carry out a revitalization project.
Meanwhile, the city also established the Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corporation (Jotrc) to carry out the ambitious plans under Jeforah’s guidance and supervision.
A large number of stakeholders have invested their time, effort, and funds into the undertaking.
“The government owns just 4 percent of the buildings in the Kota Tua area,” said Lin Che Wei, chairman of Jotrc.
“About 40 percent are owned by private companies and the rest of its buildings are personally owned.”
With the consortium, Lin hopes to encourage all stakeholders in Kota Tua to work together in renovating and revitalizing the area.
The Fiesta Fatahillah festival is the group’s first endeavor toward reanimating Jakarta’s beloved historical site.
|The four-day festival, opened by governor Joko Widodo, launched ambitious plans|
to revitalize an area steeped in history but suffering from decades of neglect.
(AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)
The festival will be opened by the Jakarta Governor in Taman Fatahillah (Fatahillah Park), in front of the Jakarta History Museum on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The opening ceremony will be followed by a video-mapping presentation by Sembilan Matahari, a creative studio based in Bandung, offering a visual concept of the new Kota Tua upon the project’s completion. The studio presented a similar video in the exact same spot on the exact same day four years ago.
“I believe it’s no coincidence,” said Adi Panuntun, founder and creative head of Sembilan Matahari. “When the provincial government asked us to present another video-mapping on the exact same day and location, it means that the universe supports this project.”
Adi refused to divulge details of the video, only adding: “The video depicts water as a source of inspiration for revitalizing the Old Town.”
The four-day festival will also feature 55 vendors of the best local cuisines in Jakarta, all of which were selected by food critic and writer Laksmi Pamuntjak.
“We treat food as art in this festival,” Lin Che Wei said. “Everything is carefully curated by experts.”
In addition, contemporary creations by 47 renowned Indonesian artists will be displayed in Galleria Fatahillah, a new art space on the second floor of the Fatahillah Post Office.
Senior art collectors Dr. Oei Hong Djien and Heri Pemad Art Management selected the pieces showcased in the exhibition, including an installation called “Taxi Lover” by Angki Purbandono and a sculpture by Dolorosa Sinaga. Bandung-based visual artist Tisna Sanjaya will present a performance art action painting during the opening night by using asphalt, mud and paints on a large canvas.
The exhibit will run through Sept. 13 to “give maximum exposure to these artists and boost their careers,” Oei said.
Despite the festivities, Jeforah members realize much still needs to be done.
“We don’t aim to wow the public with a series of spectacular events in the festival,” said senior poet, writer and social activist, Goenawan Mohamad, who chairs the consortium’s advisory board. “We realize that we still have a long way to go [in revitalizing the Old Town]. We just want to let the people know that something positive is being done.”
|Pedestrians enjoy street food in Jakarta’s Kota Tua. (AFP Photo/Romeo Gacad)|
The Fiesta Fatahillah will also mark the opening of a Visitor’s Center on the ground floor of the Fatahillah Post Office.
“The visitor’s center will provide anyone who is interested with detailed information regarding the project,” Lin Che Wei said.
A very important part of the revitalization plan is to convert the Kota Tua area into a special trade and business center.
“Economic activities are needed to sustain this area,” Lin Che Wei said. “However, every utilization and development plan is subject to the approval of [Jeforah’s] advisory board.”
These activities will involve art and culture, education, lifestyle (food, fashion and entertainment), MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, exhibition), creative industries and finance.
“The advisory board guarantees there will be no gentrification and no change to the old buildings,” Goenawan said.
Instead, owners of Kota Tua’s colonial buildings will be encouraged to renovate.
“The provincial government will enact new regulations for building owners,” Arie of Jakarta Tourism said.
Under the new regulations, owners who neglect their property will be given a large penalty, while those who agree to renovate and maintain their structures will enjoy significant discounts on land and building taxes.
“Those who cannot afford to renovate their old buildings, may send their proposals to us,” Arie said.
“The governor has agreed to contribute a portion of Jakarta’s development budget to renovate some of these historical buildings.”
Jeforah and Jotrc aim to renovate 85 colonial structures in the area within the first five years of the project.
On the opening night of the festival, the Indonesia Port Corporation (Pelindo) will also sign an agreement with Jeforah and Jotrc to revitalize the 33-hectare area of the historic Sunda Kelapa Harbor.
“Everything is already on track,” Arie said. “With the right people on our team, I’m optimistic the plan will be executed properly.”
The government is also working on a traffic master plan to alleviate the heavy traffic jams in this area and planning to build more sidewalks for tourists.
“This is our starting point,” Lin Che Wei said. “With the commitment and participation of all stakeholders, I’m positive that Kota Tua can once again be a wonderful place to live, work and play.”
A revitalized Kota Tua can play an important role in promoting Jakarta as a destination offering more than just malls and traffic gridlock.
March 13 to 16
5 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.